Cover of the book 'Birds without Wings' by Louis Bernieres.

Multiculti in Turkey

Around 1900, the Christian priest of a villaged called Eskibahçe embarks on his weekly round:

“…armed with two large bags made of old pieces of Kelim. He steps into the early morning to visit every single Christian household, so that the members may fully take advantage of the privilege of rewarding his pastoral care with gifts a little less elevated, but equally needed.

Of course, some people happened not to be home each time he rang their doorbell, and of course some thought it a bit odd a priest should show up at their doorstep to collect sacrifices from their wives, but in general people appreciated him and as a matter of fact, he would often openly receive donations from Muslims who wanted to be first with God and played save by backing both camels.”

This is an extract from the novel 'Birds without Wings' by Louis Bernières, about a small town in Turkey where life has been lived the easy way since time immemorial, with different nationalities and religions living side by side. A vivid story recounts the villager’s lives; their jobs, dreams, gossips and believes.

The vilager’s tales are interwoven with the life story of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the ‘Father of Turkey’. In 1923, he signs the treaty of Lausanne that establishes peace and fixes the Turkish borders. This treaty also states that all Greeks should return to Greece, and all Turks to Turkey.

This means that all Christians have to leave Eskibahçe. Having lived in Turkey for generations, none of them speaks any Greek anymore, but still they have to go. They are replaced by Muslims from Greece - an incomprehensible mass migration for the villagers, which results in a Babel-like confusion of tongues and a complete disruption of the local economy and society.

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