I know almost nothing about Ara Sarafian’s biography. He told me once, I remember, that when he was a young boy, my own elder brother (Khatchatur = in Armenian, the Gift of the Cross, then called Khatchik=Little Cross) took him to the Victoria and Albert (or was it The British) Museum and explained things to him – thus putting in him the love of history and the arts. He felt indebted to my brother’s generous gesture. I know vaguely– and I hope I am not wrongly informed – that Ara’s father is an Armenian intellectual working for the BBC World Service (must be retired now).
What else do I know of Ara’s Curriculum Vitae? – that he is married to a highly intelligent, and extremely beautiful (I think so!) young lady, whose father is an excellent human being, now retired too, had a Butcher’s shop in one of the poshest areas of London (Kensington, I think). I have met Ara’s father-in-law on a few occasions at Ara’s book-launches, and I like him immensely -- I appreciate especially his pride felt in his son-in-law.
Like Shakespeare is to the world, I know Ara Sarafian truly only from his works. He is a Historian, and a scholar of the genocide of the Armenians perpetrated by the Young Turks in 1915 – I wish American Armenians would stop babbling of The Armenian Genocide, as if a genocide committed by the Armenians – precisely what the Turkish State would dearly love the world could believe one day, and they are half way there due to the linguistic illiteracy of the Americans.
As Publisher, Ara Sarafian’s productions are of great significance, worth and value – he placed into scholarly availability the famous (and perhaps the most famous!) documentation of the genocide of the Armenians by the British Government, the massive book by Lord Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, on The Treatment of Armenians In the Ottoman Empire Etc. The Turkish Parliament went mad. They made representations to the present-day British Parliament to declare it a fraud … in itself an attempt at perpetrating a major historical Fraud!
Thank God Ara Sarafian had backing from Lord Avebury, well-known amongst Britian's Law-Lords for his defense of Human Rights, and together they could politely silence such nonsense from the Turkish state-fascists, and saved the … Turks themselves from the huge embarrassment of committing yet another historical stupidity on top of the criminality of denying their ancestors’ proto-Nazi act of genocide. As to how stupid state-criminals can be, suffice it to state that the killers of Hrant Dink, the Istanbuli Editor of Agos was one of the few Armenians alive who could reconcile the two nations!
If Ara Sarafian had achieved nothing else – this, re-publishing Lord Bryce’s British Government Blue Book, alone would have been a medal enough for a lifetime. But he is young and handsome and brimful of creative energy – his latest publication from a unique list of non-commercial original research other academic publishers would seek a mile-long barge-pole to touch? A massive 368 pages of The Vatican Diplomacy and the Armenian Question: The Holy See’s Response to the Republic of Armenia 1918-1922, by Mario Carolla.
I don’t know how he does it; Ara Sarafian must always be teetering on the edge of giving it all up, as the wealthy among the Armenian communities world-wide are too stingy and terminally infected by money-love to support and sustain a poor intellectual like Ara Sarafian (or a great painter like Artour Oshakantsi for that matter – last year, an American Armenian Business man contacted the latter to use his sunny talent to design labels for his Armenian-wine bottles … It turned out, he did not want to pay a penny)! And the Armenian-haters of Turkey think that Diaspora Armenians are so powerful and united.
A couple of years ago an extremely foolish London Armenian nationalist known for his distasteful personal attacks right left and centre fit for the gutter press targeted poor Ara because Ara is an advocate of serious rational dialogue with the Turkish officialdom, even if that officialdom itself is jam-packed with people look-alikes of the ultra-nationalist … Armenians, according to whom all Turks are mad and bad and worth a bullet, sharing the precise mindset of the racist Turks who preach the same about the Armenians they hate.
