Antonia Arslan and Siobhan Nash-Marshall in conversation on The Book of Mush.
Book Presentation: Silent Angel (Ignatius Press, 2020), by Italian writer of Armenian origin Antonia Arslan, the American translation by Siobhan Nash-Marshall of her Il Libro di Mush (Skira: 2012, Rizzoli: June 2022).
Based on a true story that hints at the presence of miraculous grace, The Silent Angel is a powerful account of human resilience and heroic faith set against the backdrop of the massacre of Christians during the Armenian Genocide.
This tale opens up with a scene of carnage and devastation, from the ruins of a monastery to lifeless bodies—the doings of an army of young Turks. Silent Angel follows the story of five survivors: three women, a child, and a Greek monk. They are forced to wander through the deserted Valley of Moush in search of a new life and a better destiny than their Armenian brothers.
During the most painful moment of their lives, they become guardians of a book of inestimable value, the Book of Moush, an ancient illuminated manuscript. Believing the book to be a talisman of sorts, they vow to bring the book to safety, even to defend it with their own lives. Antonia Arslan tells this story with intense compassion and clarity, taking the reader on a desperate search for truth and salvation.
Arslan was born in Padua in 1938. Her paternal grandfather Yerwant Arslanian was born in 1865 in Kharpert, now Harpoot.
After graduating in archaeology she became a professor of modern and contemporary Italian literature at the University of Padua and published copious studies, inter alia, on Italian popular fiction and Italian women writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Her most recent publications have focused on her Armenian heritage. She translated two volumes of Daniel Varujan’s poetry into Italian and edited works on the Armenian genocide and on the experiences of Armenian refugees in Italy.
Her first novel, La masseria delle allodole, was published by Rizzoli in 2004. Drawing on the history of her own recent ancestors it tells of the attempts of the members of an Armenian family caught up in the Armenian genocide to escape to Italy and join a relation who had been living there for forty years. Among other awards, it won the Premio Berto, Premio Fregene, Premio Stresa di Narrativa, Premio Fenice-Europa for 2004. It was also a finalist and winner of the 2004 Premio Campiello award.
Her second novel, La Strada di Smirne, was published in 2009 by Rizzoli, and it appeared in Armenian as Զմյուռնիայի ճանապարհ in 2012.
Arslan’s more recent publications include Ishtar 2: cronache dal mio risveglio (2009) published by Rizzoli, and chronicles her brush with death in 2009, Il cortile dei girasoli parlanti published by Piemme Edizioni in 2011.
Siobhan Nash-Marshall is professor of philosophy and the Mary T. Clark Chair of Christian Philosophy at Manhattanville College, where she is also chairwoman of the philosophy department. She holds Ph.D.s from Fordham University and the Università Cattolica di Milano, as well as a L.M. from the Università di Padova and a B.A. from New York University. Her specializations are metaphysics, epistemology, and medieval philosophy. She is the author of many books.
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