Sunday, 19 August 2007
Birds without wings
I've spent some time in France recently, where we have just bought a house, so the time away was not exactly holiday, what with visiting the notaire, meeting the builder, getting the electricity switched back on, and setting up the phone - the lady who dealt with us in the France Telecom office in Aurillac was a model of patience, helpfulness and all round good customer care, (in the proper sense of that phrase) and the phone is now duly installed. I took a selection of books to read while away but only manged to finish one, Kate Atkinson's Not the End of the World, a collection of short stories ideal for the circumstances, and also started reading Louis de Bernieres' Birds without wings. partly as an antodote to IKEA and MFI kitchen catalogues. The story relates the lives and loves of the inhabitants of a small village on the coast of Turkey during the early part of the twentieth century, including the First world war and the subsequent conflicts in the Balkans and previuos Ottoman Empire countries. It also includes a description of the early life and rise to fame of Kemal Ataturk. I found it fascinating and throughly enjoyed it. Like Captain Corelli's Mandoline, it required a bit of patience at the start. I found the descriptions of the relaxed attitudes to religion of both Muslims and Christians heart-warming while reading them, but surely real life was a different story. The chapters describing the events at the front line at Gallipoli are however far from heart-warming, but one soldier's view of how he came to be there and what happened to him and his fellow soldiers, and what he felt about it. The aftereffects of the wars were the terrifying aspects, for individuals and whole communities.