Legends should stay legends otherwise they just become history, when the natural course of things is the other way around, from history to legend. ― Ian McDonald’s
The Several Annies, Apprentices to me, the Estate Librarian, come from all over the world. And several years back one of them was from Istanbul. Sümeyye, now on our Grounds staff, is responsible for the incredible spread you see in the Kitchen this morning, a spread which includes breads, soft, creamy cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, a spicy Turkish sausage, and an amazing range of jams, marmalades, and honeys for your sweet tooth. Of course there’s menemen which are really yummy eggs, and lots of tea.
You’ll find some of our many reviews of things Turkish this time as we’ve done a number of such reviews down the decades. And there’s certainly some stories to tell as well such as Zina’s look at the the Turkish coffee she was served one evening at the Estate.
Shall we get started?
Walter Jon Williams’ Deep State gets a review by Cat as he notes Dagmar Shaw is once again in trouble in this series: ‘So now she finds herself trying to keep Great Big Idea, the ARG running company, afloat. Not an uneasy task given she’s an über geek, not an über money person. All of which explains how she ends up in yet another unstable country, Turkey this time, running an ARG just as those Generals decide to throw out those democratically elected leaders, a situation that has played itself out before in that both young and very old state.’
That we Westerners find Turkey and the Ottoman Empire it came out of fascinating is not surprising to me. Indeed a certain Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, in his Best Of a decade back picked an Ottoman Empire mystery as one of his favored novels: ‘And there’s this English writer named Jason Goodwin, whose novels take place in the Istanbul of 1830 or so, and whose hero is a eunuch whose best friends are a transvestite dancer, and an ambassador from a Poland that literally doesn’t exist anymore, having been swallowed up by Russia, where it remained for 150 years. Gruber, Furst and Goodwin…’ So it’s not surprising that Donna loves it as she says in her review: ‘In spite of these minor quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed The Janissary Tree and look forward to seeing more of ‘Inspector’ Yashim in the future!’
Donna also has a look at Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.
Gary says the Istanbul of Ian McDonald’s near-future novel The Dervish House is rather like what our own world could be very soon: ‘…hotter, more crowded, with an even starker divide between rich and poor, and teeming with technology. … It’s also brimming with Anatolian spirits that sometimes seem indistinguishable from the effects of nano-technology.’
Robert notes that the Ottoman Empire included a dizzying array of peoples and traditions, which necessarily led to a less-than-monolithic culture, as outlined in Suraiya Faroqhi’s Subjects of the Sultan: ‘In many ways it is a dizzying survey: Faroqhi’s coverage is extensive, the very richness of the subject is somewhat daunting, and the fascinating sidebars she explores almost lead to severe input overload — but I didn’t care. (She even devotes a section to cooking and dinner parties, and how many “cultural histories” do that?)’
A more historic/political perspective is found in a pair of books, Suraiya Faroqhi’s The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It and Handan Nezir Akmeşe’s The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I. Says Robert: ‘The Ottoman Empire and its successor, modern Turkey, have time and again played an important role in European politics, and yet there are vanishingly few sources in English to bring us the viewpoint of the Turks themselves, or, indeed, to focus on the Anatolian peninsula as other than an adjunct to the doings of European states. Addressing that lack is one of the aims of two recent histories.’
Zina has a story for us about something quite wonderful: ‘For me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.’
And then there’s Turkish music. Big Earl Sellar has quite an absorbing overview of some of the many traditions involved: ‘Turkey is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions on this planet. With the Karain cave giving us evidence of Anatolian civilization beginning at least 10 000 years ago, the people of this corner of our planet have had a long time to develop a musical culture with the same complexity as India’s, a tradition to rival Celtic, and a beauty that is truly universal.’
He follows up with a look at several CD’s of Turkish classical music: ‘Although I’m familiar with Turkish popular and traditional music, the first three of these discs mark my introduction to Turkish classical music. This is a relatively recent musical invention, dating back 1000 years: composers, inspired by the tradition and the court music, creating a new vocabulary of written, organized works, and defined frameworks for instrumental improvisations.’
Gary has a look at an interesting four-volume set of Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio. First he looks at Volumes 1 and 2,Sultan Composers and Music of the Dancing Boys, followed by Volumes 3 and 4, Minority Composer and Ottoman Suite: ‘The Lalezar Ensemble is part of a current revival of classical Ottoman music under way in Turkey. The group — four instrumentalists and three vocalists — have created four CDs that give a sampling of some of the best and most representative of the five centuries of the Ottoman Empire’s art music.’
A bit of something different is next up: ‘My favorite musical discovery of 2017 was Turkish psychedelia’ Gary says. As an example, he explores an album called XX, which he explains is ‘a two-disc set celebrating the 20-year career of a band called Baba Zula.’
Our What Not comes from The Armenian Weekly, Armenia once being part of the Ottoman Empire and is entitled What Was Left Behind: Music of the Ottoman Empire: ‘Record collector Ian Nagoski has been buying up cheap 78 rpm discs for over a decade. The 36-year-old music junkie and record store owner always had one rule: “My policy was to buy anything in a language other than English,” he said in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. In June 2011, Nagoski, in collaboration with Tompkins Square Records, released the three-disc album set “To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929,” which features polished tracks from Armenian, Greek, and Turkish records, etched mostly in New York.’
For our Coda, Robert went searching and came across this performance by one of the many groups we discussed this week, Kardeş Türküler. It’s pretty catchy and more than a little interesting.