“My sadness for all things lost, my sorrow for an Istanbul and Beyoglu lost, but exist in my memory.There were moments I was feeling I was at the edge of a real and non real world.
As for the novel. I loved, as already I mentioned, the setting, the way Defne moves in time, her language, her writing, her characters. The loneliness of Mr Perikles, the way he realises the truth about himself. He is an old man, he knows it, but not in his heart, he falls in love, he believes in life. The grandeur of humans!”
Stella Vretou, Author
The Circle can be read as an elegy to bygone Istanbul. The main character of the novel, a Greek-Rum Istanbulite in his mid-seventies, named Periklis Drakos, embarks on writing about his life, his dreams, and reckonings through the pen of his young neighbor Leyla. The opening of the novel bears witness to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Periklis, who has fallen for Leyla, is confined to the Circle Building, an old building in Istanbul’s cosmopolitan Beyoğlu neighborhood, where Periklis was born and grew up. Isolated from the world, save a few neighbors with whom he still interacts, he turns his attention to the architectural and decorative details of the Circle Building, such as the leaded glass windows, floor mosaics, the antiquated elevator, and the shadowy corners. The novel conjures up the past through these material details as well as the depiction of the interiors. The ornaments adorning the building and the old-fashioned furniture point toward an irretrievable past, and they imbue the narrative with subtle nostalgia and melancholy.
At the same time, the name “Circle,” evokes the circular structure of life, a revolving or return to the beginning. While one thread of the narrative gives testimony to the early weeks of the pandemic, another thread represents the radical transformation that Istanbul has undergone in the twentieth century: as a result of this process, the neighborhoods, demographic texture, and culture of the city gradually changed, leading to a visible decline.
In the present time of the novel, the urban gentrification movement of the twenty-first century is about eradicating the old identity of Istanbul. Seen against this backdrop, Beyoğlu, or Pera– as the neighborhood was called in the past—, considered the heart of Istanbul’s lost multicultural life, emerges as a major character of the novel. With its architecture and social fabric, the site becomes the central metaphor for the transformations Istanbul has experienced since the last century. As a novel of decline, The Circle has an aged man as its narrator. Clearly, due to his long life span, the narrator has lived through and retained in his memory the city’s past. However, this choice implies more: Periklis is the hero who, despite the urban decay, and despite having been subjected to the politics of oppression and intimidation due to his minority identity, has retained his integrity. Not only does he stand upright but is surprised to find himself falling in love with the much younger Leyla at the threshold of his seventy-fifth birthday. Through its multilayered dimensions, The Circle presents a reflection on home, belonging, memory, and identity.
It is a novel of friendship, passion, resistance, and hope, as it is a narrative of melancholy and mourning. The novel is inspired by Marquez, Nabokov, Kafka, Proust, and Pamuk, and at times we can find subtle greetings sent to these beloved writers.
I grew up in Istanbul, The New York city of Turkey. Being immersed in the rich, layered history of my own town and in the imminent vibrancy of it at the time of my youth I didn’t pay much attention to Smyrna (Izmir), the third biggest city of Turkey. For me it was a nice seaside town which we passed by in our family car when we traveled for summer holiday.
I must have been 30 years old when I first (I say “first” because I read it countless times after that first round) read Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. I was traveling the world with a backpack, and I found the book (or did it find me?) in a guesthouse in Vientiane, the melancholic capital of Laos. Having nothing else to do in the boiling hot of Southeast Asian afternoons I started Middlesex on my bed in the guesthouse which must have been a colonial mansion in the times of Indochina.
And where did I myself all of a sudden? Back in my own country! In Turkey. In Bursa, a town that is only a few hours’ drive from Istanbul. As I turned the pages the story moved on to Smyrna and all of a sudden I was in a new world that I never knew existed.
I didn’t leave the guesthouse that afternoon and kept reading until there was not enough light in my room. Back then electricity was sporadic in Laos and my room didn’t happen to have any. I took the book with me as I headed for Luang Prabang the next day. I was traveling on the backs of crowded pickup trucks with babies and chickens. Long and winding roads of Laos heading from south to north were making inexperienced travelers sick, but I was not there anymore!
