Daily Life in the Abyss: Genocide Diaries, 1915-1918 | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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Daily Life in the Abyss: Genocide Diaries, 1915-1918

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Volume 25

War and Genocide

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Daily Life in the Abyss

Genocide Diaries, 1915-1918

Vahé Tachjian

220 pages, 15 illus., 1 map, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-494-8 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (May 2017)

ISBN  978-1-78920-065-2 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (December 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-495-5 eBook


View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“Vahé Tachjian has written a thoughtful, nuanced, and powerful study of survival centring on the lives of two Armenian diarists from the period: the priest Der Nerses Tavukjian and Krikor Bogharian, both from Aintab (present-day Gaziantep). Their diaries are by no means unique among the plethora of materials contemporary Armenian survivors have written, but they are particularly devastating in their emotional honesty as the authors experienced and survived genocide.” • War in History

“Tachjian’s greatest contribution to the study of the Armenian Genocide lies in his approach to diaries and memoirs. He demonstrates that by dissecting, analyzing, and contextualizing them historians can extract vital information about different facets of the genocide. Moreover, in introducing microhistory to the analysis of survivors’ diaries in Armenian, he has opened the door to new interpretations of such texts, many of which have not yet been analyzed or translated from Armenian into English.” • International Journal of Middle East Studies

“Vahé Tachjian has written a thoughtful, nuanced and powerful study of survival.” • European History Quarterly

“Vahe Tachjian and his translator have done a great service to the recovery of the historical experience of the Armenian Genocide. The immediacy of the diaries of survivors testifies to the extraordinary suffering not only of a people displaced and destroyed but also of individuals who managed to live through and record their horrendous journey into the desert. As a gifted, sensitive, and analytical scholar, Tachjian sets the events in the larger context of Ottoman policy and the Arab world and probes the sources of strength—like family and local community ties—that Armenians deployed in their desperation. These diaries preserve the ‘authenticity of the moment,’ the deep texture of place and time, often lost in subsequent accounts. For historians, general readers, and all those interested in the possibilities of human cruelty, the depths of human suffering, and the potential of human resilience, this book is a treasure.” • Ronald Grigor Suny, William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History and Political Science, The University of Michigan

“This is a meticulously researched and thoughtfully articulated work. It sheds new light on the situation in the Middle East, especially Syria, during World War I, and adds to our understanding of the progressive dehumanization of genocide victims.” • Vahram Shemmassian, California State University, Northridge


Historical research into the Armenian Genocide has grown tremendously in recent years, but much of it has focused on large-scale questions related to Ottoman policy or the scope of the killing. Consequently, surprisingly little is known about the actual experiences of the genocide’s victims. Daily Life in the Abyss illuminates this aspect through the intertwined stories of two Armenian families who endured forced relocation and deprivation in and around modern-day Syria. Through analysis of diaries and other source material, it reconstructs the rhythms of daily life within an often bleak and hostile environment, in the face of a gradually disintegrating social fabric.

Vahé Tachjian received his doctorate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. His numerous articles and books examine French colonialism, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and refugee issues in the Middle East. He is the project director and the chief editor of the Berlin-based Houshamdyan website, which aims to reconstruct Ottoman Armenians’ local history and life stories.

Subject: Genocide HistoryHistory: World War I
Area: Middle East & Israel


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