Read Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières Online


Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia - a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.When war is declared and the outside world inSet against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia - a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.When war is declared and the outside world intrudes, the twin scourges of religion and nationalism lead to forced marches and massacres, and the peaceful fabric of life is destroyed. Birds Without Wings is a novel about the personal and political costs of war, and about love: between men and women; between friends; between those who are driven to be enemies; and between Philothei, a Christian girl of legendary beauty, and Ibrahim the Goatherd, who has courted her since infancy. Epic in sweep, intoxicating in its sensual detail, it is an enchanting masterpiece....

Title : Birds Without Wings
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780099478980
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 625 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Birds Without Wings Reviews

  • Vessey
    2019-02-17 15:08

    No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in MankindeJohn DonneTo destroyWhen is it a duty? When is it a right? When is it a sin? What makes one human being violate another’s body and spirit? What makes Cain to pick up the stone? What convinces one man that the death of thousands would make the world a better place? And on the contrary: Who, what and when should we save? Iskander the Potter believes that it is not the individual’s fault and that it is all done by "the great world". And isn’t "the great world" just a combination of myriad small worlds that collide and intertwine over and over again, shaping “the big picture”? The world is shaped by the people who live in it, by their own personal worlds. So yes, everyone is responsible for their actions. However, no one is a lonely island. Inevitably we are influenced by other people and events. How can anyone stay moral in an immoral world? Especially when it is the only way to survive. "But we are always confined to earth, no matter how much we climb to the high places and flap our arms. Because we cannot fly, we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations that we did not seek, and then the years go by, the mountains are levelled, the valleys rise, the rivers are blocked by sand and the cliffs fall into the sea”Where does the truth lie, then? What do we stand to lose in the name of what we believe in? What do we stand to lose in the name of what others believe in? When do we go with the flock, when do we sacrifice ourselves? How much are we ready to sacrifice in order to preserve ourselves? Is survival worth all cost? Can anyone truly know how much they are able to bear or is it only in the aftermath that we realize that we might have paid a price too high? “We are forgetting how to look at others and see ourselves”It is said that he, who saves one, saves the whole world. Then does he, who destroys one, destroy the whole world? Because we all are the world and everything we do – regardless of its nature – comes back to us. Actually, I don’t believe it ever truly leaves. I believe there are no two people entirely different or entirely alike. What we do to others, we always do to ourselves as well. Because we are all connected. I am all the saints, I am all the sinners. I am the best, I am the worst. I am everyone, everything. I am the whole world. And yet, I am just me. How do we choose between ourselves and the rest of the world? And like this isn’t enough, how do we cope with the multiple sides of our own personalities? Are we all just birds without wings, ruled by "the great world", desperately aiming for the sky, knowing that we would never reach it? Or are we mighty eagles, ready to adjust and rule it as we please? Who are the victims, who are the predators? Are we shaped by the world that we live in or is it we who shape it and bear the responsibility for its nature? I believe both of those are true. War brings the best and the worst out of people, but in the end we are all the same. Humans. And, as said in "Memoirs of a Geisha", "Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper."“Don’t pity the eagleWho can climb the sky and flyBut for the little wingless birdCry.Fire will be found byBirds that fly too highAnd all his feathers burnAnd he’ll fall down and die.What bird has two nestsOnly one shall remainAnd his wings burnAnd he’ll not fly again.What if I make a high nestBut the branch sinks low?They will take my little birdAnd I will die of woe.Oh my little birdWho will chase you?Who will put you in a cageAnd tenderly embrace you?It’s not possible to light aCandle that doesn’t drip,And it’s not possible to loveAnd never weep.”Read count: 1

  • Kim
    2019-02-10 14:08

    Tracing the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern republic of Turkey, this novel alternates the first and third person narratives of a range of characters from the fictional town of Eskibahçe (meaning Garden of Eden) in southwest Turkey with an account of the life of Mustafa Kemal, later Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first leader of modern Turkey. At the turn of the 20th century, the inhabitants of Eskibahçe comprise Muslim Turks, Christians of Greek origin and Armenians. They live together in relative harmony, forming friendships and inter-marrying. Both Christians and Muslims hedge their bets somewhat, with Muslims asking their Christian friends to offer prayers of intercession and Christians having a profound respect for the local imam. The lives of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe are torn apart by World War I and Turkey’s subsequent war with Greece, together with the Armenian genocide and the forced exile of Turkish Christians to Greece and of Muslim Greeks to Turkey. In beautiful and accessible prose, de Bernières creates a strong sense of time and place. I found the chapters dealing with the Gallipoli campaign particularly powerful. The story of this WWI campaign is well-known to Australians and New Zealanders, who commemorate the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 as a national day to honour those who have served their country in time of war. It was extremely moving to read an account of the campaign – including an account of the fellowship and respect which grew between the Turkish and the Australian and New Zealand soldiers – from a Turkish point of view. The account of the forced exodus of Armenians in 1915 (and the subsequent Armenian genocide, which in terms of the novel occurs “off-stage”) and that of the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey and of Muslims from Greece after the signing of the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations” in 1923 are also powerful and moving. It took me a while to become completely engaged with the characters and the narrative. This is a long novel and de Bernières introduces his characters and builds tension slowly. While there is plenty of humour – a lot of it sardonic - the work is a serious indictment of extreme nationalism, of religious dogma and of war and its atrocities. However, it also explores human resilience and the type of love and friendship which can survive even the horror of war and ethnic and religious conflict . In a sense, Eskibahçe represents a Turkey in which different religious and ethnic communities could live in harmony before the choice to do so was taken away from them. And the tragic love story of the Muslim boy Ibrahim and the Christian girl Philotei which forms part of the narrative represents the tragedy which befell Greek Christians expelled from Turkey to a land which was not their own. In the process of describing the devastation on which this novel centres, de Bernières does not spare himself in criticising those he considers responsible for what occurred. Before I started reading the novel, I was reasonably familiar with the political situation in Turkey since the 1980s. By reading it I learned a lot about the beginnings of modern Turkey and was able to put what I already knew into historical context. This is not an easy novel to read. However, it made me both laugh and cry and for a patient reader with an interest in 20th century international relations, the novel is a rewarding literary experience. Thanks to my GR friend Chrissie for recommending it to me.