I was in Smyrna. It was 1922. The month of September. I was with Desdemona and Lefty. I was in the quay of Smyrna. I was sharing a piece of bread with them. I was with the Greek villagers who were piled up at the waterfront of Smyrna waiting for ships from Greece to save them. They didn’t know ships were never going to arrive. I was sitting next to Desdemona who was sitting on a suitcase and smiling at Lefty. I saw her long black braids and I saw the fear in her eyes.
I kept on reading as the truck that took me from Vientiane to northern Laos kept winding around the mountains. I read the chapters on fire. Of course, I knew about the fire. It the “The Great Fire of Smyrna” which I learned at school. But this time the story was different. It was not what I read in the history books. There were civilian victims, children, old men and women drowning or burning in Smyrna. Desdemona and Lefty were trapped between the sea and the city that was burning and the flames were approaching to the people who were piled up on the shore, hundreds of thousands of them.
By the time I finished the Smyrna chapter, Middlesex was just beginning. The two main characters were saved from the Great Fire of Smyrna and made their way to Detroit, to the new world where the rest of the book unfolds.
I was deeply shaken by what I read. For it was the reversal of everything I knew. Turkish official history recognizes September 1922 as the emancipation of Smyrna from a three year long Greek occupation which had taken place from 1919 to 1922. History books in my country mention the atrocities of the Greeks against Turks but nothing was ever mentioned about the massacres against the Christian populations of Smyrna and whereabouts. I vaguely knew something about Smyrna being a “Greek town” during Ottoman times but that was long time ago.
The truth that I had known but never realized that I did, came back to me with Middlesex. There was once a beautiful harbor town called Smyrna. People of Smyrna spoke five languages and laughed a lot, four religions existed side by side and people enjoyed their rose smelling city. Smyrna was cosmopolitan, cultured, elegant. It was the pearl of the Levant. It was the Paris of the East. It was destroyed and killed by nationalism. It was reduced to a place where only one language is spoken and no more variety of religions living side of side. Here is what Eugenides describes it:
“And did I mention how in summer the streets of Smyrna were lined with baskets of rose petals? And how everyone in the city could speak French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, English, and Dutch? And did I tell you about the famous figs, brought in by camel caravan and dumped onto the ground, huge piles of pulpy fruit lying in the dirt, with dirty women steeping them in salt water and children squatting to defecate behind the clusters? Did I mention how the reek of the fig women mixed with pleasanter smells of almond trees, mimosa, laurel, and peach, and how everybody wore masks on Mardi Gras and had elaborate dinners on the decks of frigates?
I want to mention these things because they all happened in that city that was no place exactly, that was part of no country because it was all countries, and because now if you go there you’ll see modern high-rises, amnesiac boulevards, teeming sweatshops, a NATO headquarters, and a sign that says Izmir . . .” (Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex: A Novel . Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.)
I kept traveling up North toward the Chinese border of Laos with Middlesex under my arm. As I turned its pages, I found myself dreaming about Smyrna, what it was once upon a time: Levantine ladies in lush gardens and Greek youth in small wooden boats under moonlight, Muslim neighborhoods with its narrow streets and the famous quay with cafes, theatres and its happy people. I wished there were more chapters of Smyrna in Middlesex but Smyrna was burned down to ashes and the story moved on just like life did.
Orhan Pamuk’s novel New Life begins with this famous sentence: “One day I read a book and my whole life changed.”
Same thing happened to me and the book was Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex.
Many years later when I was jutting down some notes for a new novel, Middlesex came back to me. At that time historical fiction was the last thing on my mind. And yet this is maybe one of the most amazing things of literary writing. You never know where it is going to take you. As you plan your chapters and plot, new characters pop out of nowhere. Even if you try not to follow them, they kept on “bugging” you in your dreams and daydreams until you let them guide the pen.
