De Vita Sua

Availability: In stock
Published: 2011
Page #: 230
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1568592886, 1-56859-288-4
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Quick Overview

Dr. Nina Garsoïan begins her masterfully written autobiography by introducing the reader to the émigré world into which she was born. She paints candid pictures of her parents and grandparents, ethnic Armenians who had never lived in Armenia. In the early pages of her memoir Dr. Garsoïan relates what is known of the family’s history in Rostov-on-Don, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia and how, despite a series of trials and tribulations, they came to live in France.

Dr. Garsoïan’s memoir is the story of a survivor. Not only did she live through the loss of her father and maternal grandfather when she was very young but she also survived being transplanted from her native Paris to New York at the tender age of ten. Reading this superbly written autobiography with its rich vocabulary it is hard to believe that she arrived in the United States not knowing a word of English. She describes very emotively the amount of time and effort it took to adjust to the American educational system and to life in the US.

Having become enamored of the piano before she was four, Nina had begun lessons in Paris and continued her studies in New York. For many years music was her intended career. Raised in a well-educated and well-read family, it was taken for granted that Nina would go to university. Due to the onset of World War II a return to Europe was out of the question. Instead Nina went to Bryn Mawr College beginning in the fall of 1940. Following graduation she returned to New York and supported herself by giving piano lessons. She also occasionally performed as a pianist.

This autobiography is also a story of transition and evolution. Dr. Garsoïan describes how in her late twenties she made the transition from an intended career in music to the role of a graduate student and an academic and how over the succeeding decades she completed a PhD and began teaching at prestigious American universities. She guides her readers through the evolution of her academic focus from Classical Archaeology to Byzantine History and relates how her interests turned first from Byzantium to Armenia and then to the relations of Armenia with its neighbor to the east, the Sasanian Empire of Iran. She traces the development of her unique multicultural approach to the study of early Armenian history.
In addition the memoir relates Dr. Garsoïan’s prominent role in the evolution of the Armenian Studies Program at Columbia University from the first classes she taught there beginning in 1962 to her appointment in 1979 to the newly created chair in Armenian History and Civilization through to her eventual retirement from the university in 1993.

Dr. Garsoïan shares with the reader numerous anecdotes regarding well-known personalities in the arts and in the academic world with whom she interacted both on the East Coast of the US and in Europe. Throughout the memoir she paints very vivid word pictures of time spent in various countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus either while becoming reacquainted with her roots or as a music student or as a history graduate student or later on as a researcher. She also describes at length her travels as a trustee of the Ford Foundation from 1977 to 1989 and the insights gained from those trips.

For anyone interested in the effect on people’s lives of events in 20th-century Europe, in the world of the émigré, and in the history of Armenian Studies in the United States this autobiography is essential reading.


Nina Garsoïan

Born in Paris in 1923 into a milieu of émigrés from Russia, bilingual from infancy, and transported to New York before her teens in 1933, Dr. Nina Garsoïan has as she puts it, “never managed to achieve a single-minded or whole-hearted patriotism.” Despite her Armenian ethnic background, she has been happy and loved, especially Paris and Venice, but also the Armenian and French countrysides, Nantucket, coastal New England and New York, but none of them has been her exclusive home. An additional break was further added in her life by the circumstances that forced her to transform its earlier preparation as a concert pianist to an academic career after the accident which made the earlier goal impossible. Dr. Garsoïan received her AB degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1943 in Classical Archaeology and her MA and PhD from Columbia University in 1946 and 1958 in Byzantine, Near Eastern and Armenian History. She has received Fulbright, Guggenheim and two National Endowment Senior Fellowship Exchanges with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, as well as the Anania Narekac‘i and Mesrop Mashtots Medals for academic distinction in 1988 and 1993. She has taught at Smith College, Columbia and Princeton Universities. Dr. Garsoïan was the first female dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University, a two-term trustee of the Ford Foundation, the vice-chairman and member of the board of the ACLS, and the coeditor for Byzantium, the Sasanians and the Christian East of the “Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages.” Her primary field of interest is the coexistence and interaction of the two superpowers of the early Christian period —the Byzantine Empire and Sasanian Persia—especially as seen in Medieval Armenia on whose neglected Iranian component she has focussed. Consequently, as the holder of the Armenian Chair created for her at Columbia University in 1979, she has been instrumental in establishing the field of Medieval Armenian History in the United States and has published multiple books, journal and encyclopedia articles on Armenian, Byzantine and Sasanian subjects. At present, Dr. Garsoïan is Avedissian Professor Emerita of Armenian History and Civilization at Columbia University and director of the “Revue des études arméniennes” in Paris. She is also a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.


Les neiges d’antan [The Snows of Yesteryear].

C’est là que tout a commencé [That’s Where it all Began].

Terra incognita [An Unknown Land].

La Vita Nuova [The New Life].

"Now Voyager" [Poem by Walt Whitman].

Entre chiens et loups [Between Dogs and Wolfs].

Confiteor [I Confess].

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