Arlen, Michael (Dikran Kouyoumdjian) (1895-1956) by Woodfin, Barbara

Michael Arlen (1895-1956) Before his talents would be recognized and admired in fashionable cities like London, New York and Hollywood, the writer had to create a new name for himself as . Under this assumed persona, Arlen experienced a fleeting success that alleviated but never resolved his struggle to identify with his Armenian roots. Born in Rustchuk, Bulgaria on November 16, 1895 to Armenian parents, Arlen came to England in 1901. He attended Malvern College and, later, entered Edinburgh University as a medical student. Arlen quickly abandoned this profession to pursue writing; by 1916, he was writing for magazines while living in London. He would not become a British subject until 1922 and could not serve in the military during the First World War, but he served up his stylistic wit as an entertaining distraction for wartime readers. His work also displayed a serious side by offering a glimpse into the mind of a man deeply troubled by his displaced identity. His first published essay, originally appeared in and was later re-printed (on August 3, 1916) in . In the piece, Arlen discusses the misguided notion of while expressing his desire that Armenians recognize and reclaim their (: 322). This argument would become a recurring theme in many of his contributions and in his later work. Dikran Kouyoumdjian Michael Arlen An Appeal to Sense, Arat: A Searchlight on Armenia The New Age sentimentalising about Armenia lost nationality NA 19.14 New Age As a writer for , Arlen—who published under his real name in the magazaine until 1920—reached a broader audience that included intellectuals and other English elites, whose lifestyle he would target in many of his satirical essays, short plays, and novels. Arlen took several jabs at these people in the midst of a devastating war, preferring his wit to his fist as his (: : 448). Many of Arlen’s contributions also reflect the strained relations between the Turkish and Armenian peoples that had played a major part in his initial relocation to England. Turkey had suffered in the Balkan Wars in 1912 and then sided with Germany in WWI, after which mass murders of Armenians were carried out, presumably by the Turkish government (Keyishian 17). In Arlen confronts such senseless brutality, noting that (: 259). Arlen resists to the British in (: 208) and seems concerned that people receiving pity, like the Poles and the Irish, may overcompensate for their persecution with (207). This warning about misdirected anger was later echoed in his speech to members of the Armenian Educational Foundation in New York (reprinted in the , March 25, 1925). Arlen claimed that (Keyishian 69). He remained sympathetic, however, to others who faced threats to their identities, likening the Armenians’ crisis to that of the Jews in (: 595) and commenting on the problem of English rule in Ireland in (: 539). The New Age weapon against mortality The Decline of Humour NA 19.19 New Age The Function of Daggers, commonplace men with power do strange things NA 20.11 appeal[ing] for pity The Art of Being Oppressed NA 21.9 aggressive independence New York Times all the troubles in the world come from this driving at nationalities—jealousy, ill-will, warfare New Lamps for Old NA 19.25 Figures in a Room NA 20.23 These essays also show Arlen’s ambivalence about whether he should lash out against his oppressors or simply suppress his anger and try to with his adopted culture. This desire to be unassuming stemmed from his fear of appearing foolish; Arlen often sacrificed his right to against an oppressor in favor of being a which allowed him to avoid ridicule: (: 208). Arlen, however, was not completely immune to criticism, even at the height of his success. By emulating the popular style of men’s fashion in London, he was labeled a He made light of this reputation in (: 16-17), but personal attacks on his works and character proved more damaging later on in his career, when his sense of humor ceased to mask his vulnerable interior. fit in make an appreciable loud noise monkey who cannot do tricks, Who will smile at a monkey without tricks? NA 21.9 dandy. A Defence of Tailors NA 21.1 Arlen’s first major success came when his most significant contribution to , a series of ten pieces called (August 1918 – May 1919), was republished as a novel called (1920). In this semi-autobiographical work about the experiences of a young man in London, the reader finds more evidence of Arlen’s alienation even though he acknowledges the many writers who had adopted him into their circle. This same tension is apparent in a series of letters in between Arlen and another contributor, . In one letter (: 70), Arlen accuses Pickthall of misinterpreting, in a previous article, the extent of the troubled relationship between the Armenians and the Turks; Arlen thus illustrates his desire to educate those who would categorize the Armenians without knowing what it means to be Armenian. The New Age The London Papers The London Venture The New Age Marmaduke Pickthall NA 25.4 Though he achieved only modest success with his early works that aimed at edification, Arlen’s novel (1924) and his collections of short stories published between 1921 and 1925—, , and —were all wildly successful, despite their complete lack of substance. His works appealed especially to female readers, and they were serialized in magazines like and . His most popular works also tapped into the insight he gained from his observations of English life. The Green Hat The Romantic Lady These Charming People May Fair Redbook Cosmopolitan In 1927, Arlen met the Greek Countess , whom he would marry the following year. But after a whirlwind of success in America following the theatrical production of and its first film version, (1927), Arlen’s popularity quickly diminished. (1927) was no match for its predecessor, and his experiments with ghost stories and a futuristic novel, (1933), were both poorly received by critics and readers. Arlen made a desperate attempt to reclaim his audience by returning to his romantic style in several short stories and plays, but he never regained his celebrity status. Atalanta Mercati The Green Hat A Woman of Affairs Young Men in Love Man’s Mortality The release of his final novel, (1939), coincided with the beginning of World War II. To contribute to the war effort, Arlen left his family in America and returned to England. He served as an air-raid warden, or (Arlen 36), until he was accused of posing a possible threat because of his ethnic background and was forced to resign. Arlen also continued to publish his essays and stories in , including some anti-German and anti-Communist pieces. In 1941, Arlen returned to Hollywood to continue his work and earned himself a few minor film credits. He moved to New York in 1945, and it was there that he died of lung cancer on June 23, 1956. The Flying Dutchman information officer for Civil Defense The Tatler ―Barbara Woodfin Selected Bibliography . . New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. Arlen, Michael Exiles . . Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1975. Keyishian, Harry Michael Arlen . . Manchester: Manchester UP, 1967. Martin, Wallace The New Age under Orage: Chapters in English Cultural History . 23 Sep. 2006 . Michael Arlen The Internet Movie Database . The Modernist Journals Project. Referred to as NA in the body of the essay. (1916-1920) The New Age . . Scholes, Robert General Introduction to The New Age 1907-1922. The Modernist Journals Project . . London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1930. Sitwell, Osbert Three-Quarter Length Portrait of Michael Arlen Selected Works of Michael Arlen . . New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924. Arlen, Michael The Green Hat —. . New York: George H. Doran Co., 1920. The London Venture —. London: W. Collins Sons and Co., 1922. Piracy. —. . London: W. Collins Sons and Co., 1923. These Charming People

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