Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Called Zhamakirk (Book of Hours) in Armenian, this volume was printed in 1955 at the Armenian Monastery of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. In 1984, I spent a week there playing ping-pong with the seminarians, drinking from their immense kettle of sugary tea flavored with fresh mint leaves, and wandering the city, hoping not to be shot by soldiers keeping watch on the walls. The sense of hostility inside those walls was tangible — as was the sense of tragedy, comedy, boredom, and salesmanship. There was a deacon who owned a great many books. Once, when he was digging weeds out of his courtyard with a spoon, he invited me to his room for coffee. After brushing the ants from his table, we sat down and admired some of his collection. A few of the books were in English. One was so old that the English was impossible to understand. This, of course, is the story of every language, and part of what makes language the appealing mystery that it is — what we hear echoing through the ruins of each and every word; what we have said so many times before, and are sure to say again.

[click to enlarge]

“Breviary” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.