Memorization of the Armenian Genocide in Cultural Narratives

  • Anthonie Holslag
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Genocide book series (PSHG)


‘Have you ever heard of “Gorky’s curse”?’ Nouritza Matossian asked me on 20 March 2003.2 We were at her home in Hampstead (London). I had already been conducting research for two months, and since my time in London was brief I had filled my days with as many interviews as possible. I had already spoken with the Armenian ambassador, an Armenian artist and an Armenian minister. I was too exhausted to satisfactorily conduct another interview. Yet her story caught my attention and would eventually be one of those narratives that turned my research approach upside down. Nouritza continued:

There is a rumour going round the galleries of New York that Gorky’s paintings are cursed. The painting The Orators has been damaged in a fire in 1957. Another painting — The Calendars — has been completely destroyed. Then there are rumours of paintings falling from walls and of a black-haired ghost in a blue overcoat that visits Gorky’s old house in Sherman, Connecticut … I did not really know who Gorky was … I mean, I had heard of him, and I had read something about his abstract art, but I had never seen any of his works. I thought he was a Russian artist … He did not carry an Armenian surname.3 Only much later I discovered that his real name was Vosdanig Manoug Adoian. I remember how I walked into Tate Gallery and how I affixed when I saw her face on the wall. The painting was called The Artist and His Mother, and I recognized it. There was something about those eyes. I don’t remember exactly what, neither can I explain it, but they were so familiar that I cried. Looking back I recognized something in all of his paintings — even the abstract ones. The Armenianness in his art was so obvious.


Cultural Narrative Genocidal Intent Diaspora Community Armenian Artist Armenian Genocide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Anthonie Holslag 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthonie Holslag
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.University of AmsterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.University of UtrechtNetherlands
  3. 3.University of TwenteNetherlands

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