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Armenian art: the shock of the new in the novel Journey to Virginland

With his debut novel, Journey to Virginland, Armen Melikian propels the art of the novel to a dizzying level, establishing a new benchmark for Armenian art and registering a powerful presence in world literature.

Armenian art, and literature in particular, of the past century has produced works that have consciously embraced a universal scope, notwithstanding the indisputable esthetic and thematic merits of modern Armenian art in general. At the very outset, what sets Melikian’s novel apart is that it liberates art, seemingly with a fell swoop, from all the baggage that has traditionally held Armenian art back from flowering into global relevance. Festering among that baggage are an almost pathological preoccupation with victimhood, a sense of being overwhelmed by history and the present alike – hence an obsession with nationalism or tribalism – extreme care to preserve convention and propriety, and, ultimately, a glaring lack of irony and an appreciation for life’s shades of grey.

In his review of Journey to Virginland, Paul McCarthy, New York Times bestselling author and a professor at the University of Ulster, Ireland, writes: “I am struck by the extraordinary writing, vision, and, perhaps rarest of all, originality, which abounds in every way, and at so many levels and depths of meaning, theme, narrative, etc., that I had to keep slowing my pace, until I could read and ‘inhale’ each word.”

Armenian art perhaps leaps several notches upward with the arrival of the English-language version of this novel since not only it shatters a host of fiercely guarded Armenian literary, topical, and stylistic taboos – thus introducing a breathtaking ebullience into this art are – but helps this art and thought become natural inhabitants of a global sensibility, given the work’s universal concerns and thoroughly modern vision for change.

Looking for a unique book about Armenian Art? Get your copy of Journey to Virginland today!