semele

The latest addition to my website is Ivan Kakovitch‘s Mount Semele, the first Assyrian novel on my website. Most people probably think of the Assyrians as a fierce, warlike people who appeared in the Bible (and also in Byron’s poem The Destruction of Sennacherib) and who were essentially wiped out by the Babylonians and Medes in 605 BC. While this is true, they did continue as a people, even if they did not have their own territory. Unlike most of their neighbours, they turned to Christianity rather than Islam. Though they generally kept on good terms with their Muslim neighbours and rulers, they did suffer some repression throughout their history, particularly from Tamurlane in the 14th century and then again in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kakovitch’s book recounts events in their history from 1915 to the Mount Semele massacre, when their final resistance was destroyed by Iraqi forces. After the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the Assyrians, like other peoples of the region, such as the Kurds and Armenians, hoped to gain independence. However, because of a combination of opposition by the Western powers, particularly Britain, and opposition from others in the region, this did not happen. Kakovitch’s novel recounts these events through the eyes of his grandmother, Sonia, and, more particularly, his great-uncle, Michel Nona, the de facto leader of the Assyrians during this period. It is a fascinating story and one probably unknown to most Westerners.