Every time I see these flowers, either in their purple freshness or in rain-bleached white, I think of the story ‘Ալպիական Մանուշակ’ by Aksel Bakunts;1 it is a false association, sadly, because the ‘alpine violet’ of the story is a cyclamen, as the red stems would indicate, but I think the mistake is a common one. Indeed, I recall the times students brought in violets for the teachers in the spring – mountain violets, tiny and freshly purple, from the hills above town. They would shyly joke about the ալպիական մանուշակներ and tell me about the Bakunts story in terms so vague that I cannot recall the details. The flowers, wrapped in a damp napkin to keep them fresh, were very like the ones pictured above.
- Bakunts was an Armenian author from Goris, born in 1899, and thrown into jail in 1915 for writing a story making fun of the town’s mayor (who was apparently the sort of mayor who jails teenagers for writing satirical short stories). He was killed in 1937 as part of Stalin’s purges. In our language tutorials, we aspired to read Bakunts because he was a local author and we had visited the house museum, but we always managed to get sidetracked into trying to read Shirvanzade instead. So I have not, in fact, read much of the story in question, save for a few bits and bobs. There does not appear to have been a translation in English, or at least not one that I could find a copy of. [↩]