That is how Scheherazade came into my life. No, she was not the famous Scheherazade of the Arabian nights. She was just a distant aunt in another novel that I was working on. An old aunt who lives in a dilapidated mansion in Izmir. She didn’t speak and nobody knew her age. Yet she too, had a story to tell.
Then I remembered my wishful reading of Middlesex in the smoky mountain villages of Laos. I remembered how I wished there were more chapters of the old Smyrna before it was destroyed. Well then, it was my turn to create that world on paper. Because it was only through imagination, I was going to satisfy this deep desire. That is how I reconstructed the old Smyrna in a book. Through my writing and research, I managed to walk on its streets and went inside the houses and grand hotels, lived in it for a little while.
Then it was time to face the inevitable end. I had to destroy this beautiful town; I had to kill some of my characters because that is what history does to us. It was time to tell the loss. At that point all my characters started talking all at once. They all wanted to tell me the destruction of Smyrna, how war and politics took lives of loved ones and the harmony.
Some days my fingers got so tired from typing and inside my head the characters kept talking.
Other days I simply sat down and wept.
At the end from the ashes of Smyrna was born the Silence of Scheherazade as a distant relative of Middlesex, forever in gratitude for the inspiration.
Defne Suman was born in Istanbul and grew up on Prinkipo Island. She gained a Masters in sociology from the Bosphorus University then worked as a teacher in Thailand and Laos where she studied Far Eastern philosophy and mystic disciplines. She later continued her studies in Oregon and now lives in Athens with her husband. The Silence of Scheherazade was first published in Turkey and Greece in 2015 and is her English language debut.
‘I was submerged into the culturally rich and atmospheric city of Smyrna from the offset. This is an epic saga abundant in history and infused with love, loss and despair as each character is brought to life… Defne Suman is a true storyteller as each page, each sentence flowed with perfection making it difficult to put down.’
‘Defne writes in such a beautiful, lyrical fashion that instantly draws me into the plot. Every sight, sound and smell is so easy to conjure in my mind which makes this book a dream to read. I adore the amount of detail that has been added to bring these characters to life – they’re all complex and whole, it’s hard not to believe that they existed!’
‘Throughout the novel there is an underlying tension – as the reader you know what is coming, yet when the devastating tragedy arrives it’s written so powerfully that there are moments that genuinely take your breath away. But there are also real moments of beauty, like the epilogue which tied everything off perfectly for me.’
‘this is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.’
‘There is something so unique about the way that history is told through the pages, that made this to be a very compelling read. During some chapters I had to stop and take a breath because there was so much beauty delivered only through a few words that blew my mind.’
‘I was gripped with curiosity about this cast of compelling characters and this story of grand scale, all set at the heart of the Ottoman empire. Suman tells this epic with languishing, exquisite, stark, tragic and careful details.’
‘The Silence of Scheherazade is a wonderfully crafted and hard-hitting read that’s most definitely one to look out for for fans of historical fiction and the nature of storytelling. Highly recommended!’
‘I must say that while I’ve not read the original text of this story, I think the translation of this book has been done brilliantly as you really can’t tell that it’s transitioned from another language. The prose and dialogue flow naturally…’
‘Breathtaking, historical, emotional, delicate, educational, engaging, dark and complex but beautifully written and just altogether a pure genius of a masterpiece and that’s just a few descriptive words I can give to you.’
This review was too beautiful to be left in social media so i wanted to make it immortal here!