  • Chrissie
    2019-01-30 20:58

    ETA on completion: Chrissie, stoip saying you love the book. Explain why! Everything explained below remains true. Other books are emotionally captivating, intellectually interesting, filled with humor and sorrow, What is it that makes this one different for me? It is that this book has a message. It looks at people and life and it says loud and clear how stupid we human beings are and how wonderful too! Does that make sense to you? Do you see life that way too?Read with: Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions that Forged Modern Greece and Turkey and Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 and Not Even My Name: A True Story.*******************Few books have so emotionally moved me. I know now that this book will get five stars, although I have only read about half.Do not read this book, Listen to it. The narrator of the audiobook is John Lee. I bought the paperback. Then I went and bought the audiobook at Audible for two credits. I do not regret this splurge. This is a winner. I am not capable of separating the written book from the narration. As a whole it is simply ……perfect!On an intellectual level it teaches. It teaches about life in a small village near Izmir, Turkey – which was called Smyrna when the novel takes place, in the early 1900s. The depiction of the village life, bustling with Greeks and Turks, Christians and Muslims teaches and amuses. There are Armenians too. So many different people and cultures and traditions - and they all blended and lived in harmony. Of course harmony scattered with village disputes and love affairs, pranks and numerous other everyday normal experiences. On the intellectual level you also learn about Attaturk. You learn about the battles of World War I. You do not just learn. You are in the trenches along with the men. How dry this could all be. But you see this book is never dry. Each village character and even Attaturk becomes a close comrade. This is because every sentence emotionally pulls you in. There is satirical humor. What humor! You will be laughing at the worst of the war scenes…… I feel almost embarrassed to admit this. This author makes you laugh at the most horrific, and then he grows serious and a profound observation is elucidated. Wonderful vocabulary! And now someone has died. I am in tears, I laugh and I cry and I think and I learn.I am emotionally captivated time after time after time. I worried that I would not keep track of the diverse characters. This is no problem. The same characters remain from start to end, I have never read such a marvelous seduction scene. Never! I have never encountered in a book the childish fright a young girl feels with her first bleeding, followed by the delightful discovery of womanhood. I have never so physically felt myself in the trenches at war. Horror and irony and laughter and profound philosophizing are all there in one scene. What writing! What narrating! Please listen to this book. If you have never tried audiobooks, start right here. You will be hooked. I am still a baby with audiobooks. This is a whole new world opening up to me. I want to share the experience with you. Please, listen to this book. If the audio format is inaccessible, OK, then read it.!There is not one thing I can criticize in this book.

  • Dem
    2019-02-12 14:00

    4.5 Stars Birds without Wings by Louis Bernieres.A dense, mesmerising, harrowing and yet humorous novel that will bring out all emotions that a reader can experience but did not think possible in one story. Set in the peaceful fictional village of Eskibahce in south west Turkey and home to Turkish Muslims and Greek Christians who have lived for centuries side by side and tolerate and enjoy for the most parts each other's traditions and religions. The author introduces us to a village of characters and when the war is declared and the outside world intruded the twin scourges of religion and nationalism lead to forced marches and massacres and the peaceful fabric of life is destroyed. Birds without wings is a personal and political story showing the costs of war."Where does it all begin? History has no beginnings, for everything that happens becomes the cause of pretext for what occurs afterwards, and this chain of cause and pretext stretches back to the Palaeolithic age, when the first Cain of one tribe murdered the first Cain of Another".,/I>The story is based on a small fictional village in south-western Coastal Anatolia called Eskibahce, although fictional I believe the village is actually based upon Kayakoy a village near Fethiye the ruins which still exist today. Once a thriving Greek Village this town of over one thousand houses two churches, fourteen chapels and two schools was completely deserted in 1923 when the Greek inhabitants living throughout Turkey were deported to Greece by the Government in an exchange policy.The destruction of the Ottoman empire in the First World War and its aftermath put and end to a beautiful tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance and the descriptions depicted by the author of the atrocities inflicted on women and children in this novel are very harrowing(one in particular will never leave my mind) but while it was difficult reading in places I only had to read about it............thousands of woman and children had to endure it. There is also wonderful humour though out the story and some laugh out loud moments that read like a breath of fresh air.The writing, the characters, the setting and the history is all impeccably crafted. I did however have a hard time getting into the novel as I found the first 100 pages hard going and only for a friend had warned me about this I could easily have put this book aside and missed out on a wonderful read. I think the novel at 625 pages was quite a long read and perhaps could have been shortened as some of the chapters are overwritten and very descriptive. That aside I loved and enjoyed the novel very much and I would recommend this for lovers of history.

