Fredy Neptune Questions and Answers
by Les A. Murray

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Is the woman from Chicago who nurses Fredy after his beating Armenian?

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The woman is in fact Armenian, because she explains to Fredy that the women whom he saw tortured and burnt to death in Turkey were Armenian, were "her people." This was the 1915 genocide of the Armenians that Fredy witnessed but did not fully understand at the time. To him, it just appeared part of the huge phantasmagoria of events in World War I that he's caught up in.

When the nurse tells Fredy she carried him on her head, he asks,

The same head you talk English with?

Her answer is:

Armenian, Arabic, Turkish, English.

I thought if the soldier cops got you, you'd be dead.

In all likelihood, only an Armenian would answer that she speaks Armenian, listing it first among the languages she knows. Though Armenians have long lived among other national groups, very few if any of those others can speak Armenian. It's an Indo-European language, but it has its own alphabet and bears little resemblance to the other languages spoken in the general region. And given that Armenians have never been in a position of dominance vis-a-vis the other nationalities, others have never had any reason to learn Armenian—while many Armenians have had to learn Arabic or Turkish, as the woman says.

Fredy also observes that

No ordinary trouble could be real

after the story she and her people were locked in.

This, too, alludes to the genocide in which the Armenians were exiled from their homeland in Ottoman Turkey and largely exterminated. Those who were exiled were driven south into the Syrian desert, and these are the people described as

stragglers still filtering south, the eyes skulls getting through,

one out of a family, one out of a whole village,

Half of a nation murdered. More than the mind can close around.

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