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Birds without Wingsby Louis de Bernires
Synopses & Reviews
An absorbing epic . . . It has] the pleasingly busy feel of a 19th-century classic (it's no surprise that de Bernièegrave;res has cited “War and Peace as a model for his work).
-New York Times Book Review
A fascinating, evocative work written on a grand scale not much seen today . . . In his compassionate portrayal of simple people struggling against sweeping historical forces and his vivid descriptions of the cruelties of war, de Bernièegrave;res has reached heights that few modern novelists ever attempt.
-Nicholas Gage, Washington Post Book World
‘Birds Without Wings' is one of the most engrossing novels I've read all year . . . A lively and enlivening history and character study and geography and theological accounting all in one . . . The book’s title comes from the] gnomic statement ‘Man is a bird without wings. A bird is a man without sorrows.' Sadly, as we read, we learn once again that our species can’t fly. But a novel can soar.
-Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
‘Birds Without Wings' remains a quite astonishing, and compulsively readable, tour de force. De Bernièegrave;res has caught to perfection the slow-paced, richly descriptive, discursive, proverb-laden narrative style characteristic of Balkan and Anatolian storytellers. His subtly differentiated characters attach themselves to us and won't let go: We come to care about them, and their deaths diminish us . . . This] novel tells us more about our flawed human condition than is comfortable to know, and that is its greatest strength.
-Peter Green, Los Angeles Times
A deeply rewarding work about the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire . . . So much is remarkable about this novel, from the heft of its history to the power of its legends . . . This epic about the tragedy of borders is likely to cross all borders, moving readers everywhere as it describes the harrowing cost of remaking faraway places in the image of our dreams.
-Christian Science Monitor
Humorous, horrific, and luminously moving . . . De Bernièegrave;res' canvas is wide, as he sketches political movements and takes religion and nationalism to task, but his characters’ stories are intimate, creating a wonderfully rich and timely epic.
-Booklist (starred review)
A long, interesting and sometimes challenging book . . . De Bernièegrave;res writes dense, fine-grained prose that moves with the measured grace of a 19th century novel.
-San Francisco Chronicle
Enormously readable, intermittently brilliant, honorably conceived and felt.
An absorbing read about a captivating time . . . a rich, poignant story.
Louis de Bernièegrave;res is in the direct line that runs through Dickens and Evelyn Waugh. . .he has only to look into his world, one senses, for it to rush into reality, colours and touch and taste.
-A. S. Byatt
From the Hardcover edition.
In a small town in Anatolia in the finals days of the Ottoman Empire, the lives of its inhabitants--Armenians, Christians, and Muslims--peacefully intertwine, until Mustafa Kemal, a powerful military leader, conscripts the young men of the village to battle the invading Western European forces during the Great War, and religious fanaticism and nationalism destroy the peace. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 60,000 first printing.
Louis de Bernières’s last novel, Corelli’s Mandolin, was met with the highest praise: “Behind every page,” said Richard Russo, “we sense its author’s intelligence, wit, heart, imagination, and wisdom. This is a great book.” A. S. Byatt placed the author in “the direct line that runs through Dickens and Evelyn Waugh.” Now, de Bernières gives us his long-awaited new novel. Huge, resonant, lyrical, filled with humor and pathos, a novel about the political and personal costs of war, and of love–between men and women, between friends, between those who are driven to be enemies.
It is the story of a small coastal town in South West Anatolia in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire told in the richly varied voices of the people–Christians and Muslims of Turkish and Greek and Armenian descent–whose lives are rooted there, intertwined for untold years. There is Iskander, the potter and local font of proverbial wisdom; Karatavuk–Iskander’s son–and Mehmetçik, childhood friends whose playground stretches across the hills above the town, where Mehmetçik teaches the illiterate Karatavuk to write Turkish in Greek letters. There are Father Kristoforos and Abdulhamid Hodja, holy men of different faiths who greet each other as “Infidel Efendi”; Rustem Bey, the landlord and protector of the town, whose wife is stoned for the sin of adultery. There is a man known as “the Dog” because of his hideous aspect, who lives among the Lycian tombs; and another known as “the Blasphemer,” who wanders the town cursing God and all of his representatives of all faiths. And there is Philothei, the Christian girl of legendary beauty, courted from infancy by Ibrahim the goatherd–a great love that culminates in tragedy and madness. But Birds Without Wings is also the story of Mustafa Kemal, whose military genius will lead him to victory against the invading Western European forces of the Great War and a reshaping of the whole region.
When the young men of the town are conscripted, we follow Karatavuk to Gallipoli, where the intimate brutality of battle robs him of all innocence. And in the town he left behind, we see how the twin scourges of fanatical religion and nationalism unleashed by the war quickly, and irreversibly, destroy the fabric of centuries-old peace.
Epic in its narrative sweep–steeped in historical fact–yet profoundly humane and dazzlingly evocative in its emotional and sensual detail, Birds Without Wings is a triumph.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Louis de Bernires’s first three novels are The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book Eurasia Region, 1991), Se–or Vivo and the Coca Lord (Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book Eurasia Region, 1992), and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. The author was selected by Granta as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists in 1993. Corelli’s Mandolin won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book, in 1995. His last book was Red Dog, published in 2001.
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