"Beautiful, brutal, and infused with myth and nostalgia, this story of friendship between a 13-year-old Soviet boy and his Armenian neighbour lays bare the Armenian Genocide."
Andrei Makine’s My Armenian Friend has an unusual power as it shares a story of brotherhood, brutalities, sorrow and love set in Siberia in the early seventies. Suffused in harrowing, haunting memories of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian genocide, it’s also a stirring coming-of-age story that sees a young life transformed.
The friend of the title is Vardan, a young Armenian boy who’s bullied, persecuted and ill, but defended by the 13-year-old narrator of the novel. After being invited into Vardan’s home, he enters a world of warmth and love. The contrast between hearing dazzling stories of the “kingdom of Armenia” and the beauty of seeing migrating geese soar in the glow of sunset are strikingly juxtaposed with the poor Devil’s District being bordered by a prison in which some of Vardan’s relatives are incarcerated. Later, after the boys have struck up a unique bond, a game sees them implicated in something that’s of vital interest to the regime.
Sublimely written, My Armenian Friend is a rare, magnetic read that seeps into your soul.