Tergiversation wins no favours when the blood of nationalists is up. How, precisely, it instructs us to behave I’m not sure.

It doesn’t strictly follow – ethically or any other way – that to be powerfully struck by the violence visited on one people must increase your devotion to your own.

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But it’s a strange perversion of the imaginative faculties to feel for others what you are ashamed to feel for yourself. And maybe, as some argue, he dodged his identity in order to be sure The Forty Days of Musa Dagh saw the light of day. But in the long run, calculations of this sort catch up with you, and you are left with neither success nor honour to console you. Leaned on by Turkey and understandably wary of false equivalences – for not every death is a massacre, and not every war is genocidal – Israel connives in Armenian genocide denial.

In chronicling the extermination of “one of the oldest and most venerable people of the world”, did Werfel make no leap of association? But the Armenian “extermination” is not false equivalence.

The Christian Armenian story was the Polish Jewish story.

The efforts of the Armenians to stay alive in Musa Dagh chimed with those struggling to survive the ghetto.Forgive me for writing about a writer I have never read, but the following thoughts have more to do with his example than his words. But I will, the moment the occasion presents itself, read the The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by the sometime Jewish, sometime Catholic, Austro-Bohemian novelist Franz Werfel.Published in 1933, Werfel’s novel recounts the horrors of the Armenian genocide through the heroic exploits of a group of Armenian partisans holding out against the Turks in Musa Dagh (Moses Mountain) close to the ancient city of Antioch.But it’s not really all that complex once we allow there can be a germ of self-disgust in erotic love, and that part of its exhilaration is to let the body go where the mind would rather not.And don’t forget that Alma Mahler hailed from Vienna, a city whose morbid fascination with Jews was to grow to a madness that would find peace only in Nazism. As a young man I wooed, unsuccessfully, with Puccini. Verdi worked for Werfel, anyway, and, by the logic that one good turn deserves another, Alma Mahler got him to give up being Jewish.In these days of wanton destruction it is worth preserving, if only by name, ancient associations. Werfel was vociferous on behalf of his novel’s political character. Werfel had encountered Armenian refugees while travelling in the Middle East.