Award winning novelist Louise De Bernières is coming to town – well to Kayaköy a tumble down deserted former Greek village actually. Expect a civilised, sunny afternoon of recital, chat and nibbles to chew over his superb novel Birds Without Wings. If only I could write like him. Profits from the event will go to local children in need so it’s not yet another jamboree for street dogs.
Birds without Wings is a beautifully crafted, intensely human tale set in an imaginary Aegean village called Eskibahçe. Although fictional, the village is based on the hamlet of Kayaköy (Greek: Levissi) near Fethiye. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the defeat and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of the Turkish Republic and the innocent sounding ‘population exchange’ that occurred in 1923. This cruel trade was a curious and unique episode in modern history as it was mutually agreed by both governments and sanctioned by the League of Nations. 1.5 million Greeks from Anatolia and 500,000 Turks from Greece were forcibly expelled from their centuries-old communities and ‘repatriated’ to their so-called homelands. It was religious rather than ethnic cleansing since ethnic Turks who were Christian were out and ethnic Greeks who were Moslem were in, and vice versa.
The expulsions were a harsh and deliberate plan by both adversaries to create states of religious and cultural homogeneity. This might be forgiven as the inevitable consequence of two paranoid, insecure nations attempting to foster a loyal citizenry but the fall out still resounds to this day both in the Aegean region and in the wider world.
Louise de Bernières is perhaps best known for his earlier book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin which is set on the lush and verdant Greek Island of Kefalonia during World War Two. My very first holiday with Liam was to Kefalonia. Our debut jolly was marred by a manic Franco-Algerian woman, a bird with bingo wings. She took far too much of a frisky shine to Liam. She chased him around the pool like a bitch on heat and I had to tell her to keep her wandering lusty hands to herself.