Like all true Democrats, Ara Sarafian finds no alternative to civilized dialogue ad infinitum if necessary – I know it from his public speeches – especially that Armenians in Turkey have to share a geographical Lebensraum with the Turks – the alternative is precisely what the Germans and the Young Turks committed – Genocide, which the Turkish state is still continuing, this time against the Kurds, inhabiting the Armenian lands left fallow by the extremely stupid act of murder of a whole nation. Genocide is always spoken of as the terrifying crime that it is -- but it is time, sometimes, to mock at its perpatrators' sheer brutal (not to say animal, who are more intelligent than non-pet owners give them credit for) satanic stupidity.
Ara Sarafian is wise beyond his years – I admire his extraordinary maturity of thinking and acting. He put his money where his mouth is recently by just publishing (with Osman Koker) a sumptuous book on the Aghtamar, a Jewel of Medieval Armenian Architecture, in a bilingual edition, Armenian and Turkish in opposite columns.
Nationalists are a pathetic lot. Ultra-nationalists are worse – rabid racists that need therapy and rehab (not Hanging, which is what they wish on everyone else). Nationalists, on the other hand, confuse passionate patriotism and cultural pride in communitarian belonging with childish fantasies of American-style Superman movie-stunt heroism.
Patriots of all nations, beware of the Nationalists and the ultra-nationalist criminals, responsible for the destruction of whole nations and the genocide of multi-ethnic communities. Genuine patriots respect the Other as a sign of mature self-respect. And there can be no more of an Armenian Patriot than Ara Sarafian, who from his teens already has been living the life of a dedicated scholar, penniless, yet somehow surviving, and sweating for the historical truth of things. He is a national treasure, and must be cherished as such by all good Armenians world-wide.
I myself frequently dream of being super-rich just only to support Ara Sarafian (and Artour Oshakantsi – to buy up his works and donate them to the Tate Modern!)
Capitalism, theoretically ethically neutral, but in reality the most abhorrent and pornographic of economic systems, treats all, including human beings as a Commodity, to be used, abused, and exploited ruthlessly, worked-to-death (called today increasing retirement-age) for maximum profits. Commodities, hence people as commodities, meaning slaves by definition, are traded, circulated, made use of, ultimately universally whored (called today by the much-hated Bankers Globalization) by inhuman money-constructs.
The Soviet Communist economic system (the stumbling practice of the Socialist theory) acknowledged for the very first time in history the non-commoditization of man-kind. Creative artists were liberated from the whoredom of the Renaissance slavery, when even the greatest like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo had to be the Medici Banking-family’s (and the Popes’) slaves. Artists (in Soviet times) were given social status and honour and secure financial life for belonging to the multi-ethnic Soviet peoples as a whole – the Peoples’ Artist of the USSR was a title artists would live for …
Japan, after the 2nd World War, in total socio-economic Americanization, and as an influence from the Soviet attempt of saving the human from total capitalist commoditization, invented the half-way concept of labeling and cherishing their creative artists as National Treasures. Ironically, this was a better socialist concept, as an egalitarian and non-hierarchical view of great human achievement than the Soviet model, which of course unfortunately was bureaucratically conceived hierarchically.
Many were the fault-lines of the Soviet Bureaucracy – and the worse of it – the most non-Socialist – was its inheritance of hierarchies from the capitalist system, which then re-generated new forms of class-stratification – the Communist Party and Secret Service apparatchiks became the unbearable (and very stupid) Nomenklatura – the obnoxious new Ruling Class with huge tentacles everywhere in the vast Soviet Union, of totally corrupted pornographers turned into the present rulers of the Ex-Soviet Republics, for whom women (for example) were and are no more than (in the most favoured Hollywood slang) "cock-suckers". Thus, the most cherished Socialist concepts and theoretical constructs of historical mankind were ruined by corrupted soviet practice.
Hence, my preference for the adoption of the Japanese labels to refer to Ara Sarafian – an Armenian National Treasure.
Long may he continue his life’s good work. May he never be distracted from his good sense, and harmed by the negative aggression of the ultra-nationalist mad men.