Timetable for Holy Masses during the remaining months of 2003
We are pleased to inform you that the celebration of the Armenian Holy
Masses will restart on Friday 26th September and the subsequent services
will be held as follows:
Timetable for Holy Masses during the remaining months of 2003
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location: Greek Orthodox Church - Abu Dhabi
Council of the Armenian Community of Abu Dhabi
P.O. Box 29423
- The novelist Patricia Sarrafian Ward, who was born in Beirut in 1969,
recalls: "When I was growing up in the war I sometimes so wished I was
a grownup, because I knew there was this other way of seeing things
I was completely missing out on. I would get so frustrated that I
didn't understand anything of the politics and who all the fighters
were and who the ministers were and what was actually happening."
Ward laughs gently as she adds, "But then of course you grow up and you
realize none of that means anything anyway, it's impossible to figure
it out. The whole point of it is that you become utterly powerless."
In her novel The Bullet Collection, published recently by Graywolf
Press of St Paul, Minnesota, Ward explores this sense of powerlessness
and a girl's search for meaning and truth as she is growing up in
Lebanon surrounded by violence. The Bullet Collection is Ward's first
published novel, but is an outstandingly mature and accomplished work.
The novel comes with high praise on its back cover from five
writers, including the Lebanese novelist Hanan Al Sheikh and the
Jordanian-American novelist Diana Abu Jaber. The praise is fully
justified, and since publication The Bullet Collection has received
excellent reviews in the U.S. media.
The Bullet Collection is a complex novel, which moves backwards and
forwards in time, and shifts in place between Beirut, the Lebanese
mountains and the U.S., with episodes in Italy and Greece.
Marianne, the first-person narrator, is a highly intelligent, sensitive
and imaginative girl whose sister Alaine is two years older. Over the
years, first Alaine and then Marianne herself succumb to depression and
self-harming, including cutting themselves. This self-destructiveness
is a sort of internalization of the violence around them. The girls'
psychological breakdown could be seen as a sane response to a world
that has gone mad.
The novel takes its title from the collection of bullets, shrapnel
and other war mementoes that Alaine assembles. Alaine also claims to
have found and buried a dead Syrian soldier on the mountain, and the
image of the dead Syrian forever haunts Marianne.
The girls' father is an American professor who teaches in Beirut and
their mother is Lebanese-Armenian with an Egyptian mother. Marianne's
mixed parentage adds to her sense of confusion. Marianne has American
looks - blonde hair and blue eyes - while Alaine has black hair,
dark eyes, and "white Armenian skin just like Mummy, which made me
feel left out."
At the beginning of the war, workmen clearing the rubble left by
a bomb explosion praise little Marianne for her blonde hair and
blue eyes, calling her an angel. She proudly tells them her Baba is
American. But as the years pass, Marianne's American origin and looks
become a source of shame to her, particularly when the Americans make
their ill-fated intervention in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Marianne's American father stays on in Lebanon as long as he can,
despite the kidnappings and murders of Westerners, including his
colleague who is known to the girls as Uncle Bernie. But in the end
the threats become too great, and he and the family move to the U.S.
In the novel's dream-like prologue Marianne remembers Lebanon "before
the war was real," climbing the hill with the neighbor's daughter,
taking taxi rides all over Lebanon, going to Baalbek, spending winter
in Beirut and summer on the mountain.
The Marianne, now aged 18, takes us to her new reality, with the
family uprooted from Beirut and trying to establish itself in a house
in America. In Beirut, Marianne was seen by her parents as the "good"
sister and was constantly told to look after Alaine. But in the U.S.,
Alaine adapts to their new life with determination, burning everything
to do with her past life in Lebanon, renovating and redecorating the
house and planting the garden. Marianne, on the other hand, falls into
such a deep depression that she almost dies when she takes an overdose.
Marianne is obsessed by images of the war, which go round and round
in her mind, and she constantly, but fruitlessly, interrogates her
mother about what really happened in the war. In the intensity of
her depression the images whirl together. "Only the fear, the search
for language, a code that does not exist, it cannot, a way to read,
to decipher, translate the alphabet of these images…"
Ward superbly portrays the relationship between the sisters, and
between them and their parents. The parents are well intentioned and
loving, but are at a loss as to how best to cope with their disturbed
daughters. They face a struggle in trying to build a new life in
America, the father taking a job in a store and the mother working in
the library and cutting out coupons to save money in the supermarket.
