Cover image for Three apples fell from heaven
Three apples fell from heaven
Marcom, Micheline Aharonian, 1968-
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
270 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
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"Micheline Aharonian Marcom introduces us to the stories of Anaguil, an Armenian girl taken in by Turkish neighbors after the death of her parents, who now views the remains of her world through a Muslim veil; Sargis, a poet hidden away in his mother's attic, dressed in women's clothing and steadily going mad; Lucine, a servant and lover of the American consul, reviled by villagers for the illusory privilege she enjoys; Maritsa, a rage-filled Muslim wife who becomes a whore while her husband is at the front; and Dickran, an infant left behind under a tree on the long exodus from an Armenian village, who reaches with tiny hands to touch the stars and dies with his name unrecorded. Through these lives, we witness the vanishing of a people."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

"Who does now remember the Armenians?" Hitler said in 1939. He was referring to the Turkish genocide in 1915, when nearly one million Armenians were driven from their homes and slaughtered. This powerful first novel tells that story through the voices of individual people caught up in the massacre. A teenage boy is in hiding disguised as a girl, as the soldiers get nearer; they've already killed his brothers. A girl is dragged from her house, driven for days through the wilderness, raped and beaten, her mother killed. An infant speaks from the dead, telling how he was born on the death march. A soldier is cutting off limbs. The many changing, interweaving voices don't make for easy reading, but they certainly re-create the madness and confusion of the personal experience while helping to distance the horror. In contrast, the American official's report to his superiors is almost bland: horrified at the facts of the brutality, pitying, but also racist about the victims. This is an important addition to Holocaust collections. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reading this heartbreaking, beautiful, painful first novel is a bit like reliving an extraordinarily long dream. The leaps in time, the abundance of plot lines, the casual occurrence of unspeakable events and the persistent flashbacks all give the text a distinctly dreamlike quality. But the book is based in fact: it is set in Turkey between 1915 and 1917, when the government organized the systematic massacre of the Armenian population (Hitler was later to imitate some of the Turkish techniques). Marcom's form emphasizes the nature of her subject the many stories within stories, intertwined lives, murders and madness reflect the intricate interdependencies of a nation. A few of the many protagonists are Anaguil, an Armenian girl sheltering with a Muslim family, trying to hold on to her culture; Sargis, a student hiding from the Turkish police in his mother's attic, writing poetry as he loses his mind; Lucine, a servant at the American embassy, and the consul's mistress; Rachel, who has known all of them and who speaks after her death from the bottom of a well; Maritsa, a Muslim woman who wishes she were a boy these characters and others tell their stories in interconnected chapters. This is a novel in which chronology stretches and loops, the tale returning again and again to the central reality of brutality, cruelty and loss. The highly mannered style manifests a debt to the postmodern novel and the fairy tale, resulting in something between a cry and a reminiscence. This book is not for the faint of heart, but its readers will be well rewarded. (Apr. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This first novel is not an easy read not because of any stylistic complexity (its prose is as supple and clear as a mountain brook) but because of the grim subject: the 1915-17 genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman government, an act of brutal inhumanity modern Turkey has yet to acknowledge. Drawing on the experiences of her grandmother, a survivor, Marcom seeks to record the many voices of the Armenian massacre and diaspora through fiction. Her book is not a novel in the conventional sense but rather a collection of vignettes, short stories, prose poems, and fables, all presenting these many voices, from Anaguil, a young Armenian girl taken in by her Turkish neighbors after her parents' deaths, to Dickran, a baby abandoned under a tree during a forced exodus. This unusual narrative device is both the book's strength and its weakness. By introducing so many characters, Marcom conveys the incomprehensible scope of the slaughter, yet this also has the unintended effect of distancing the reader. So many characters appear briefly and promptly disappear that it is difficult to connect to any particular one. Still, Marcom does an important service of calling attention to an almost forgotten 20th-century tragedy. For larger fiction collections. Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One THIS IS THE STORY RUMOR WRITES She writes it late at night, while you are dozing. Rumor says things like, And so, and so There was and There was not Rumor tells stories, this is the story she writes. Don't believe her, she's a liar of the first order. A mendacious tatterdemalion. A middle of the night whisperer. She follows you and circles your head like stinging bees in late summer. She is disjointed, disorderly, malapropos. She begins in the middle, she stops and starts; she is a wanderer. When you look for her you cannot see her. Rumor says: Noah is my father and Japeth is my father and Haik walked down the slopes of Mount Ararat and squatted under the cypress to build a fire with still green leaves. In 1915. Or in 520 B.C., an inscription in stone of Darius I at Behistun. With breath there is always a beginning. A neonate ties on the sand, she is the founder of the nation. Rumor says, I am the founder of this nation. And so, and so * * * In a ditch, in a well, on the