Surrealist novel The Fleeting City takes down Armenia’s social taboos | Calvert Reads

Surrealist novel The Fleeting City takes down Armenia’s social taboos | Calvert Reads

13 August 2021

Dubbed a “virtual movie-novella” for its vivid style, The Fleeting City is a part-absurdist, part-surrealist book following a group of friends as they journey across Armenia.

When protagonists Gagik and Grigor strike up an unlikely friendship with a Turkish traveller, writer Hovhannes Tekgyozyan unleashes a whirlwind narrative that encompasses both sexuality and the supernatural. Keen to expand beyond the traditional tales of political corruption and economic struggle that fill Armenia’s contemporary literary canon, Tekgyozyan focuses on social taboos.

By mining the cavernous stronghold of Armenia’s many forbidden subjects, he finds a cache of lively, honest humour, delivered through vivid, sensory storytelling. With a touch of magical realism, The Fleeting City subtly knocks down the “forbidden fruits” of Armenian society, which still dominate the lives of the country’s younger generations: including homosexuality, premarital relations, and gender fluidity.

Published in 2012, The Fleeting City was Tekgyozyan’s first book, following two collections of short stories — Wooden Shirt and Glass Sun — and a number of plays staged by independent theatres in Armenia. Currently, he resides in France, where he continues to write novels.

This article is part of Calvert Reads, a series revisiting great works of literature across the ages.

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