Thanks a million to Hayley (shelflyfe) for putting her heart out there. Here is how it goes:
Today is my stop on the blogtour for 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗦𝗜𝗟𝗘𝗡𝗖𝗘 𝗢𝗙 𝗦𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗛𝗘𝗥𝗔𝗭𝗔𝗗𝗘 by Defne Suman. Thank you to Jade at House of Zeus for having me along on the tour, and for sending me a proof copy of the book. – 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗜 𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝘀𝗵𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝗺𝘆 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗦𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘇𝗮𝗱𝗲. 𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗵𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗺𝘆 𝗯𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝘆 𝘀𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗛𝗮𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲. – The Silence of Scheherazade tells the story of four families – a Levantine, a Greek, A Turkish, and an Armenian family – in the ancient city of Smyrna, in the wake of World War 1. – 𝗔 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗲. 𝗗𝗼𝘇𝗲𝗻𝘀, 𝗵𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝘂𝘁𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀. 𝗢𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗺𝗲, 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘂𝗽 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀, 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀.The story opens in September 1905, at a moment that impacts all four families, and sets them on a trajectory, sealing their fate: Scheherazade is born, from a Mother who is high on opium, and at the same time an Indian spy arrives, sent on a secret mission by the British Empire – not that he seems to be a very good spy! – 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿. 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿. 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲, 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗶𝘁𝘆’𝘀 𝗱𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘀, 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘆 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗰𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗰-𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗳𝘀 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝗹𝗱. 𝗦𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝗲 𝘃𝗼𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗿𝘆 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿. – The story itself is a great historical fiction tale, and it is clear that Suman has put a lot of research and passion into The Silence of Scheherazade.I especially liked the depiction of the family units, and the culture and customs that surround them. I always love hearing and learning about other customs, and this really added to the characterisation and immersion for me. It made the families seem very real. – 𝗗𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝘂𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵, 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗼𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗽 𝘀𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀’ 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗹𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝗻, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲? 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗵𝗼𝘀𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗞𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗮 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗶 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘂𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗻𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗻𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗳 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀. – The scenery and settings are also beautifully portrayed by Suman, and give a real sense of time and place. The atmosphere that these descriptions add feels tangible, and really contributes to the reader’s engrossment in the story.𝗜𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝘂𝗴𝗴𝘆 𝗽𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗯𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗴𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗯𝗲𝗴𝘂𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗿𝗼𝗮𝗸. 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝘆 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘂𝗱𝘀, 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝘄𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗹𝗼𝗮𝗱𝘀 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗮, 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝘂𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀, 𝗯𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗻 𝘂𝗻𝘂𝘀𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗻 𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁. – The tension and heightened anxiety of a city and community on the cusp of World War 1 are well captured by Suman. There is a sense that there is turmoil throughout Smyrna, but also further abroad, and that some big changes are coming. This sentiment feels like it is forever present, as there is still discontent the world over, from both the young and the old.𝗜𝘁 𝗶𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗳𝗶𝗿𝗲, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱. 𝗦𝘂𝗹𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲. 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲, 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗲’𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻. – Scheherazade herself is a very interesting character. She is a mute, and grows up as a witness to the grief, death and destruction that is enacted on her city. In a similar way to her namesake (the narrator of One Thousand and One Nights), she presents her story to us, so that we too can bear witness to the destruction of her city. – 𝗔𝗵, 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘂𝗿𝗸𝘀 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲. 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗸𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘄 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗯𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗰𝗿𝘆 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲. 𝗟𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗢𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗘𝗺𝗽𝗶𝗿𝗲. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗺𝗲.I’d recommend The Silence of Scheherazade to fans of historical fiction, as it is an interesting and beautifully told story.
This is a very meaningful and a happy event for me. We are celebration the launch of my first English book “The Silence of Scheherazade” with an online event organized by one and only Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon. (one of my hometown).
Maureen Freely, an author and translator that i admire very much will be chatting with me about the book. Oh what an honor!
Please join us. It means a lot to me seeing your faces on this BIG event!
Today is the big day! My English debut novel The Silence of Scheherazade is out in the UK (in a month time it will be available in the US) and I have so much to say for this huge step in my life.
I started writing The Silence of Scheherazade exactly seven years ago after a traumatic miscarriage. Even though doctors and dear friends kept telling me that I was still young and could get pregnant again, deep down I knew I was not going to. So, I poured all my creative energy into my writing, into writing The Silence of Scheherazade. No wonder the story opens with a birth scene! Not just any birth but the birth of our narrator, of Scheherazade. She is not just any narrator but THE narrator of the tales, she is the one who should continue telling stories in order to stay alive. For those of who grew up in the Mediterranean coast and in the Middle East she is a familiar voice, the Scheherazade of the 1001 Nights.
