by Edgar Hilsenrath

Translated by Nivene Raafat.

If someone has dark eyes, you know he’s in a bad way. But if a man’s eyes shine, you know he has made it through the night. It is as though the bright light of day burns on in his heart.

The novel about the Armenian Genocide

Republic of Armenia Presidential Award

648 pages, ISBN 978-3-943334-26-5
US $ 45.00 • EU € 57.50 (AT € 59.20) • GB £ 32.50 • CA $ 60.00 • AU $ 65.00

Further available editions (Selection)
  Deutsch (German)  Français (French)  Nederlands (Dutch)


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Hilsenrath – Thought


“No one can hear you, Thovma Khatisian,” said the storyteller, “because your voice has gone. But I heard what you said.”
“Did you also hear him scream – the Turkish Prime Minister – as he fell into the endless abyss?”
“Yes. I heard that, too.”
“I met him another time, the Turkish Prime Minister,” I began to explain to the storyteller.
“Just a few seconds ago.”
“And where?”
“In the main chamber of the United Assembly of International Conscience. The usual general assembly was taking place.

He was sitting next to the state representatives, looking unremarkable and distant. I found out that he was no longer Prime Minister, but instead was working as an archivist at the United Assembly of International Conscience. He had been officially elected by all represented nations. When he saw me, he got up and went down to the archive. I followed him:

– I’m looking for the Armenian file, I said. It’s for a report on the forgotten genocide.
– The forgotten genocide?
– Yes.
– And when is this ‘genocide’ supposed to have taken place?
– In 1915.
– That was a very long time ago. It’s now 1988.
– Yes, I said.
– Let me show you, he said.

And then he led me to the filing cabinets. He said, ‘Our filing cabinets do not have any doors. They are just open shelves. Anyone can come and have a look; we don’t have any secrets here.’
– Then could you show me where I might find the file on the Armenians?
– I’m afraid I can’t, he said. A file as old as the one on the Armenians will now be covered in so much dust that it will be impossible to find.
– Then why don’t you call in your cleaner and get her to dust the file?
– I already tried that years ago, said the archivist, but it’s more complicated than that.
– Why?
– Because all of the cleaners who work at the United Assembly of International Conscience are asthmatic and don’t want to clean any old, dusty files, especially one as old and as dusty as a file on a forgotten genocide. That would stir up a great deal of dust and make them cough.
– A valid point, I said.
– The Forgotten should not be disturbed, said the archivist. It is too dangerous. And with those words, he disappeared.

Later I went back up to the main chamber. I sat in the audience and stood up several times to interrupt the Turkish speaker before security officials escorted me out.

At one point I managed to sneak back in. I stood next to the Secretary-General and gave a rousing speech. I spoke of my people – a people exterminated by the Turks – and for some time all the state representatives listened to my story, but then they started to get bored and began to leave the chamber one by one, until I was completely alone.