Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Place Where You Felt You Really Belonged…?

Martiros Sarian: "Ashtarak, overcast day", 1954. Oil on canvas.

Do I really belong anywhere?
Have I ever felt as if I belong somewhere?
And why am I writing a blog post about it?

The ever innovative and creative Dorothee Lang, with whom I collaborated last year on my first micro-novel The Republic of Love, has come up with this “Blog Carnival” idea and has asked if I’d like to take part.

The idea of "> Language > Place" is to create a virtual journey through different places, in different formats, using different languages. The main language is English, yet the idea is that every post also includes snippets or terms of other languages, and refers to a specific place, country, region or city.

I am a Cypriot of Armenian descent, and I write mostly in English. So I’m a bit of a “carnivalesque” case myself – meaning that people probably don’t understand who or what I am, who the real person behind the mask is.

The truth is, there is no mask. I’m just a writer and the only thing I can tell you for certain is what I really believe in: I believe in what I write. I believe that I can touch people through my writing, no matter what language I choose. Because at the end of the day, it is not which language you write in, it’s what you write, how you write it. And it irritates me no end (to put it mildly) when I hear comments such as “You are Cypriot and so you should be writing in Greek. You are Armenian, so why don’t you write in Armenian?” Doesn’t one have the right to choose another language in which he/she can express him/herself? I once told an interviewer that I felt my writing was my home. That’s the place where I feel I really belong.

I have travelled to Armenia once, in 1983- and wrote “When You Return to Ashtarak” decades later, possibly in 2005. I have written many poems inspired by my Armenian ancestry, the tragic fate of the Armenians. They all touch on the themes of loss and longing, having and not having, yearning. Belonging and not belonging.

When you return to Ashtarak

stand on the bridge
and listen to the silence of our ancestors
in the marrow of your bones

sing sing and wake up the stones
the souls of the dead the river the skies
sing to those red and orange birds in our language
sing those bittersweet words and proud refrains
to show them you remember who you are

stand on the bridge
and listen to the silence of our ancestors
in the marrow of your bones

remember who you are
as you sing to the river Kasakh
when you return

Nora Nadjarian

“…Երբ վերադառձիդ երգես Քասախ գետին,
Յիշէ՛, թէ ով ես դուն:”

Նորա Նաճարեան


  1. this poem is breathtaking..a lovely addition for the carnival..

  2. beautiful poem, I could almost hear the cadences of the bittersweet words.
    And nice to have 'writing' as a portable home

  3. Like you say: you can touch people through your writing. Beautiful poem, thank you for sharing it.

  4. Hi, Nora,
    I love the relationship between song and (the waking of) identity here.

  5. I love your poem. I hope that whatever else you do, you keep writing in English at least some of the time. Because you do it beautifully.