  • Laura
    2019-01-28 19:49

    This, for me, is one of those rare and treasured reads, a book that will stay with me forever. It tells the story of a small village in Smyrna starting about 1900, before it became Turkey. It is divided into many short chapters, and is told mostly in the third person. Sprinkled throughout, though, are chapters told from the point of view of several of the villagers, some of whom we meet as children, while others merely recount events from their young lives from the perspective of mature adults. I loved this book because I loved the people who inhabited it, and the author made me feel that I know them. More than that, though, he made me feel he knows me. This was my first experience with Louis de Bernieres, but it won't be my last. I am no history buff, so the description scared me off a little. I wasn't sure if I would understand it. Then I took a look at the first page, and the writing pulled me in immediately. Here is the start of the second paragraph:There comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, and certainly most of us were more amusing when we were young. It seems that age folds the heart in on itself. Some of us walk detached, dreaming on the past, and some of us realize that we have lost the trick of standing in the sun. How can you not read a book that starts with such wisdom, such truth and eloquence? I couldn't resist. This is a wise book, full of humor. You'll need the humor, because there is also great tragedy here. The characters feel very real. It's about life, the good, bad and ugly. We get to know the village and its people, its customs, superstitions, and traditions. It's about strength and courage and beauty and friendship. It's about community and family, and war's far-reaching, often devastating effects. I started with a library copy, then bought the book halfway through because I knew I would want to reread this, and I'd want to be able to lend it out. I'd also like to highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by John Lee. He is a gifted narrator. His inflections and delivery, in my opinion, are perfect for the prevailing tongue-in-cheek tone of the story. I feel as though I should have taken notes as I read, because I don't feel I'm doing this book enough justice here. I would really like to revisit this in a few years, once I have a better understanding of WWI. You really don't need the historical background going in to be able to enjoy the book. Trust me, I had almost none. However, I already want to reread it. Next time, with the background, I know I will appreciate it even more. I also want to thank my good friend Chrissie for encouraging me to read this, in spite of the fact that I was unfamiliar with the history. What a tremendous book. I feel that it has been stitched into my soul, a rare treasure.

  • B the BookAddict
    2019-02-03 18:45

    Hopefully, a proper review will follow in the next few days. One of those special novels that drew me in from the first page and kept me riveted until the very last. The characters became people I really did care about. I will think about them for a long time to come. My top quotes from the novel:“Man is a bird without wings and a bird is a man without sorrow.”“There comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, and certainly most of us were more amusing when we were young. It seems that age folds the heart in on itself. Some of us walk detached, dreaming on the past, and some of us realize that we have lost the trick of standing in the sun. For many of us the thought of the future is a cause for irritation rather than optimism, as if we have had enough of new things, and wish only for the long sleep that rounds the edges of our lives”.The second quote sounds depressing but when spoken by the character Isklander the Potter, it is not. Rather you understand his assessment of life for him now, after the wars, (view spoiler)[after he has accidently maimed his son (hide spoiler)], after he has seen his village plundered and changed forever. De Bernieres has that extra special gift in storytelling. A huge thank-you to Chrissie in the All About Books group for her fantastic review which lead me to read this unforgettable novel. Most Highly Recommended. 4.5★

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-01-29 20:04

    One of the GoodReads groups I am in, The World's Literature, is focusing on literature from and about Turkey this year. Birds Without Wings was one of the February picks (discussion will end up here,) and even though I started it a while ago, it took me staying up until 2 am this morning to get through it. This is an incredibly well-executed novel. The author tells the story of Turkey in the early 20th century, from its development from the Ottoman Empire or Anatolia, into a time where the people living there embraced the word Turk, Turkish, Turkey (prior to that change, it had been a pretty derogatory term.) This is the second book I've read this year to include Mustafa Kemal, but while the other book focused on his violent acts from an outsider perspective, Birds Without Wings entwines his story from youth to Atatürk, and explains his pivotal role in where the country is now. It is done rather without judgment, just the facts. Well, I'm not sure. The Armenians are removed and the Christians are removed and the violence surrounding it is implied but not focused on. The core of the story isn't Mustafa Kemal, however. It focuses on the people living in a small village where people speak Turkish written in a Greek alphabet, where friendships cross religious and ethnic lines, but war and governmental change creates conflict in all those areas. It is a sad but true transformation from tolerance to division. The story is told from multiple perspectives, from Iskander the Potter to the mistress of the wealthiest man in town. The writing is dense, filled with local color, and goes by quickly with the changing perspectives.The author's opinion is clear throughout the novel, mourning the past where different people could live together in the days of the Ottoman Empire. This quotation sums up a great deal of the tone of the book:"It was said in those days one could hear seventy languages in the streets of Istanbul. The vast Ottoman Empire, shrunken and weakened though it now was, had made it normal and natural for Greeks to inhabit Egypt, Persians to settle in Arabia and Albanians to live with Slavs. Christians and Muslims of all sects, Alevis, Zoroastrians, Jews, worshipers of the Peacock Angel, subsisted side by side and in the most improbable places and combinations. There were Muslim Greeks, Catholic Armenians, Arab Christians and Serbian Jews. Istanbul was the hub of this broken-felloed wheel, and there could be found epitomised the fantastical bedlam and babel, which, although no one realised it at the time, was destined to be the model and precursor of all the world's great metropoles a hundred years hence, by which Istanbul would, paradoxically, have lost its cosmopolitan brilliance entirely. It would be destined, perhaps, one day to find it again, if only the devilish false idols of nationalism, that specious patriotism of the morally stunted, might finally be toppled in the century to come."

  • Megan
    2019-02-15 18:05

    I so wish that the editor had been a bit more stringent with this book so that more people would read it! Even adoring the book as I did, I found I would have preferred it with one or two fewer plot lines. It is an incredibly historically informational novel peopled with (a few too many) warmly flawed and incredibly real characters. I think the author's ability to provide a variety of viewpoints (via the different Muslim, Catholic, Turkish and Greek characters we meet) on a time period that is hotly debated even today makes this a book that should be required reading for all Americans.

  • Ron
    2019-02-15 18:40

    This book should come with a warning. It will sadden you beyond measure. Set in a coastal village at the end of the Ottoman empire in what is now Turkey, it follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a large cast of characters. As Christians and Muslims, they have lived together peaceably for generations, and would continue to have done so without the virulent rise of nationalism in the "great world" around them. So the author argues, as the entire village is swept up in the wars and civil wars erupting at the start of the last century, and the lawlessness and ethnic cleansing that accompanied them.At 550+ pages, it is a long novel, its many stories told in a variety of voices and at a leisurely pace. Richly detailed, it also fills a broad canvas as the specifics of village life alternate with accounts of political movements abroad, following in particular the career and ambitions of the man who became Atatürk, first leader of modern-day Turkey. Readers may contest de Bernière's accounts of historical events - for example, the Armenian genocide - but his overall argument remains consistent, that nationalism has been a scourge that brought misery and suffering to millions and continues to do so. While life for his Ottoman villagers is not without its cruelties and injustices, it was edenic by comparison with the horrors that befall them as the nation-state of Turkey is born - including the agonies of trench warfare, forced marches of whole populations, and unspeakable brutalities suffered by noncombatants caught in the firestorm of military conquest.Finally, by the end of the novel, the reader is left with an almost unutterable sense of sadness, loss and waste. Its saving grace is surely de Bernière's rapturous use of language, a gift for storytelling, and an attitude toward his characters that envelops them with both a loving and ironic embrace. He gives them what the "great world" has been unable to - a respectful concern for their welfare and a wish that they be remembered and not utterly forgotten. Readers may also find Orhan Pamuk's novel "Snow" illuminating.

