Christopher de Bellaigue, in his new book Rebel Land, describes the “petty and dishonorable” feeling of interviewing old women in the small town of Varto, where the author is researching a book about painful and sensitive subjects — genocide, Armenians, Turks.
Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Why not leave this poor woman alone, why jog her memories? And then arch of your design starts to fill, and it seems like a beautiful arch, with lessons for us all, and you press greedily on.
Writing in The New York Review of Books several years ago, de Bellaigue wrote about a period of Turkish history. For his failure to accurately account for the mass killings of Armenians, he was vilified by readers and taken to task by Review editor Robert Silvers.
This new book seems, in part, to be atonement. Words beget words.
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