It was harder to find a novel by an Armenian author than I expected. When I googled "Armenian novelists," tons of authors popped up. The problem was that practically none of them had actually been born in Armenia -- most of them seemed to be Americans of Armenian descent. The novels by Armenian-born authors often hadn't been translated into English. So I was relieved to finally discover Yenok's Eye, by Gurgen Khanjyan, who was born in Yerevan, Armenia.
Yenok's Eye follows a short period of time in the lives of two half-brothers, Gor and Grofo, unknown to one another until their father goes missing. Their father, Jivan, is a wandering musician with a wandering eye. He hasn't been heard from by either Grofo's mother or Gor's, and his current mistress in Russia has filed a missing person's report. Grofo, living in the neighboring country of Georgia, learns of Gor's existence in Armenia and travels there to meet him and his family.
Gor's family accepts Grofo into their home, in spite of the fact that Grofo turns out to be an unrepentant troublemaker. As he says towards the end of the book, "I'm a creator of problems, not a solver, that much is true."
The heart of the family is Yenok, Gor's maternal grandfather. Having lost his eye in a childhood accident, he has a glass eye to replace it. Grofo asks him to leave him the glass eye when he dies, which Yenok agrees to do, and he also gives Grofo a spare glass eye that's the wrong color. Grofo carries the spare eye with him everywhere and brings it out at various times throughout the book.
Yenok's Eye is driven more by its characters, especially the irrepressible Grofo, than its plot. In his short time with his half-brother's family, he manages to change not only their perceptions of themselves, but their relationships with each other.
Copious amounts of vodka are consumed by the characters throughout the book, especially the men. Fortunately, there's a fair amount of cooking and eating going on as well. In one scene, Gor's mother is in the kitchen cooking, kept company by a young neighbor who is secretly in love with Gor.
"On one occasion, Mrs. Arus was busy stirring a pot of yoghurt soup spas and asked Nare to take a cup of coffee to Gor. 'Why don't I stir instead?' Nare muttered, but the housewife did not trust her. 'The bottom will stick to the pot,' she said."
I'd never heard of yogurt soup, so I decided to give it a try. I used a recipe from a website called "The Armenian Kitchen." The recipe required several changes to make it vegan, but they were easy changes: I used vegan yogurt instead of regular yogurt, vegetable broth in place of chicken broth, olive oil instead of butter, and I omitted the egg. It wasn't bad, but I suspect yogurt soup is an acquired taste.
In searching for an Armenian organization to receive this week's donation, I found a website called GlobalGiving.com, which is a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits all over the world. This site listed nine different projects in Armenia, which made choosing very difficult! I finally decided to send my donation to support a project that provides basic education to working children. I was happy to discover the GlobalGiving website, and will certainly return to it again and again as I continue with my global reading project.
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