banks of the Euphrates River, the trajectory of the river has been altered. In the desert, the Mesopotamian beetles drink blood and soup. There is a lake that overflows its bounds, transshapen by flesh. There are limestone houses and burned window frames, plies of manuscript, Gospel and gold buried in the garden. There are manifold dogs who have no need to scavenge. There are muted girls living in the haremlik of the jailmaster's house, in the kitchens and sowing the field. There is a sexton without a face and his brother. There are caravans of invisible grave markers. There are new name places and streets, the heft of empty churches. The printing press is dismantled. They are not the children of Japeth, the son to Noah, or Haik, who walked down the slopes of Mount Ararat and squatted before the cypress to build a fire with still green leaves. The eaves are empty. The hamam is closed. The bakers and the bootmakers uninvented. The furrier is still lamented in the coldest days of winter. The sweetmaker was spared for a hard candy. Do you miss them? Long for them? Inside a ditch, in a filled well, up the cupboard staircase, beneath an indifferent oak, in a prison cell, by the Lake, on the stones, on the side of a road, in places that have no roads, by the Lake, the attic, the Wilderness, the hollowed heart that stinks, your mind: here. Their birth was in the time of fire, when God's wrath was immutable and adamantine, in the summer months of that year when all of the stories were destroyed and converged and the new story was preconceived--they were not themselves until then. And so, and so There are a surfeit of rumors. A surfeit of surfeit. Indigent rumors. Spiritual rumors. Fucking rumors. Killer rumors. Bodies. Urine. Schools of orphans. Rumor often says, And so and so, if you insist too vehemently on any particular particular. She begins in the middle, she stops and starts; She is a wanderer. Rumor is an evanescent and mendacious tatterdemalion. Rumor's covenant with her people: I shall not abandon you. A surfeit of surfeit for all time. Don't believe it, she's a liar of the first order. A mendacious tatterdemalion. Chapter Two AN OMELETTE FOR MAMA She walks in the direction of the well now. It lies within plain sight farther down the road. She doesn't look to it or breathe more quickly into the late morning air which is no longer still but bustling, although a bustling of a hollowed tempo. She speaks underneath her breath, pushes the words to the packed and uneven stones in front of her booted feet. She stares at the ground and at the tips of her shoes as they leave no dusty impressions. She whispers, Four eggs only, to no one in particular. She comes to the familiar wooden awning, to the Armenian bakery, and she turns right down a small unpaved street, pushing the words out breathlessly, silently now, so as not to call attention to the idiom which could in these days attract more than a slap to the head or a rough cane blow. She has turned away from the Quarter's well. There are no longer any dogs lingering outside the bakery door, she thinks, as she makes her way to the central market and the egg-seller's stall.     It is then that she begins to count the number of eggs she will purchase more slowly. One. Two. Three. She makes the calculations in her head as a small child would with different combinations of numbers to reach the four: two and two, and two from six. She decides she would rather run than walk down the small alleyway where she has turned; she then imagines herself running, her hair coming loose from its plait, uncovering itself from the black veil that covers her today like a dark shroud. Closely behind this picture of flying braids and cooler air is another picture, quite suddenly, as she knew it would be, as it has been for weeks now, voraciously waiting: the black mole before her, the protruding blanched belly. The potbelly baker and his mole-marked wife are like a sharp stone in her mind.     As she continues walking on the dull marble earth, she sees the hoary mole on Eghis Hanim's left cheek below her lower eyelashes; a protuberance of discolored dark skin rises above the woman's pale flesh, pushing her left eye upward and making it smaller. It was a mole that became offended if you forgot to close the door to the bakery gently.     Children! Eghis Hanim would scream. We are more civilized than those dogs, no? Even if surrounded by them.     It is ugly like sin, Anaguil and her neighborhood friends used to laugh among themselves.     Haigan would say, It's because that "black doo" pulls all the goodness away from her heart.     She's a she-devil! Rachel would say.     A witch.     Anaguil would hunch her back and squint her left eye, pull her mouth and say, Eh, you stupid girls, don't you know how to close doors like Christian ladies? Whereupon all three childhood friends, friends from birth or close to it, would fall onto the garden grasses laughing and rolling and holding their bellies. Today the mole cannot be pushed out by numbers or calculations. One and the mole appears; two and then Eghis Hanim's big nose like a brass pitcher; three and suddenly her coiled coiffure like a thick skein of dyed black wool. Eghis Hanim screaming at four, her hair (what few patches remained after her own fierce hands had ripped and torn it at the roots) flying like a maddened burning bush--the blood speckles were like field poppies, dull and invisible on the black shawl, in contrast to their flow and relief on her fair skin. Running, Eghis Hanim screamed not about doors or drafts or lazy girls. She clapped her hands and she sang and she danced and she left her unbound locks strewn in the mud and in the vacant doorways.     And in the blue ashes of the vanishing world, she also vanished, Anaguil thinks. The blood from her scalp like the rosebush trickled down, like tears or dew or spittle, like the resin from a fir tree, onto the blue canopy of heaven which no longer is above our covered heads but lies below these booted feet.     Eghis Hanim screamed, I'll stuff my husband's head full of cabbage leaves! That's what you do with an undeliverable parcel.     