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Over 80,000 copies sold

English sample available

Disguised as the story of a philanderer who “saves” women, Narine Abgaryan’s Simon is a powerful tale of four remarkable women finding themselves, written by an artist working at the height of her power. Just like with her nationally awarded bestseller, Three Apples Fell from the Sky, Abgaryan invites readers to the Armenian mountain village of Berd, as she depicts – with unflinching honesty, heartfelt warmth and gentle humor – her female characters’ transformation against the twentieth-century social and psychic traumas of Armenia.

Narine Abgaryan’s Simon is named for a man, but it tells the stories of four remarkable women. Set in the Armenian mountain village of Berd, Simon depicts a generation of women coming of age in the late Soviet period. With unflinching honesty and gentle humor, Abgaryan sets her novel against the twentieth-century traumas of the Armenian genocide, civil war, two world wars, and Soviet power, all of which leave their mark on her characters. 

Many of the women have lost fathers in the Second World War; their mothers exhibit the scars of war, hunger, and backbreaking labor. Bridal abduction, rape stigma, and other social and legal customs that disenfranchise women further complicate their already-difficult lives. But their community has not lost its humanity: a sympathetic doctor protects a psychiatric patient from her vengeful husband, a neighbor slips desperately needed money into a woman’s pocket, a mother-in-law sides with a daughter-in-law whose husband is having an affair. The townspeople of Berd – from the softhearted and straitlaced policeman Ilya to the ancient Katinka to the village idiot Vardanush, keeper of everyone’s secrets – dispense wisdom and good cheer on matters ranging from swaddling babies to how best to disguise a corpse’s blue ears.

The novel begins as guests come to pay their final respects to 79-year-old Simon, known as a hearty drinker and womanizer. Among the mourners are four women with whom Simon has had extramarital affairs. A weak, sensual, but generally kind-hearted man, Simon has crossed paths with all the women at key moments in their lives, offering many of them their first-ever taste of sexual pleasure and desperately needed emotional sustenance. Simon is no saint: his story, which we glimpse in snippets from the tales told by the women, is one of coming to terms with one’s own failings. Despite showing early promise as a draftsman, Simon drops out of architectural school and marries the long-suffering Melania, whom he then torments with his carousing and affairs. At critical moments of his life, he chooses to sulk rather than act decisively, condemning himself and the women who love him to further misery.

After the other guests leave, the four women join Melania in drinking wine and telling their stories, each of which constitutes a chapter in the novel. Suffering from painful, undiagnosed vaginismus, Silvia endures marriage to a well-connected man who assaults and then institutionalizes her, cutting her off from all contact with their infant daughter. Eliza, unwanted by her own mother, marries a man who is besotted by another woman; he despises Eliza, going so far as to tell her that she even smells disgusting. Sofia, a spoiled girl who willfully marries a man against her family’s wishes, suffers numerous miscarriages and despairs of ever conceiving a longed-for daughter. Susanna, whose impoverished, dysfunctional family stands out even among the general poverty and dysfunction of the time, is abducted and raped on the eve of her high school graduation, ruining her chances for love and a better life.

Abgaryan’s novel is remarkably forthright on subjects traditionally considered taboo in Russophone literature: female sensuality and sexuality, reproductive function (and dysfunction), female body image, and the psychic wounds of war, poverty, and cultural and institutional misogyny.

Despite the brutal nature of some of its subject matter, Simon radiates warmth and good nature. Abgaryan is interested not just in women’s individual lives, but in the ways those lives swell together to perpetuate life’s eternal cycle: birth from water, a mother’s voice remembered as the sound of the sea, death as return to the depths of the sea. Disguised as the story of a philanderer who “saves” women, Abgaryan’s Simon is a powerful tale of women finding themselves, written by an artist working at the height of her power.

In the rich and complex ornament of the text there’s place for an Armenian cultural and national identity, hidden family secrets, a late-night chapel singing, and a scent of honey from the lover’s body. Yet there’s no space for any allegations, a condemnation or a judgement of sorts. Thanks to this generous acceptance, Abgaryan’s novel is wise in a sense that is almost biblical, as it is concocted from stories of people whose hearts beating spins our world.

— Anna Delianidi, literary critic

An outstanding, heartfelt story about love for a human being.


Narine Abgaryan is unsurpassed in her transition from humor to earnestness, from tragedy to a meticulous lyricism.

— Soyuz

Book details


Novel, 2020

352 pp

Rights sold

  • Armenian Antares

  • Estonian Tänapäev

  • Italian Brioschi

  • Bulgarian Labyrinth

  • Slovakian Artforum

  • Simplified Chinese Rentian Ulus Cultural Media

  • Romanian Humanitas

  • Lithuanian Balto

  • Catalan Comanegra

  • Czech Prostor

  • Malayalam Green Books

  • Hungarian Typotex Kiadó

  • Polish Glowbook

Film rights sold

Theater rights sold

Literary awards

  • Shortlisted for the Big Book Award 2021

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