  • Tamir Damari
    2019-01-26 15:57

    This book breaks your heart, but in a good way. DeBernieres' has a beautiful, eloquent, lyrical style, the effect of which is augmented by the tragic nature of much of his content. He also imbues his story with much pathos and humor. By doing so, he avoids heavy-handedness. Birds Without Wings is a marvelously ambitious book. It is a epic about conflict and coexistence between Muslim and Christian Turks, Kurds and Armenians, set over the course of decades. The book is historically informative, as it attempts to describe events without overly politicizing them. There are no "good guys" and "bad guys" in this book, but DeBernieres is not an apologist or moral relativist. Plainly, he feels that many of his characters are, to varying degrees, responsible for the tragedies he describes. It is also a great character study. There are many characters, and DeBernieres devotes care and attention to each of them, developing a pastiche of individualized profiles. DeBernieres humanizes each of these characters (regardless of their ethnic/national identity) without rationalizing their (at times brutal) behavior. DeBernieres is unique amongst writers in his ability to express moral complexity. Depending on the context, his characters can be heroic or savage, parochial or free-minded. There is an underlying optimism to this book, but there is no naivete.Finally, this is an elegy to a lost way of life in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is clear that the author understands this culture well, and loves it, but he never lapses into romanticism. This is a great book.

  • Laura
    2019-02-20 19:01

    I LOVED this book. It's a story of true friendships which are torn apart by superficial definitions of separateness. It covers the topics of beauty, birth, a parent's love, a brothers love, unrequited lovers, addiction, the reality of death of old age and the brutality of untimely death. This book tells the story of Ataturk and the Armenian forced migration in a balanced and objective yet intimate way. It tells the story of the unity of the Greeks and the Turks before Wilson's nationalism had stained it.

  • Pearl
    2019-02-21 17:54

    I loved this book. It's now on my list of all-time favorites.The writing is lush and gorgeous and witty and empathetic. The many characters come alive and are very compelling. The setting is a little village in southwest Turkey, not too distant from Symrna (Izmir), and the time is the WW I period. The story is mostly told from the point of view of the various villagers and occasionally from the view of Mustafa Kemal (on his way to becoming Ataturk).We get a fascinating view of Turkish village life during this period, a period when Turks (then called Ottomans), Armenians, and Greeks mingled together mostly peacefully and respectfully. Muslims and Christians (infidels) sometimes bet on the odds by having their neighbors of opposite faith say a prayer for them in their difficulty. The women especially made these requests of their friends of opposite faith and the Islamic men didn't really mind because everyone knew that God didn't care much about what women did.WW I changed all. Not only was the Great War horrible and brutal but the reasons for it were not comprehended by most of the villagers. It touched them nonetheless. Their sons were killed or maimed or scarred for life, friends and neighbors were lost forever as populations were evacuated (Armenians) or exchanged (Turkish Greeks and Greek Turks). If you have ever traveled in Turkey and seen and heard about the Greek influence left in Turkey by way of the architecture, this book will make all of that a felt reality.I think this book is a masterpiece.

