Thursday, July 17, 2008

Penelope's Treacherous Suitors Shall Be Defeated

On August 1st, tell Kocharian and Sargsyan: "The Sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world."

I was recently thinking about Pashinian's The Opposite Side of the World [1] and noting to myself how the series of sometimes strange, sometimes redemptive, sometimes horrifying encounters that it comprises resemble those of Homer's Odysseus. Then I noticed a second and a third parallel. Odysseus returns to his Ithaca after a twenty-year absence to find that his wife, Penelope, is being hounded by two suitors who want to take his place. Ter-Petrossian formed the Gharabagh Committee in 1988, twenty years ago, and he literally fought a war against Azerbaijan, just like Odysseus who fought a war against Troy.

Since Penelope is the queen of Ithaca, whoever convinces her to declare Odysseus dead and marry him will become the king of Ithaca, which is, of course, their main motivation. There are two main suitors, or proci, Antinous and Eurymachus, just like Yerevan's "suitors" are two, Kocharyan and Sargsyan. There are many other minor suitors as well, just like there are many mafia Dons in Armenia. The two main defenders of Ithaca are Odysseus and his son, Telemachus; Yerevan's defenders are Levon Ter-Petrossian and Nikol Pashinian, at least that his how I see it and have seen it in this blog. Too boot, the suitors plot to kill Telemachus, just like Kocharyan and Sargsyan have ordered the NSS to kill Pashinian.

That makes seven coincidences so far, I think. But those are nothing compared what I stumbled upon while looking deeper into the matter. Homer says that, upon arrival at Ithaca, Oddyseus notices Venus, the Morning Star, on the horizon at dawn. He also says that the night before the suitors are massacred there is a new moon and that on the day of the massacre there is a total eclipse of the sun... I know what you're thinking; I was thinking the same thing: Could it be that a total eclipse of the sun is due to take place on August 1st? And could it be that on August 1st there will be a new moon? Yes.

On August 1st, there will be a total eclipse of the Sun.

On August 1st, there will be a new moon in Armenia.

As for Odysseus's spotting Venus on the horizon upon arrival, the question is, What could be considered Ter-Petrossian's "arrival" on the Armenian political scene in the last six months? It is not an easy question, and I'm not sure whether it has a clear answer. What is clear, however, is that Venus became the Morning Star this year on February the 1st, and it remained the Morning Star throughout the elections, the sit-ins, and the March 1st and 2nd incidents. If you observed the horizon at dawn on any of those days, you would have seen bright Venus. Personally, I set the date of Ter-Petrossian's "arrival" on February 24th, the day the CEC declared Sargsyan the winner of the elections, and Ter-Petrossian stepped up to the microphone and told the participants of the sit-ins, "The CEC's announcement has no bearing on our struggle; the struggle continues." Pashinian says of this moment: "I consider this to have been the people's movement's most important stage. Here, the movement underwent awe-striking metamorphoses."

I am one who doesn't believe in coincidences being more than what they are--coincidences. But I have to admit that the sheer number of coincidences involved in this case stopped me in my tracks for a second and made me wonder. That is when I noticed the most important connection between Odysseus's and Pashinian's journeys: What gives them the will and the determination to persevere against all odds is a simple longing for their rightful home. Indeed, may all those who consider their rightful home a free and independent Armenia, governed under the rule of law, and free from treacherous parasites, may these true heirs of Armenia have the iron will and unwavering determination of Odysseus, and may they prevail against Armenia's treacherous suitors Kocharian and Sargsyan--on August 1st.

P.S. I did a little search on the internet to see whether anyone else had noticed these coincidences between Odysseus and Pashinian, and--unsurprisingly, by now--I came across yet another coincidence: an open letter addressed to Nalbandian reminding him of the journey of Odysseus and signed by a woman named--Penelope.

P.P.S. Remembering Pashinian's declaration not long ago that he is going to come above-ground in a short while, one wonders whether his Journey shouldn't be coming to a close within a week.

1. Tzitzernak is translating Pashinian's Journey to the Opposite Side of the World. I'm indexing the entries here, what I haven't indexed you can find on Tzitzernak's blog.

Up on Khosq.


tzitzernak said...

If memory serves me, Penelope, under much duress to accept a new suitor and accept a fate in which she did not believe, made a deal that when she finished the shawl she was weaving, she would then decide on a suitor. And thus, every day she wove, and every night she undid her weaving. And thus it went for 17 years, or so. I'm not sure of the exact parallel there, except for the daily persistent of protesters on Northern Boulevard, though I don't think it will take 17 years.

On second thought, perhaps the analogy is the daily false foot forward by SS (and the fact that life continues daily under his regime, toward realities that cannot exist), and the daily/nightly struggle by protesters to try to undo that which is leading the country in the wrong direction.

Penelope has written 2 or 3 letters in fact, I've posted them at all one point or another.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, and apt analogy between Odysseus and Pashinyan. Let's hope the latter's journey will be shorter and less arduous, than the former's.
Do you have any thoughts on the disguise Pashinyan will be wearing, if any, when he surfaces? The one Odysseus wore may not be so appropriate now.
PS. By the way, my letter was addressed to Nalbandyan, and not to Sarksyan, although the names can easily be interchangable.

Ani said...

Someone else has recently addressed Odysseus, in an interesting framework. Here's a link to a review of a book by Susan Neiman called "Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists" (topic ring a bell?)

Here's what is said about Odysseus (and Abraham):

One of Neiman’s favorite examples of heroes is the Abraham who questioned God’s decision to destroy Sodom on the grounds that it would be unjust to any good people in the city. Saying no or even “Are you sure?” to infinite power is probably high on most people’s list of heroisms, one they hope, but doubt, they might achieve themselves. A more surprising hero at first sight is the wily Odysseus, the crafty wanderer whose morals are more frequently the target of raised eyebrows. But Odysseus represents the kind of engagement with the world coupled with an awareness of possibility that Neiman admires. His vitality, his adaptability, and his touching humanity are better models for grown-up living than the cardboard cutouts that inhabit most people’s moral imaginations.

Ani said...

Odysseus is popular these days, or else New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reads your blog:

Cyclops and Cunning

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

There's a passage ( in The Opposite Side of the World where Pashinian expresses his not wanting to like foreign countries and their cultures, because he doesn't want to be seduced by them. Thus his relationship to them is very similar to Odysseus's relationship to the sirens. In the passage that follows the one I mentioned, Pashinian excoriates Armenian expats quite harshly and, in my opinion, unfairly, but not surprisingly: Odysseus, after all, had to have his hands tied to the mast.

There are a lot of other important issues that Pashinian brings up in his story. It would be good to go through these issues and discuss them. Time, time, time.

By the way, that comparison between Abraham and Odysseus is very revealing, Ani. Auerbach touches on that in his Mimesis: The Odyssey is about the external world, so to speak, about sensation; the Bible, on the other hand, doesn't care about the external world, only with Abraham and his relationship to God; Odysseus doesn't change much at the end of his journey, but Abraham changes through time.

"Western" culture is a fusion of the two, generally speaking, and this is demonstrably reflected in Pashinian's writing.

More later. I have to finish something up first.