Book Review: Peter Balakian’s “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response”

This is a review summary that I dashed out in 2005 elsewhere. The information is as true now as then.

This is a powerful book. The author has obvious political opinions on how things should have been handled versus how they were and the fact that he is of Armenian descent sometimes colours things. This takes from the book as a whole. Still that same personal interest has its advantages! This is by far the most comprehensive account of the Armenian massacres and Genocide that I have been able to come across. Balakian glosses over nothing. And that is an achievement when one considers the effect that the times had on the reportage and wording of eye witness accounts. It was a more innocent time, a time when people were less desensitized and more easily shocked, all qualities I consider to be good. But this means that the accounts, reports, telegrams, even the movie it discusses, were couched in Victorian euphanisms and much was left untold, described as “many more things besides which are to horrible to express”. Which is why Balakian had to work harder than one might expect to get the full impact of what took place across. And he succeeded. If you are interested in history, go read this now! The very first genocide as we know it now and the most completely forgotten deserves to be remembered. Not least because it served as a model which Hitler later followed and, as he thought, perfected.

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