  • Sonia Gomes
    2019-02-15 18:55

    Everyday, every single day there are those heart-breaking stories of people fleeing their countries, by road, crossing razor sharp barbed wire fences. People fleeing in flimsy rubber dinghies, being caught in storms and waves, toddlers dying, flung on shores beautiful, lifeless dolls.Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking...And then my mind races to the beautiful, beautiful ‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernières.My mind moves with anguish to the turn of the Century, to the Ottoman Empire with its freedom of religion, to the tiny Anatolian town of Eskibahçe, ‘The Garden of Eden’. In Eskibahçe, Turks, Greeks and Armenians live in relative peace. If the Imam’s wife felt that she had problems she ran to Philotei’s Mother a Greek. ‘Please pray to the Panagia for me...’ and without hesitation Philotei’s Mother says ‘Yes of course Sister’ rushing to make a small offering to the Panagia.Like any other small town, Eskibahçe has all types in addition to the multifarious, races and creeds. There is Iskander the Potter, who fashions bird-whistles, filling them with water, so that they gurgle and warble much like a 'Blackbird' the nickname for Karatavuk his son, a Turk and the 'Red Robin' for Mehmetcik his son’s friend, a Greek. Iskander the Potter not only loves quotations, but makes up his own too"Man is a bird without wings, and a bird is a man without sorrows."These two little guys, Karatavuk and Mehmetcik go about in red and black waistcoats, gurgling and warbling, inseparable until war breaks out, when they as teenagers are conscripted to fight the ‘Holy War’. Karatavuk a soldier who participates in the battle of Gallipoli in the name Allah, Mehmetcik, forced into a labour battalion because although an Ottoman, he cannot fight for his Motherland simply because he is a Greek Christian, sick to the pit of his stomach, he later defects and becomes a notorious bandit. From the day Philothei was born, everyone marveled at her beauty, but Beauty always comes at a price, as Philothei realises when as a teenager every man old or young, could not take his eyes off her and Philotei has to wear a scarf to cover her face. Philothei however, has eyes only for Ibrahim who even as a young boy followed Philotei everywhere, engaged to be married, with no impediment from either family for such marriages were common in Eskibahçe. The War however, takes away their Joy.Rustem Bey, the exceedingly handsome and rich landlord and town protector, who tolerates his adulterous wife, Tamara Hanim, for a long time and then casts her out to be stoned enthusiastically by Muslims, as well Christians. Feeling a certain loneliness he takes up a mistress, Layla who as time moves on loves him dearly, but later flees to Greece her homeland that she had left such a long time ago. Oh to speak in Greek, she exclaims, but weeps inconsolably when she writes Rustom Bey a farewell letter. These little round circles on her letter are tear drops realises Rustom Bey. Abdulhamid Hodja, the Imam, who loves his horse Niloufer, talks to her, dresses her mane with little braids, ribbons and little bells. When the army takes Nilofer away, Abdulhamid Hodja dies slowly and sadly of a broken heart. Father Kristoforos, depends on his meager congregation for sustenance, both holy men who call each other infidel, yet are good friends.The various cultures, habits blend with each other and life in Eskibahçe is quite peaceful until the War comes, War the great Interrupter.Just when things are going on quietly and peacefully, the lives of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe are torn apart by World War I, Turkey’s subsequent war with Greece, the Armenian genocide and the forced exile of Turkish Christians to Greece and of Muslim Greeks to Turkey. War and carnage go hand in hand, the utter waste of lives, the brutality of the troops towards civilians in the name of religion and ethnic superiority is unbearable, summed up;“In the long years of those wars there were too many who learned how to make their hearts boil with hatred, how to betray their neighbours, how to violate women, how to steal and dispossess, how to call upon God when they did the Devil’s work, how to enrage and embitter themselves, and how to commit outrages even against children. Much of what was done was simply in revenge for identical atrocities...” In the end who was the better? The Christians? The Muslims? They were just people in a barbaric war. They went one better in committing atrocities; Christians butchered, maimed, raped and pillaged the Muslims. The Muslims butchered, maimed, raped and pillaged the Christians, forever repeating the vicious cycle that is history repeating itself. The Gallipoli campaign, commemorated by the ANZAC Day on 25 April 1915, as a national day to honour those who have served their country in World War I. Strangely although bitter enemies after sometime the Turkish troops and the ANZACS share a strange comradeship, after all they share the same appalling hardships too, trenches filled with water, lice on every part of their bodies, hiding in every crevice, food gone bad and the thousands of soldiers dying not from war injuries but from diarrhea. Strangely there is a growing fellowship and respect between the Turkish and the ANZACS. They start playing games; they tease each other, and as with all prolonged battles, bond with each other as well. "Those heroes that shed their bloodAnd lost their lives.You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.Therefore rest in peace.There is no difference between the JohnniesAnd the Mehmets to us where they lie side by sideHere in this country of ours.You, the mothers,Who sent their sons from far away countriesWipe away your tears,Your sons are now lying in our bosomAnd are in peaceAfter having lost their lives on this land they haveBecome our sons as well."The warm sentiments between Turkish and Australian nations were best voiced in the message of the Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which was sent to the Australian and New Zealander mothers in 1934.Taken from Wikipedia.The Forced exodus of Armenians in 1915, the subsequent Armenian genocide, the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey and of Muslims from Greece after the signing of the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations” in 1923 is the History of the Politicians, safely ensconced in their plush offices, drinking champagne, smoking cigars, huge maps on their walls with red flags indicating enemy positions, arbitrary treaties for the betterment of Nations, for ethnic cleansing, for same religions to be together. The long marches with people displaced from their homes and countries where they had lived for centuries, leaving behind their comfortable homes, their gardens, their pets, their dead in cemeteries, for some unknown land where they would live with people of same ethnic origin, and who supposedly would speak their language. People, women even pregnant ones, children, babies, marching in all types of weather, thousands upon thousands dying on the way, sometimes brutally murdered, raped, the carnage, the atrocities executed upon women and children, these are stories of common people in a War.Who should we mourn for then? Should we not mourn the brutality that Men of all faiths are capable of inflicting on their fellow Human beings?

  • Rea
    2019-02-16 20:54

    Well I would like to put three and a half stars for this book. This book is about the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the author simultaneously contrasts the happenings of the international political world with that of a small cast-away village where Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims lived side by side. Being from Greece, you are 'taught' that the Ottoman Empire was an evil and repressive empire and hence why Greeks hate Turks and visa versa. What de Bernieres succeeds in doing is not belittle any nations' sentiments or tribulations, but rather demonstrate, how after years boundaries are much harder to find. In the village in the book, everyone speaks Turkish, and the religions mix with Muslims asking their Christian friends to place ex-votos on the icon of the Virgin Mary and likewise Christians praying in the Muslim fashion. Many people did not see themselves as Greek or Turk but rather Ottoman, until the wars of independence. When the two nations 'traded' over their 'citizens' many did not feel like they belonged to their new found nations. I only have two reproaches to this book. One is that for authenticity he uses many Turkish and Greek phrases, but with no translation or glossary. The Greek I could read, but not the Turkish. Second the two characters of Ibrham and Philothei I found a bit bland, empty and boring. I didn't care much for them and preferred hearing about other more colourful characters, although this might have been the aim.

  • El
    2019-02-11 14:47

    This was a book I read without any previous knowledge of the story, other than what my friend Marieke told me which was just her impression of the book. I agree with much of what she said, except I rarely cry while I read, and this was no exception; though the story did touch me immensely in parts. In addition to knowing little of the actual story before reading it, I admit to knowing little of the events within the story - the Battle of Gallipoli, for example. I must have missed those days that story was taught in my history classes. (Though I have an inkling this was an event that never quite made it into my history classes.)The story is broken up into many different view points which at times became a bit tedious for me to read, but also offered a fresh eye to the same story. As usual with these types of books I find myself more interested in one or two of the storylines than I am in some of the others, so I feel my reading was disjointed - I take full fault for that.But look, here's the thing - I've forever put off reading this Louis de Bernieres guy because having worked in bookstores I got really burned out on people asking for that other book by this guy, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, or having people tell me I haven't lived until I've read it, and then there was that movie that came out with Nicolas Cage and I couldn't even take it seriously. I worried that this book would be similar, but Marieke is cool so I gave it a shot. And I was not disappointed. It just made me realize how not smart I am about this area in the world's history.So for those of you who are looking for some borderline chick-lit, you can still read this. There's a love story here too, a very lovely one at times, but not always happy. Because it's also a war story, and war stories are rarely happy.On a personal note I might just give this author another try, and maybe (OMG) I might just read that book about the mandolin. We'll see. But I probably still will refuse to watch the movie.

