While doing research on the uses of political violence by “non-state actors” for my second novel Dreams of Bread and Fire, I came across a 1984 French documentary entitled Terrorists in Retirement (original title Des terroristes à la retraite). It told the story of a French Communist Resistance network made up of immigrant workers. The network’s leader was an Armenian poet named Missak Manouchian. In late 1943, the Germans arrested Manouchian and twenty-two members of his group, which was comprised of Eastern European Jews, Armenians, and Italian and Spanish refugees. The men were executed by firing squad at Mont Valérien in February 1944. The sole woman was executed by beheading in Germany some months later.
After reading a little more about Missak Manouchian, an Armenian Genocide survivor who immigrated to France in 1925 when he was nineteen years old, I realized even as I was writing my second novel that I had found the time period and milieu for my next book. How did the Armenian community of Paris live the four years of the Nazi occupation? What had it felt like for Genocide survivors who had rebuilt their lives in France to look out the window on German troops marching down the Rue de Belleville? My third novel, All the Light There Was, grew out of these questions.
September 18, 2012