Ward gives the other characters in the novel - even the relatively
minor ones - depth, histories and personalities. They include the
members of the extended Armenian family, the neighbors, and the boys
and men for whom Marianne has intense feelings from the age of around
12. The stories of these often-eccentric characters, woven into the
main narrative, add to the rich texture of the novel.
Ward recently presented and read from The Bullet Collection at a
reception at the 'Alwan for the Arts' venue in New York. In a telephone
interview, Ward told Al-Hayat: "I shaped the reading around a couple
of different scenes, one of which was the childhood experience of
war and how warped it is to grow up in that environment, and the
other the reverse, the adult who has memories of a different kind
of living. There were many people there who had lived in the war,
as well as the younger generation who had gone to Lebanon after the
war. There were lots of very intense discussions afterwards."
The audience included a young man who had grown up in the war in
Sierra Leone. "He had the same experience of war, and everything that
was said about growing up in Beirut was the same for him in terms of
what it's like for a child."
Some of those at the reading told Ward they find people don't want to
talk much about the war. Ward says she too has sometimes encountered
silence among friends, or people she has met, when she goes back to
Beirut. A woman friend she grew up with in Beirut "told me after she
read the book that I had given voice to all the things that she had
felt growing up in the war but had never really expressed."
In her writing, Ward has an incredible recall of detail and
atmosphere. The daughter of family friends from Lebanon, to whom
Ward's mother gave the book, "started to feel all those sensations
that she would remember - the way the air feels, and the grass, the
mountains and the stones - all the things that, she told my mother,
had become like a mirage and that she didn't know how to talk about."
Although Ward's novel is fiction, there are some similarities
with her own background. Ward's American professor father met her
Lebanese-Armenian mother (whose mother is Danish) at the American
University of Beirut when he came to teach there in the early 1960s.
Her mother's paternal grandfather, who came from Armenia to Lebanon
in the mid 1890s, was one of the Sarrafian Brothers whose photography
business became famous in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.
In 1987 the Ward family moved to the U.S. Ward now lives in New
Jersey with her financial analyst husband Tamer Alamuddin, but she
maintains close links with family and friends in Lebanon. The colorful
paintings in the striking design on the cover of The Bullet Collection
are by Ward's friend Zeina Barakeh with whom she grew up in Beirut
(Barakeh's work is on display at the Espace SD art gallery in Beirut).
In 1995-96 Ward spent a year teaching at the American Community School
in Beirut. In the latter half of this month she will be visiting
Lebanon for ten days. "I look forward to Beirut - though I've already
decided to take my laptop computer with me so that I keep working if
I am moved to do so. Never a vacation for a writer. Never."
Did Ward always want to be a writer? "Oh yes, absolutely. I've been
writing stories ever since I could hold a pencil, even when I was
four." In America Ward developed further her natural writing talent.
She finished a BA in Ancient Greek and Creative Writing at Sarah
Lawrence College, Bronxville New York, in 1991. In 1995 she completed
a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Fiction) at the University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She won scholarships and awards during both
her university courses.
Ward dedicates The Bullet Collection to the memory of the late Jerome
Badanes, her professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who "many years ago
gently guided me toward writing about the war and who read the first
pages that came from those efforts." Had Ward been unable to bring
herself to write about the war before Badanes encouraged her? She
explains: "It wasn't that I wasn't able to write about it, it's just
that in a way I didn't really know how to. It was terrifying to write
about, very very hard."
She adds: "I was writing about it very indirectly, so I would start
shaping novels in which the characters were Americans and then they
would have some strange dream about a war, or they would know someone
who had been in a war. I wasn't really writing about it; I was skirting
it constantly in all my stories. Eventually he (Badanes) sat me down
and said this is what you need to write about, this is your subject,
not all this other stuff that's around it."
Many of Ward's stories are set in Lebanon. Her stories, and excerpts
from The Bullet Collection, have appeared in numerous publications
including The Literary Review, Ms Magazine, Hanging Loose, Web Del Sol
and Epoch, as well as Ararat (the arts and culture quarterly published
by the Armenian General Benevolent Union in New York.) her work was
included in "Post Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing"
edited by Khaled Mattawa and Munir Akash and published by Jusoor in
1999. Ward has won a string of honors and awards for her writing,
including a Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) contest in 2002.
Ward is at present completing a collection of her short stories,
and she will then be working on a new novel. She declines to say
much about this except that it moves between the Lebanese war and the
following generation in the U.S. "It's a sort of mystery novel. One
of the characters is a young girl who's trying to solve her father's
'anomie' and it goes back in time to when her father was a child and
the story of his sister, his father, the war and so on."
(Dar Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia, Sept 18 2003)