"This novel condenses and conveys extraordinary forces—of violence and forgiveness, of friendship and sacrifice, of silence, literature, and testimony. An incandescent translation by Manoukian and Jinbashian and an indispensable afterword by Nichanian, foremost reader and critic of modern Armenian literature, make the publication of The Candidate an indisputable event, as readers of English can finally pay close attention to the words of Zareh Vorpouni."—Gil Anidjar, Columbia University
"The Candidate seems very much a product between times—reminiscent of both 1920 and 1960s experimentation—and French and Armenian cultures. It is certainly also of interest as such—an addition to the European corpus that has familiar elements, yet is also distinctive."—Complete Review
The Candidate is one of the most masterful, psychologically penetrating novels in Armenian diaspora literature. Published in 1967 at a time of political awakening among the descendants of survivors of the Armenian genocide, the novel explores themes of trauma, forgiveness, reconciliation, friendship, and sacrifice, and examines the relationship between victim and perpetrator.
The book opens in 1927 in Paris after Minas has found his friend Vahakn’s body on the floor of the apartment they share. In a fragmentary way, Minas tells of his meeting Vahakn in the cafés of the Latin Quarter; the friendship that joins them; their conversations with Ziya, a Turkish student in Paris; Vahakn’s murder of Ziya; and Vahakn’s suicide. At the core of the novel is the note Vahakn leaves Minas to explain the enigma of Ziya’s murder and his own suicide. The letter recounts Vahakn’s and his mother’s deportation from their village in the Ottoman Empire; his mother’s death and Vahakn’s adoption by a Turkish woman, Fatma, who rapes and abuses him; his feelings of alienation and self-estrangement in France; and his inability to adapt to life after trauma.
Known for his innovation of the Western Armenian novel, Vorpouni challenges the narrative elements of the conventional novel by playing with subjectivity and linearity. His melding of contemporary French literary and intellectual currents produces a literary and cultural hybrid unique in Western Armenian literature.
About the Author
Zareh Vorpouni (1902–1980) was a prominent Armenian writer. He is the author of numerous
novels and short story collections, including The Persecuted, a cycle of four novels published
between 1929 and 1974: The Attempt, The Candidate, Asphalt, and A Regular Day. This is the first of his novels to be translated into English.
Jennifer Manoukian is a translator of Western Armenian literature, most recently The Gardens
of Silihdar by Zabel Yessayan.
Ishkhan Jinbashian is the translator of numerous books, including Passage through Hell and The Fatal Night.
Series: Middle East Literature in Translation
6 x 9, 216 pages, 1 black and white illustrations