  • A. Dawes
    2019-02-13 19:38

    I have an unusual relationship with de Benieres' novels. I loved the lyrical Captain Correlli's Mandolin (the film is a disaster, with Nicholas Cage giving possibly the worst performance in cinematic history), but the novel itself has it all: humour, tragedy, love, war, relationships and history. I enjoyed the wit and colour of The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts. But after three reading swings at The Partisan's Daughter, I eventually struck out on what could only be defined as overly twee masturbation. Birds Without Wings, despite the hype, is an awful novel. And I'll give some reasons:1. The setting is a fallacy. Both Greek and Turkish historians acknowledge that the area he has set it in was Greek speaking rather than Turkish (coastal Lycia). He should have set it in Cappadocia if he wanted Turkish speaking Greeks. I know children and grandchildren descended from the region. I also love Ottoman and Turkish history. There's also a strong presence in Australia from both communities. This wouldn't have been so bad, but de Benieres claims to have 'researched' the area. Well he didn't research it at all. 2. It is so earnest in its sentimentality that it reeks. Rather than let the story and characters speak to readers, it beseeches us to get sentimental. The more natural evocation that worked so well in Captain Correlli is absent here. 3. The vignettes never truly build, and we end up with just a series of overly earnest sketches. It ends up being a choppy mess.4. The language is too twee for the feel of the novel. It's awkward and desperate. Anyway, that's my opinion, and I think you should ignore subjectivity here, because this is a disastrous tome of a novel, from a writer who can do so much better.

  • Amanda Patterson
    2019-01-23 16:43

    Louis de Bernieres won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book, 1995 for Captain Corellis' Mandolin. I doubt whether Birds without Wings will win any kind of prize or much praise.This is a sprawling novel set against the background of the collapsing Ottoman empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the ensuing struggle between Greeks and Turks that resulted from World War I. I was overwhelmed by all of this and underwhelmed by the awful cliched ‘narrator’ style employed by de Bernieres. When I read a novel like this, I want the characters to come alive for me. I want to live and breathe and taste and touch with them. I don’t want to feel as if I’ve fallen into some third rate American mobster movie. I don’t ever want to read another page of what ‘Veled the fat’ or ‘Iskander the Potter’ did or said. I was hoping for a Harry the Hammer to pop up for light relief. I do understand that de Bernieres is trying to capture the essence of the culture here, but leaving out these tags would have cut the book by a good 100 pages and it needs it. Desperately. Birds Without Wings tries to be both intimate and sweeping. It reflects de Bernieres's obsession with the impact that the madness of war, nationalism and religious fanaticism has on individuals. I think this is a noble thing to want to achieve in a book.What a pity that the book was so boring and the characters so flat that I didn’t get what the author so obviously wanted me to.

  • Beth F.
    2019-01-30 17:43

    I could not get into this book. I read and loved Corelli's Mandolin but never felt any of the same attachment to the characters in Birds. This one was a disappointment for me.

  • Dana Stabenow
    2019-01-28 18:38

    The story of how modern Turkey came to be, as told through the life of a village near Fethiye, Telmessos that was, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Turkey really is the crossroads of continents, which only means that it has been the marching ground of armies since civilization began. de Bernieres' description of the fighting and the atrocities before, during and after World War I leave you feeling that no matter how horrible was the forced relocation of Greek Turks to Greece and Turkish Greeks to Turkey, it might also have been in some awful way necessary. Levon the Armenian was always going to be "other" in Eskibahce, and, once the Ottoman empire fell, until the Turks either killed or expelled all the "others," there would be no peace there.There are so many wonderful characters, and so many storylines unresolved. What happened to Drousoula's family? To Daskalos Leonidas Efendi? To Layla Hanim? To Mehmetcik? And then I realized. They were all Greeks. The Turks left behind never knew what happened to their friends. Why should I?This is a long read but a worthwhile one, especially if you've traveled in Turkey or are going to.

  • Amanda Rae
    2019-02-03 19:03

    "Beautiful" is an accurate word to describe this book that hardly does it justice. As a lover of history, anthropology, good storytelling, and especially Turkish culture, this book satisfied me and then some. It is an exceptional portrayal of the struggles that everyday people underwent during the strange time between the end of the Ottoman Empire and the dawn of Atatürk's republic, when superficial lines were drawn up between people who had lived for centuries comfortably next to and around each other. People often forget about the human nature of historical events and the deep cultural ties that these people make and live with, and I thought that de Bernières did an amazing job of portraying this all while remaining faithful to the time period, the culture, and the characters. Not to mention that the language is poetic and enchanting, from start to finish. I know I had teary eyes quite a few times and even delayed the last few chapters as long as possible, just to make the book last a bit longer.

  • Steven
    2019-02-03 16:56

    Beautifully written and historically accurate. Give it some time.

