Books·Canadian

Manam

A novel about a woman learning about her grandmother's story as an Armenian genocide survivor, translated by Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott.

A novel about a woman learning about her grandmother's story as an Armenian genocide survivor

Léa is a teacher. She does not believe in silence and secrecy, and this is what she always tells her pupils. Silence isn't a large part of the inheritance she received from her Téta, her beloved Armenian grandmother, who has just died at the age of one hundred and seven. Regularly over the years her large Armenian family would gather around Téta, and she would tell stories. But there is one story that she refused to tell. As soon as Léa brought it up, Téta quickly changed the subject. Now Léa wants to find out and understand the story of her ancestors. She goes to Turkey, and with the help of a Kurdish filmmaker and guide, visits her ancestral village, Manam. She learns that during the Armenian genocide at the beginning of the twentieth century, almost the entire population of Manam was killed or fled to exile in Syria. How did her grandmother and her family survive? Rima Elkouri, with great sensitivity paints the portrait of a family that wills itself to survive. (From Mawenzi House)

Manam is a finalist for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers's Trust Fiction Prize. The winner will be announced on Nov. 2, 2022.

Atwood Gibson Prize jury citation: "Manam sings us through the fictional life of its protagonist's grandmother. Elkouri's writing is lyrical and soothing as she resurrects the hard early life of her own grandmother who survived the decimation of Armenia in 1915. She approaches the reality of war with words that commemorate the life of her Teta. Elkouri writes, 'what is worse than death is forgetting.' Her work fulfills the curiosity we carry of our ancestors and is a reminder to all of us to honour their lives and, more importantly, to never forget them."

Her work fulfills the curiosity we carry of our ancestors and is a reminder to all of us to honour their lives and, more importantly, to never forget them.- 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize jury

Rima Elkouri is a journalist and columnist from Montreal, where she currently writes for La Presse. Manam is her debut novel.

Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott are a translation team from Montreal. They have also translated Edem Awumey's novel Descent Into Nightwhich won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for translation.

Why Rima Elkouri wrote Manam

"It's not so much a book about the Armenian genocide. It's more of a book that explores silence, courage, memory, transmission, mourning, pain and hope through the eyes of women. We all have stories of family that we question ourselves about. What is my legacy, exactly? What should I do with the story?

We all have stories of family that we question ourselves about. What is my legacy, exactly? What should I do with the story?- Rima Elkouri

"Grandmothers' stories are not honoured in the way they should be. The stories about women in the Armenian genocide, or just women in general, are forgotten stories. We don't look at the way women participate [in war and genocide] and the way they see things differently. It's a different way of telling our collective stories." 

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

More interviews with Rima Elkouri

Sabrina speaks to La Presse journalist and columnist Rima Elkouri about her book 'Manam' and its shortlisting for the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction. Finalists win $5,000. The winner gets $60,000.

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