Then the black mole gives way to the center well and the aged oak trees and the tight red rosebush buds and so Anaguil begins to count again. Quickly. Her feet imitate the beat of the numbers, almost at a run now, One, one, one, one. She does not count beyond one, just one because she understands that in between the numbers her own vile rememberings creep in like ugly desert beetles and that once she sees Eghis Hanim's tooled countenance she sees the stamp-seller with a polio limp and then the fat silk merchant Bakrat Gregorian and then the coin-seller, who bought his two gold teeth in America. Then the orchard plums and yellow and red and purple and green grapes and her sweetest uncle, Amo Berj, who said, We did not prepare ourselves adequately. And then and then: Baba. And then one as she comes upon the wooden stall of the egg-seller and slowly dips her hands into the folds of her çarsaf. With her right hand she touches the dull paras in her pocket; she clenches the coins. One .     Some eggs, please, Effendi.     And Eghis Hanim still echoes in the unspeakable noise of her mind, of the bazaar: Cabbage leaves, cabbage leaves-they're so lovely with a severed skullcap! La-di-da . Her mind like a book, she shuts it tightly and looks outside of her eyes to the old Turkish man before her and to the small mound of fresh hen eggs. She drops her gaze to the ground. A goodgirl. Khalil Agha, the egg-seller, looks at the unchaperoned young girl standing quietly before him, her head bent and her hands tucked into her çarsaf.     How many eggs you need, girly?     Anaguil pulls her left hand from the inside of the floor-length veil and raises four fingers to the egg-seller's eye level.     Four eggs? You want four eggs, eh?     Khalil Agha stares at Anaguil's bent head and knows that since the war began seven months ago even small treasures can bring a profit.     The price is fifteen paras per egg. Prices have gone up today, these are difficult times. He smiles broadly, showing a missing incisor and front tooth edged in black.     Anaguil stares intently at the packed dirt. She shakes her head. Ten par-as, I have only ten.     Khalil Agha smacks his lips together making a sucking sound.     They're not paying you too well, eh?     Anaguil presses the coins she is holding in her right hand into an even tighter fist.     Well, girly, for that I can give you one egg. A bargain for a sweetplum like you.     Anaguil thinks of the word "one"--oneegg--and she wonders if her thoughts have brought this moment into being; her thinking on one making it the only possible number. She removes her clenched hand from the çarsaf and stretches it toward the egg-seller; she opens her right hand revealing a score of indentations left by the corns. The red crescents are relief for the ten paras in her palm.     Khalil Agha reaches across the table to take the currency. As he begins to remove the coins from her hand, he runs his fingers down the center of her palm. He slowly glides his fingers along each of the red moons and when finished reaches to her wrist and then underneath the çarsaf. His hand skims her forearm.     Cacudes, Anaguil thinks, as she glares at the white pebbles lying next to her feet. When Khalil Agha squeezes her elbow through the cloth of the dress she wears beneath the veil, she clenches her hand again.     I do have discounts, cutie.     Anaguil shakes her head three times in the negative and notices in that moment how her hands perspire; she smells the bitter residue of the coins in the sweat of her palms.     No? No? Take your egg then, little-whore, he says, removing the coins from her hand. Even little-whores shouldn't come to the marketplace by themselves.     Anaguil receives the egg he hands her into the linen square she has brought from home. She carefully folds the cloth around the egg and for each fold of fabric she utters one syllable: I-shit-in-your-mouth: cacudes. The egg-seller's gaze is drawn toward her bitten fingers where only small stubs of fingernail remain. Anaguil turns away from the egg-seller's stall and she feels how the back of her dress now sticks to her skin; her hands tremble as she begins walking. It was worth it, she thinks, it was worth going to the market alone and buying from the son of an ass. The boys are at home safe with Mama, and I have done something I never expected. She disregards the burning feeling in her belly as she begins the walk home. She presses her thighs tightly together and ignores the need to relieve herself.     She passes the idle bootmaker's corner and the rows and rows of shuttered storefronts as she winds out of the market; on another corner she passes the knifemakers' stalls. Anaguil smells the horns of goat in the high heat of the Turkish knifemakers' shops. The odors drift onto the morning air and into the mouth like bone, as the knifemakers melt and shape the cartilage and mineral life into handles and blades for cutting and slicing and killing. She hears in the distance the high-pitched call of the muezzin for the mid-morning prayer; it is a voice she has heard five times a day since the day of her birth and the sound is familiar, like skin.     Anaguil very deliberately moves her thoughts to her feet again, to each step that she is taking and to each step that she is about to take: one booted foot then another on hard-packed dirt past discarded apple core, spittle, dog shit; another booted foot, the toe scratched and worn as it veers onto the stone of the main road. She turns left, passing the closed bakery, passing the empty space where farther down the road the well lies, and she heads toward home.     An omelette is what Mama needs, she whispers. An omelette with green onions. It will ease her spirits. In the summer we have always eaten them.     The wind has picked up since she left the house one half hour ago. A tall cypress leans into the invisible force. Tall cypresses remind her of burial grounds, water, the color of death. Copyright © 2001 Micheline Aharonian Marcom. All rights reserved.