The phenomenon of the Armenian diaspora, with its complex psychological layers and as a way of life, is given extraordinary contextualization in 2012’s Journey to Virginland, a breathtakingly wide-sweeping novel by Armen Melikian.
Fiercely analytical yet hilarious and compassionate, the novel treats the Diaspora as not just the end result of collective loss, but, refreshingly, an always-accessible opportunity for meaningful societal transformation.
In his review of Melikian’s work, Paul McCarthy, a New York Times bestselling author and professor of English at the University of Ulster, Ireland, writes: “In the best sense, I’m reminded of George Orwell’s classics, and other authors of similar stature, though there is no true parallel possible with a novel as unique in concept and execution as Journey to Virginland.”
Emblematic of the tumultuous history of the Armenians, which is marked by an almost unbroken string of foreign occupation, genocide, and mass deportations, the Armenian Diaspora has been a reality since the Middle Ages. Much of today’s Armenian Diaspora, comprising communities in more than 35 countries, was formed as a result of the 1915 Genocide at the hands of the Turks and independent Armenia’s economic turmoil following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In his novel, Melikian eschews historiographic probing in favor of a lucid and sobering critique of the diasporan mindset, focusing on the ongoing ravages of the Disapora in terms of religion-fueled fatalism, cultural disengagement, and a mix of ghettoization and gratuitous nationalism. As he does so, Melikian also brings the indisputable human vibrancy of the Diaspora to the fore, daring to imagine a new socius: an Armenian Diaspora liberated from the shackles of ancestor worship, a persistent sense of victimhood, and, perhaps most damaging of all, a tacit suspension of its creative spirit.
Interested in reading more about the Armenian Diaspora? Get your copy of Journey to Virginland today!