A new book by Armenian-American writer Nancy Kricorian was published this March. All The Light There Was novel is telling a story of Armenian girl who survived the Armenian Genocide and is building her life in Paris under Nazi occupation. In an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am Nancy Kricorian told about her new book.
Your new book All The Light There Was is about an Armenian girl who lives in Paris under Nazi occupation and her brother joined resistance. How the idea came to you? Is it based on actual person? Did you know any Armenians who joined resistance or lived in Paris during the World War II?
When I was researching a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary character in my second novel, Dreams of Bread and Fire, I read about “non-state actors” using political violence--everything from the Weather Underground to the Red Army Brigade to the French Resistance. While researching the French Resistance, I came across a 1984 French documentary film called Terrorists in Retirement, which was about a resistance group made up of immigrant workers and led by Armenian poet Missak Manouchian. As I learned more about Manouchian, it started me thinking about what it would have been like for Armenian Genocide survivors, who had rebuilt their lives and communities in Paris, to see the Nazis marching into their adopted city.
I met several Armenians in Paris who had been active in the French Resistance, among them Arsene Tchakarian of the Manouchian Group and Nazareth Peshdikian, who was in the Hunchak resistance.
In your interviews you said you had done a great research before writing the novel. You spoke to Armenians in France and read books about their memories. Surviving the Genocide they went to France for new safe life but appeared in trouble again. What do you think made them join Resistance, how did they find strength to fight again?
I spoke with and read about a number of Armenians who had lived through the war years in Paris--and there were many different responses. Some people joined the Resistance, some people kept their heads down just trying to survive, and there were a few who did worse. I was impressed to hear that the editor of the Armenian newspaper Haratch decided to suspend publication for the duration of the Occupation rather than submit his work to collaborationist censors. How people responded had to do with many factors, including their personal histories, their temperaments and their political affiliations.
Audiobooks are becoming more popular. All The Light There Was has been recorded as well. What do you think about audiobooks? Is it just a kind of modern device or it will replace books in the future?
I am thrilled that there is an audiobook available of All The Light There Was, particularly because the actor who recorded it, Suzanne Toren, is so talented and because she was able to read the Armenian phrases with such an excellent accent. It is wonderful that the audio book is available so that people who are vision impaired, who are taking long car rides, or who have reading disabilities can have access to the novel. There is also an e-book that can be downloaded onto a reading device, which seems to be the wave of the future.
As far as I know, your next book is telling about an Armenian family in Beirut during the Lebanese Civilian War. You are writing about Armenians living in different countries. What do they have in common? Are there any traits of character typical for all your heroes?
My first novel, Zabelle, is a fictionalized account of my grandmother's life as an Armenian Genocide survivor and immigrant bride. My second novel, Dreams of Bread and Fire, is about someone of my generation coming to terms with the hidden history of the Genocide that shapes her family's life. The third novel, All The Light There Was, is about Armenians in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. And the next one will be about Armenians who leave Beirut during the Civil War to come to New York. This is my Armenian Diaspora Quartet.
Please, tell a little about your family. Where are your ancestors coming from? What Armenian traditions have you preserved in your own family?
My paternal grandparents are from Cilicia--my grandfather immigrated from Adana to Watertown in 1911. My grandmother was from Mersin, and survived the deportations, ending up as an orphan at Ras Al-Ain in the Syrian desert.
My connection to Armenian culture is primarily through literature and the arts and my friendships with other Armenian-American writers and artists. I also do some Armenian cooking. This past weekend I baked cheoreg [sweet Easter bread –ed.] for Easter.