My Scheherazade however is a mute one. Thus, the title The Silence of Scheherazade. In my post miscarriage days of grief I wanted to give voice to those whose history was silenced by politics, governments and by the ones who hold the positions of power such as official history makers. I wanted to tell the story of the women and children of Smyrna in 1922. To break the silence of HIStory.
Both Turkish and Greek history books talk about what happened in September 1922. The narratives of the ones who had won the war and the ones who lost it weave the two opposing ends of the same history but neither tells a story but just his-story. Women of Smyrna in September 1922, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, Greeks, Armenians, Levantines and Turks all lost their beautiful town to the flames. After burning one week continuously, once the Great Fire of Smyrna was finally put down, what was left was just the ruins and the ghost of a once rich, joyful, cosmopolitan city.
I dedicated this book to those who have been exiled from their homeland. I put Greek poet Seferis’ poem Jasmine on the first page knowing that Seferis was a refugee from Smyrna himself.
The Silence of Scheherazade is a story of losing home. I find it auspiciously meaningful that the release date of its English debut coincides with these very days of history when the refugee crisis in the world is at its peak. As my book is about to reach its global readers everywhere on the planet, people are being uprooted from their homeland and forced to move to foreign places away from home.
The refugee crises that we are facing today have started late 19th century, continued throughout the 20th century, and is now peaking in the first quarter of the 21st century. My grandparents from both sides were uprooted from their homelands because of war and ethnic cleansing policies of the countries that they had lived and loved as their own once upon a time. They ended up in Turkey and started from the very beginning in a new land where nothing was familiar. They were not necessarily welcome in their new home, and I can easily presume by looking at the way in which refugees are treated in today’s Turkey that in my great grandparents’ time as well there was an expectation for them to return to where they came from once the war was over. Yet there was nowhere to return to.
Having carried these stories of my ancestors in my genes and in my consciousness combined with the loss of a potential life that I carried inside my body led me to formulate the story of The Silence of Scheherazade in such a way that the readers can immerse themselves in Smyrna and get to know the characters as they know some family members or friends. In order to recreate a lost time and space I needed a lot of details. Street names, maps, political climate, newspapers, fashion magazines, diaries as well how it smelled there and what colour was the sky when the sunset and how strong really was the famous Smyrna wind (imbat in Turkish and meltemi in Greek). Because when you must flee from your hometown, when you are forced to leave your country or if you are kicked out of your land what you are to leave behind is much more than your home and your possessions.
I hope that when the readers are turning the pages of The Silence of Scheherazade, they realise that they are not only taking a stroll in the past but they are reading a story that is happening right now, right here in the present day world of ours.
One final word about saving lives: Every day we are seeing thousands of lives in danger. Women and children suffering under the rule of totalitarian regimes, ethnic/ religious minorities under the threat of massacrers, Covid19, animals trapped in the wildfires, fish poisoned by the toxic waste… It is overwhelming to think of the many lives are being wasted with every second. It is so overwhelming that we might feel the need to shut down and disconnect from the rest of the world. But the other side of the coin is that we can save lives. Maybe not so many but most of us can save a life. One life. It might not make a big change in the world, but as Turkish colonel Hilmi Rahmi says to himself in The Silence of Scheherazade, that life is worth a world to the one who is living it.
I am thrilled that my The Silence of Scheherazade will reach to distant corners of the world and I hope it will help to break the silence and the silenced people one by one.
Special thanks to my publisher Head of Zeus and Kalem Literature Agency, to my lovely translator Betsy Göksel who cried over the pages which she translated because she was so touched by the story, to my Turkish publisher Doğan Kitap, to my Smyrna guru and dear friend George Poulimenos and to all my readers around the globe. If half of this book is written by me, the other half will find life in your imagination.
Welcome to my blog “İnsanlık Hâli” which means The Human Condition in Turkish.
Most of entries are in Turkish but as often as i can I am trying to write some English blogs as well. For the English blogs please click here.
