What’s in a name?

A true story

‘Water Will Find its Way’ is a story which is based on historic fact, though I have invented the characters and what happens to them. A friend once told me that her grandmother had been left as an orphan during the Armenian genocide. My curiosity was piqued and I started to research this tragic moment in twentieth century history that is so seldom discussed.

Water

Water is everywhere in this book. The Atlantic ocean separates the protagonist, Nairi, from her daughter Sevan for decades, and the Guadalquivir river (Seville, Spain) reunites them. The banks of the Guadalquivir are the location for many of the conversations between mother and daughter. Most importantly, Water will find its way is the English for an Armenian proverb that means something like: ‘If something has good potential, then it will come into being, or, if someone is very determined to bring something about, then they will succeed.

The names

‘Nairi’ is an Armenian name that means ‘land of rivers’. During the twentieth century it came to be synonymous with Armenia (it originally was the name for tribes dwelling in the highlands in Armenia). Since my character Nairi has, on one level, an almost symbolic role in that she is the custodian of Armenian heritage, this name felt right for her. She is the one who is forced to flee from her beloved homeland and who tries to keep its history alive through music and stories handed down through generations. She is the one who suffers most, and has most to lose. In the end, though, she finds a kind of peace with herself through sharing her past with her family.

Likewise, Sevan is a ‘geographical’ name. It is a large, high altitude lake. Along with Lake Van and Lake Urmia, Lake Sevan was considered one of the three great lakes of the historical Kingdom of Armenia. Lake Sevan is the only one that still lies within the Republic of Armenia’s boundaries today. Although ‘Sevan’ only became popular as a name for Armenian boys and girls in the second half of the twentieth century, I was drawn to the associations it holds. Sevan is the character who grows and learns most in the story, and I wanted her to have a ‘strong’ name. She is the one who most fully represents that proverb, ‘Water will find its way’.

Catarina is born in Argentina. She had to have a name in Spanish that was suited to her passionate, rebellious nature. Nairi calls her by the Armenian version, Kadarine. She doesn’t have the strong roots that Nairi and Sevan have to help her get through life. When we consider her story, we think about the question of Nature Vs Nurture. She has the strength of character to free her mother and herself from slavery and the determination to reach the top in her beloved tango, but after that she becomes a victim of her circumstances.

Anaïs is born in France and so she has a French name. It may derive from the Armenian Anahit, the goddess of healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology. It is also a French version of the name Agnès. Anaïs has a special grace of her own; she brings luck to her mother, and so her names resonates with this.

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