  • George Thomas
    2019-02-21 18:54

    I have read a number of books by de Bernieres the first being Captain Corelli's Mandolin, (I enjoyed both the book and the film) I then went on read The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, then The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (two of his Colombian trilogy) which I didn’t particularly enjoy as they were in the magical mystery genre of Gabriel García Márquez, whom Bernières greatly admires. However I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Birds without Wings’ and was blown away by the vast amount of historical research he had undertaken in the writing of the book, which opens in 1900 and ends in the early 1920's. The book's title is taken from a saying by one of the characters, Iskander the Potter, "Man is a bird without wings, and a bird is a man without sorrows.""Birds without Wings" is set during the declining period of the Ottoman Empire, in the small Anatolian town of Eskibahce. Despite all the criticisms of the Ottoman Empire, the degree of tolerance between ethnic groups and different religions was quite remarkable. In the small town the mix of Turks, Armenians, and Greeks, both Muslims and Christians, live side-by-side in a comfortable and relatively peaceful existence, often inter-marrying. When the Franks, as the Ottomans called the Western Europeans, and a throw-back to the name given to the Crusaders by Mediterranean Muslims, and then the Greeks invade their country, the harmonious existence of the residents of Eskibahce is torn apart by external events. The Sultan declares a holy war against the invaders. The Muslim Turks are conscripted as soldiers and the Christian Turks are sent into labour battalions. The Armenians are evacuated from the region in a death march, in response to the Armenians helping the Russians to slaughter thousands of Turkish Muslims in other parts of the empire. We are again reminded of this by the news that the French Senate on 24th January 2012 approved a bill which will make it illegal to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire was genocide. Cynical French politicians see this move as a way by Sarkozy to gain votes from the 500,000 ethnic Armenian French voters in April’s Presidential elections. This has infuriated the Turkish government, which has threatened France with permanent sanctions. So the events depicted in the book are still having their impact even today.Going back to the book, during the Balkan wars when the western powers were competing with each other to seize territories formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, the Italians occupy Eskibahce. Then the Christians are forced to relocate to Greece. Throughout it all, the residents struggle to survive amidst the turmoil. There are some beautifully drawn characters in the book the childhood friends Karatavuk (Turkish for 'Blackbird') and Mehmetcik (Turkish for 'Red Robin'), who are inseparable until war breaks out. Karatavuk becomes a soldier who participates in the battle of Gallipoli, and Mehmetcik, who is forced into a labour battalion. He later defects and becomes a notorious bandit. There is the beautiful Christian girl Philothei, who is engaged to Ibrahim the goatherd and whose death is foreshadowed at the start of the story. There is the landlord and town protector Rustem Bey, who casts out his adulterous wife and takes a mistress. There are Abdulhamid Hodja and Father Kristoforos, holy men who call each other infidels yet are good friends. I found the chapters depicting the life and career of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, fascinating as he moves up the military ranks to win the fight for an independent Turkey. Reverting again to the book’s title I found it interesting that ‘Birds’ are present throughout the story. They sing throughout the night, carry letters to the dead, have their voices captured in clay whistles, and live in cages outside the entrance to many homes. The town residents are portrayed as wingless birds that are grounded in the reality of war and unable to flee the turmoil. In some ways ''Birds Without Wings'' is quite a challenge for readers having 95 chapters, and a six-part epilogue it's not surprising that de Bernières has cited ''War and Peace'' as a model for his work. In the end, this is a book about mourning, about grief at the loss of a community where Muslims and Christians were more than neighbors, where the imam went out of his way to bless a Christian child and Christians prayed to the Virgin Mary for their Muslim brothers.

  • Suzanne
    2019-02-06 14:55

    “The people who remained in this place have often asked themselves why it was that Ibrahim went mad. I am the only one who knows, but I have always been committed to silence, because he begged me to respect his grief, or, as he also put it, to take pity on his guilt.”Set in southwestern Anatolia (today Turkey) before and during World War I, Birds Without Wings is a wonderful novel about a small village and the people who live there. Prior to the war, the community is made up of Muslims and Christians, who live peaceably together. We have Ibrahim, a young Muslim boy who loves the beautiful Christian girl named Philothei. They plan to marry, but the war will forever change their lives and the lives of everyone in their village.This was the first book I’ve read of Louis De Bernieres (who also wrote the notable Corelli’s Mandolin). To say I was impressed in an understatement. It is nearly the perfect novel. The characters are engaging and unforgettable. The story is riveting. The writing is so eloquent – few authors ever achieve such brilliance. And to top it all off, De Bernieres includes some very real history of an area that most of us (myself included), know very little about. Birds Without Wings is now added to my “favorites” list! 4 1/2 stars!

  • Maria Bikaki
    2019-02-12 19:50

    Ναι, ναι ναι το τελειωσα. Χειροκροτήστε με. Πραγματικά μετά το πιο άκυρο αναγνωστικό μου καλοκαίρι που για λόγους δουλειάς το διάβασμα πήγε πίσω το να ολοκληρώσω πλέον καποιο βιβλίο και πόσο μάλλον δύσκολο και ογκώδες καταγράφεται ως κοσμοϊστορικό γεγονός. Αρα ένας εξτρα πόντος στο Λουι ντε Μπερνιέρ«Για τα πουλιά που έχουν φτερά, τίποτε δεν αλλάζει. Πετάνε όπου θέλουν και δεν ξέρουν απόσύνορα και οι τσακωμοί τους δεν κρατάνε. Εμείς όμως είμαστε δεμένοι στη γη, όσο και αν σκαρφαλώνουμε ψηλότερα, όσο και αν πασχίζουμε να φτερουγίσουμε με τα χέρια μας. Δε μπορούμε να πετάξουμε και είμαστε καταδικασμένοι να κάνουμε πράγματα που δε μας ταιριάζουν. Δεν έχουμε φτερά και αναγκαζόμαστε να πάρουμε μέρος σε πράξεις βίας και αγριότητας που δεν τις θελήσαμε. Και ύστερα, απ’ όλα αυτά, τα χρόνια περνούν, τα βουνά ισοπεδώνονται, οι κοιλάδες ψηλώνουν, τα ποτάμια στερεύουν και οι ξέρες βυθίζονται στη θάλασσα » Ένα βιβλίο σκληρό και συνάμα ειλικρινές, ένα μήνυμα απέναντι σε κάθε ειδους φανατισμό. Δεν συνίσταται για τους «Ελληνάρες» αναγνώστες.