If you are curious to know who is writing all this stuff here is a little bit about myself.
I was born in year of 1974 in Istanbul, Turkey. Although I travelled all around the world, I have always ended up in the the same tall green building where i was born and grew up at the centre of Istanbul.
Until the age of 23 I didn’t do much traveling other than camping in the wonderful beaches of southwestern Turkey.
I majored in sociology and then completed my MA on the same subject. My graduate thesis which i have completed under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Nilufer Gole was titled as “Visions of Morality, Modesty and Modernity: The case of Fadime Sahin.” For my thesis I focused on a sex scandal that took place among the Islamic circles which ended up becoming a big splash in the mass media.
By the year 2000 two major changes took place in my life. One was that I won Green Card (USA) from the lottery, the second was that i decided to leave the academia and travel the world on my own while doing voluntary work. After a brief visit to the USA i started my journey eastbound and traveled to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and finally Thailand where i found the most amazing two people who were teaching yoga. Beatrix and Pancho were my first teachers in Thailand. They were devoted practitioners of Hatha Yoga, lovers of beauty, simplicity and the Divine. I stayed as close as possible to them for the next three years and under their guidance learned not only the practice of yoga but also Buddhism, Vedic philosophy and studied various Hatha Yoga texts.
On one of my trips to USA, in Portland, Oregon I was introduced to Shadow Yoga, a system of Hatha Yoga that was established by Sundernath (Shandor Remete). With its uncomplicated yet deeply effective movements, its potential for transformation and the vast amount of information on Ayurveda, Marmastana, Vedic philosophy, Shadow school of Hatha Yoga impressed me very much.. As I started to understand the workings of bandhas and the rhythm in the deeper layers of my own body and self, I decided to stay in Portland instead of returning Thailand. For three years I stayed as an apprentice to my teacher in Portland who was teaching Shadow Yoga at that time and regularly attended the courses and workshops that Sundernath and Emma Balnaves were offering in different parts of the world.
Today I am continuing my studies with my teachers Sundernath and Emma Balnaves and with their permission teaching the system of Shadow Yoga in Istanbul and in Portland.
Apart from yoga, writing holds an important space in my life. My first book Mavi Orman (Blue Forest- only in Turkish -yet-) was published in 2011. It is a compilation of essays and journal entries of mine during my travels. My second book Saklambac (Hide and Seek- in Turkish) is a mystery novel which reveals the inner dynamics of an upper middle class family in Istanbul. Inevitably , like all first novels Saklambac has an autobiographic quality! My third book the Silence of Scheherazade is a historical fiction which takes place in Smyrna, a cosmopolitan harbor town of Ottoman Empire. Silence of Scheherazade is published in Greece and in Turkey in March 2016. Later my novels Yaz Sıcağı (Summer Heat), Kahvaltı Sofrası (At the Breakfast Table) and the non-fiction İnsanlık Hali (Human Condition) were published.
The blogs I write here are not intended to give information about yoga. On the contrary I try to write as little as possible about yoga as i believe one can learn yoga only by studying under a well-established teacher. The blogs here vary from memoirs to short stories, from sociological articles to travel journals. As a young woman who live in Turkey inevitably I am passionate about women’s rights, freedom, justice and democracy. The blog i wrote during the Gezi Park Resistance in 2013 “What is Happening in Istanbul” has reached to millions of readers all around the world and help them to understand the inner dynamics of the social movement in Turkey.
Here,my hope is to explore the “human condition” and the life. Beyond and above our local identities, I believe that there is a common ground in which we understand each other. I believe there is a universal human condition that could be expressed and transferred from one to the other regardless of culture, class, race, religion or time.
Even though most entries tell about ”my” story, through them I intend to explore the Human Condtion in my blogs.
Thank you for visiting my blog! I hope you enjoy yourselves…
Please visit The Silence of Scheherazade, my English debut novel, which will be published in August 2021 in the UK and in September 2021 in the USA and Canada.
For more information about my classes and schedules please go to: