Tag Archives: Philip Mansel

Crisis averted: what to do on the plane!

Since the US and UK banned laptops and tablets from the airplane cabins on flights originating in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, I’ve read some really daft articles addressing the desperate question: what can I do on the plane?

Here’s one, from Bloomberg: Hacks to Survive a Twenty Hour Flight – without a laptop or tablet!

One answer might be: read a book. Revolutionary? Perhaps all first class travel could look like this?

Here’s my list for travellers coming out of Turkey:

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

The latest novel by the wonderful Elif Shafak, who first burst onto the scene with her punchy, funny and tragic novel, The Bastard of Istanbul. Elif writes about women negotiating their power and their position in a man’s world, and she does it with sly humour, tenderness, and a wonderful feel for historical time and place. The action kicks off when a beggar snatches the handbag of a wealthy Turkish housewife on her way to a smart Istanbul dinner party. Out drops an old photo… and with it, a life and love that Peri has tried to forget.

Istanbul: Poetry of Place, edited by Ates Orga

Packed with poetry and a little prose, all set in the former capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires, Istanbul: Poetry of Place brings you the voices of the city’s inhabitants, from sultans to modern-day feminists.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Complex, fragmentary, unreliable and poetic, this thoroughly postmodern novel abounds with puns, ironies, double-takes and imponderable conflicts of love, faith and social justice, reflecting not only aspects of the human condition but also of 20th-century Turkey’s preoccupations with secularism, religious freedom and revolution. In the city of Kars, a young journalist, Ka, comes to investigate a spate of suicides relating to the wearing of headscarves – and opens up a kaleidoscopic world of claims, counter-claims and conflicting priorities.

Turkey: a Short History by Norman Stone

A fanfare for modern Turkey and a vivid, provocative, often funny, always insightful account of how it came about. Stone pulls together his accomplishments as a philoturk, a philologist, controversialist and narrative historian to sweep his readers along a short crash course in Turkish origins, their history and current challenges. If you don’t really know why a portrait of Ataturk hangs in almost every shop in Turkey, read this book.

Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire by Philip Mansel

The definitive history of the city from 1453, by one of our finest historians, also explains how a multi-ethnic, polyglot empire was controlled by a single dynasty for more than 600 years. Mansel mines a vast range of sources to bring the fashions, pomp and politics of this ancient world capital to life.

Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernières

I keep picking this up – and putting it down again, because I can’t quite face the onrushing tragedy. Needless to say, it’s the story of a doomed love affair between Philotei and Ibrahim, as relations between Greece and Turkey collapse in the First World War; prelude to the massive population exchange of 1923, which ended Greek settlement of Asia Minor. Gallipoli is in it; so is Ataturk; so are some characters from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. De Bernières insists this is the better book and I believe him.

Eothen by AW Kinglake

The title, which means “from the east” is, as the author points out, the hardest thing in the book, a sly travel account purporting to be written by a Victorian hooray which makes for spectacularly funny reading. Jonathan Raban has described the narrator as having the “sensibility of someone who is a close blood-relative of Flashman”: witness his thoroughly waspish account of a meeting with Lady Hester Stanhope. Typical, too, is his insouciance towards the plague in Cairo, which claims his heroic doctor while the narrator survives unmoved.

A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich

The three volumes of his magisterial history, boiled down into one, may seem too condensed at times, but Norwich deftly and entertainingly outlines the often outrageous story of an empire that lasted 1,123 years and 18 days. It is as good on Byzantine art and church matters as on the peccadilloes of the emperors – and their triumphs.

Rebel Land by Christopher de Bellaigue

Caught up in a journalistic furore after his mention of the Armenian massacres that occurred in the dying days of the Ottoman empire, de Bellaigue decided to find out for himself what may have happened. He settled on – and in – the town of Varto, which once had a huge Armenian population. Without delivering any final answers, de Bellaigue’s beautifully written account of his experiences with locals, secret policemen and even exiles still sheds light on this intractable issue, if only to illuminate the complexity of the situation both then and now.

The Sultan’s Seal by Jenny White

The first of the Kamil Pasha detective stories, set in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, kicks off with a body on the beach. Kamil Pasha, the Anglophile Ottoman detective, must draw together the threads of this murder and of an older, unsolved crime, sifting through the murky waters of late Ottoman politics and society. Sequels are The Abyssinian Proof and The Winter Thief.

Yashim: Don’t forget that all five Yashim novels are available as a set from Amazon.com and from Amazon.co.uk – and in dozens of languages, too. Meanwhile The Janissary Tree and The Snake Stone are published in Turkey by Pegasus as Yeniceri Agaci  and Yılanlı Sütun

Come along! Events in the next month…

Guildford Book festival – Join Jason at the Reader’s Day on Saturday October 15th. http://www.guildfordbookfestival.co.uk/ 

that’s bound to be jolly, and then at Daunt’s Book Shop 

Roger Crowley in conversation with Jason Goodwin

Wednesday, 19th October at 7.00pm in Marylebone

A magisterial work of gripping history, Roger Crowley’s City of Fortune tells the story of the Venetian ascent from lagoon dwellers to the greatest power in the Mediterranean – an epic five-hundred-year voyage that encompassed crusade and trade, plague, sea battles and colonial adventure.

In Venice, the path to empire unfolded in a series of extraordinary contests – the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, the fight to the finish with Genoa and a desperate defence against the Turks. Under the lion banner of St Mark, Venice created an empire of ports and naval bases, which funnelled the goods of the world through its wharfs. In the process the city became the richest place on earth – a brilliant mosaic fashioned from trade on one hand, and plunder on the other. The story is told in a gripping narrative that will fascinate anyone who loves Venice and the Mediterranean world.

Jason Goodwin made his name with wonderful travel writing, and he has gone on to enjoy huge success with his superb Ottoman thrillers that center on the seductive character of Yashim the Eunuch. The latest in the series, An Evil Eye, was published in the summer.

Tickets are £8 (including a glass of wine and 20% off the speaker’s books). They may be purchased from our Marylebone shop in person, with credit/debit card by telephone (020 7224 2295) or here online.


Eype Centre for the Arts Autumn 2011 ‘Book ‘n Author’ Week Literary Festival in Dorset, on Friday 21st October

Friday October 21st at 6.30pm: An evening of Turkish Delight – a Turkish buffet followed by a talk by JASON GOODWIN – scholar of the Ottoman empire and author ofAN EVIL EYE, the latest of the Yashim detective series.

AN EVIL EYE, the latest of the Yashmin detective seriesIncreasingly drawn to 19th century Istanbul life and Turkish cooking we are hosting a buffet of delicious Turkish food to be followed by a talk by Jason on what draws him to the city where East meets West. An accomplished travel writer he has in the past few years turned his considerable skills to writing detective novels set in Istanbul in the early 1800s. His first in the series The Janissary Tree introduced Yashim, the Turkish slipper wearing debonair detective which became a best seller and won the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America in 2007. This was followed by The Snake Stone and The Bellini Card. These have been translated into more than 40 languages. An Evil Eye is the latest in the series. A review of the book in the Independent says, ‘Historical novels may be sometimes lightly regarded, but this one is full of the virtues of that genre, bringing to life an immeasurably different world’ and ‘The bare outlines are enlivened by Goodwin’s skilful use of colour and detail, especially Yashim’s recipes, which set the reader drooling.’


Turkish Delight evening on Friday 21st with Jason Goodwin at £12.00 to include buffet

Available from the Bridport Tourist Information Centre on 01308 424901.



The Bridport Literary Festival


The Festival Debate
Friend or Foe?
Dr. Philip Mansel – author of LEVANT: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, Roger Crowley – author ofCITY OF FORTUNE: A History of Venice, Professor Norman Stone – author of TURKEY: A Short History and Jason Goodwin creator of the ‘Yashim’ mysteries. Turkey has always been at loggerheads with Europe. Our 4 historians debate how European is Turkey and how Turkish is Europe? The relationship has always been marked by links as well as by conflicts – in diplomacy, culture and economics.
Thursday 10 November 6:30pm
Tickets: £8.00