Yesterday, we posted about the live performances at the Telmessos theatre in Fethiye. We’d heard Louis de Bernieres might be making an appearance so we went along out of curiosity – and in the hope of catching a glimpse of my favourite author.
At the end of the performances, Louis de Bernieres, who had been sat in the audience, was invited to come and speak on the stage about how he went about writing Birds Without Wings.
Apart from us, and perhaps one or two others, his listeners were mostly Turkish so an interpreter helped along.
For us, the talk by Louis de Bernieres was an unexpected bonus – we’d decided we’d either missed it or it wasn’t happening.
Unfortunately, when I pulled my camera once more from my bag, the dreaded red rectangle appeared. No battery!
You’ll just have to trust us that he was there.
It was so interesting (for us) listening to what he said about how he wrote Birds Without Wings and we can tell you just a few of the things he said.
Louis de Bernieres – On Kayaköy:
- Louis de Bernieres grew up in a small village so he explained that, for him, writing about village life is not difficult. Wherever the village is in the world, relationships between people are similar. He stayed a while in Fethiye and visited Kayaköy to map out his story.
- In those times, a village would need a potter and a coppersmith so those characters became a part of his story.
- People lived and slept on the first floor of their homes whilst animals were housed underneath on the ground floor, their natural heat rising to provide warmth for the families above. This is evident in the ruins of Kayaköy and this is a part of Birds Without Wings.
- In Kayaköy, he saw a mosque and churches. Turks and Greeks definitely lived together in the village so they were the main part of his story. There was also a small Jewish community that definitely lived in this immediate area during the late Ottoman period and possibly Armenians. All became a part of Louis de Bernieres village community in Birds Without Wings.
Louis de Bernieres – On Çanakkale:
- Louis de Bernieres’ grandfather fought in the horrendous battles of the Dardanelles during the First World War. As an author, he wanted to include these battles in Birds Without Wings as a tribute to his grandfather.
- Whilst staying in Turkey, Louis de Bernieres hired a car and drove around the Çanakkale area, viewing the trenches and coastline to help him construct his story.
Birds Without Wings took Louis de Bernieres 10 years to write.
He was keen to show the period immediately before the First World War, the war itself and the aftermath, from the point of view of the ordinary people living under Ottoman rule and under its subsequent demise.
He interviewed families, visited embassies and studied official records.
He’s been accused in the past of inaccurate historical content in his novels (which resulted in the awful film version of the brilliant book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) but, as he said on Monday evening, he’s a writer of fiction.
He focuses on the effects – good and bad – that historical events force upon ordinary people.
They are the focal point of his stories during peace and war and, for me, no one can do this better than Louis de Bernieres…