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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

by Franz Werfel
Translated from the German by Geoffrey Dunlop
Newly revised by James Reidel

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Product Details

Verba Mundi

ISBN: 978-1-56792-407-7
Pages: 936
Size: 5.55" x 8.51"
Published: January 2012
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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is Franz Werfel's masterpiece that brought him international acclaim in 1933, drawing the world's attention to the Armenian genocide. This is the story of how the people of several Armenian villages in the mountains along the coast of present-day Turkey and Syria chose not to obey the deportation order of the Turkish government. Instead, they fortified a plateau on the slopes of Musa Dagh—Mount Moses—and repelled Turkish soldiers and military police during the summer of 1915 while holding out hope for the warships of the Allies to save them.

The original English translation by Geoffrey Dunlop has been revised and expanded by translator James Reidel and scholar Violet Lutz. The Dunlop translation, had excised approximately 25% of the original two-volume text to accommodate the Book-of-the-Month club and to streamline the novel for film adaptation. The restoration of these passages and their new translation gives a fuller picture of the extensive inner lives of the characters, especially the hero Gabriel Bagradian, his wife Juliette, their son Stephan—and Iskuhi Tomasian, the damaged, nineteen-year-old Armenian woman whom the older Bagradian loves. What is more apparent now is the personal story that Werfel tells, informed by events and people in his own life, a device he often used in his other novels as well, in which the author, his wife Alma, his stepdaughter Manon Gropius, and others in his circle are reinvented. Reidel has also revised the existing translation to free Werfel's stronger usages from Dunlop's softening of meaning, his effective censoring of the novel in order to fit the mores and commercial contingencies of the mid-1930s.

In every sense a true and thrilling novel… It tells a story which it is almost one's duty as an intelligent human being to read. And one's duty here becomes one's pleasure also. —New York Times Book Review
Forty Days will invade your senses and keep the blood pounding. Once read, it will never be forgotten. —The New York Times
Werfel's book… did more than the efforts of any diplomat, journalist, or historian to encourage speech about the unspeakable. It arrives today—when Syria and Congo are killing fields—as a timely reminder that savagery thrives in silence. —The Barnes and Noble Review
A crackling read. Symphonic in its handling of profound themes, respectful of its most vacillating characters, Werfel's novel is a grand and satisfying story about the necessities and difficulties of leadership. —Booklist
Franz Werfel
Franz Werfel was born in Prague to a well-off Jewish family. As a young man, he was involved with the burgeoning community of writers who frequented Prague's Cafe Arco, including Max Brod and Franz Kafka. He published his first book of poems at the age of twenty-one and began working as an editor for Kurt Wolff's publishing firm the following year. Werfel's talents as a writer and editor allowed him to avoid the frontline in World War I in favor of the Military Press Bureau, where he worked as a propagandist alongside other notable writers. The connections he made during this time allowed him to become one of Austria's most renowned writers by the end of the 1920s. In the 1930s, however, the humanist, anti-genocide stance he expressed in works such as The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, as well as his Jewish heritage, attracted the censure of the Nazis. His books were among the many that were burned among accusations of conspiracy and decadence. In 1940, Werfel fled to the United States via France and Spain and settled in Los Angeles. There, he wrote his final play, Jacobowsky and the Colonel. He died in Los Angeles five years later.

Geoffrey Dunlop

James Reidel
James Reidel is a translator, editor, biographer, and poet. He has won numerous awards for his translations, including a PEN Translation Prize and a Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His own poems are equally well-regarded and have appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Reidel lives with his wife, the artist M. Lori Reidel, and their three sons in Cincinnati, Ohio.