  • Mark
    2019-02-21 20:38

    A great book. I became utterly engrossed in the lives of the Muslim and Christian villagers in SW Turkey in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. I spent time near where the village was located and the descriptions were spot on and made me miss it. Sometimes funny, frequently tragic and always moving.

  • Mommalibrarian
    2019-02-04 12:50

    This was a very complex story with many characters developed in short chapters. The characters are mixed as is the time line but I did not find it too difficult to follow. "Destiny caresses the few, but molests the many, and finally every sheep will hang by its own foot on the butcher's hook, just as every grain of wheat arrives at the millstone, no matter where it grew." p.6The time period is end of the great European empires, the beginning of WWI, the beginning of the Turkish nation. The life of a simple village is battered by events and persons beyond its control. It was a cataclysmic time in history. "This was the age when everyone wanted an empire and felt entitled to one, days of innocence perhaps, before the world realized, if it yet has, that empires are pointless and expensive, and their subject peoples rancorous and ungrateful." p.256The lives of the villagers express the swirl of emotions, ideas and to a lesser extent ethnic and religious feelings. The main villein, I think, is mob psychology; the failure of people to take personal responsibility for their actions but instead to hide behind religion, ethnicity, nation and in the name of these act wrongly. "The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral metal of a race, and it shamelessly and even proudly performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other."The worst part of the book was the textbook like chapters on the life of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the gratuitous, negative comments about Lloyd George. Ataturk was a semi-developed character but I did not feel any investment in his life. These chapters felt like little chunks of undigested non-fiction. Lloyd George was just a name dropped without context. There was also some repetition which a good editor could have removed. The overall effect of the book however was massive to me. Big ideas made concrete through the events in the lives of characters I could identify and care about. I knew nothing about these peoples, their history or their way of life before this reading. I would be interested in reading something similar on the Balkan nations and other nations in the Middle East. My life and education have been terribly Anglo-centered.I leave you with a sentiment that should find great currency in the world today. Georgio P. Theodorou, a Greek merchant from Turkish Smyrna said, "If I ever get to meet God In Person I shall suggest quite forcefully that He impartially abolish their" [Greek Christian and Turkish Mulsim:] "religions, and then they shall be friends forever." p. 454

  • Evgenia
    2019-01-25 15:41

    The premise of this book was promising—a portrait of Turks, Greeks, and Armenians from an early 20th century Anatolian town before and during the collapse of their world—but its style took some getting used to. Chapters are short, episodic, and disjointed, rotating points of view among the large cast of characters. Although the protagonists evolve, there is no central tension driving the narrative, making an already lengthy book seem longer. Then there are the politics. Louis de Bernières relates many key events of the Balkan Wars and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire through a prism that many will find objectionable. He condemns all violence and nationalistic extremism (kudos), but he does not assign responsibility equally, blaming Turkish nationalists largely on Greek nationalists while eulogizing the imperialist regime the latter reacted against. Although he acknowledges the atrocities of the Armenian genocide, he again absolves the governing regime of any real responsibility for it. I could go on, but you get the point. As someone with roots in these conflicts, who has known survivors and children of survivors, it is difficult for me to read such commentary dispassionately.Why then the four stars? Because although de Bernières’s interpretations may rankle, I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe his is just one perspective on a history that admits many perspectives. Because although his writing style requires some adjustment, it is downright enjoyable once you get into its rhythm. And most of all because the human stories he weaves are fascinating in a way that only things very removed from our world can be fascinating, and poignant in a way that only things emanating from extreme conditions can be poignant. Vignettes of daily life—the ritual exhumation of the dead, the purchase of a mistress—combine with moments of real drama—a rescue from a death march, a descent into madness—to leave me at a loss for words; all I could articulate for weeks was, “Oh, the humanity!”

  • Julia
    2019-02-21 19:45

    It's hard to put down this book after spending so many delightful hours laughing and weeping with the people of Eskibahce, a sleepy small town in today's Turkey in which Armenians, Greeks and Muslims live quite peacefully considering themselves Osmans until history interrupts the course of their lives. Some of the chapters dedicated to Kemal Atatürk and to political events were a little bit lenghty and too rich in detail for my liking, but still I just ADORED this book. The sheer humanity of Bernières, his strife to show that today's victims might be the perpetrators of tomorrow and that shallow tags like nationality or religion are never worth a single person's life, make this an important and moving read. It might sound as if this was a preachy novel, and it's maybe the best thing about it that it's not. Instead of explaining his philosophy of life, the writer depicts a variety of different characters from distinct walks of life and gives them an authentic voice of their own. I will always remember the Hodja and his beautiful horse Nilufer, the shepherd Ibrahim who went mad over the atrocities of war or Ali the Snowbringer who bestows his donkey on a Greek family even though it's his sole means of transport and vital for his job. Indredible cruelties and acts of generosiy are both being shown in a believable way and have thus left a deep impression on me.This has been one of the most enjoyable reads in a long while and I'm looking forward to more books by Bernières.

  • Mark Bowman
    2019-02-18 12:56

    This book was recommended to me as the best book available on understanding 20th-century Turkey. It focuses on the first two decades of the 20th century--when the Ottoman Empire was breaking apart and Turkey is formed. Interesting mix of history and fiction--background scenarios are historical while the main characters are from a fictitious small village. Both engaging and ponderous to read. Book is series of narratives told by the different characters--appropriate for an oral culture. One (Mustafa Kemal, first president of Turkey) is historical and the rest are the characters around this rural village. Character portrayal is engaging and endearing even though most often tragic. The larger political scenarios involving many different European and Asian countries get very complex and difficult to follow at times even for me who has a good understanding of world history. The middle third of the book portrays lives of soldiers at war (WW1 and aftermath)--perhaps the most horrific portrayal of war life that I've ever read. Truly sickening at times and I had to stop reading. Not an easy read, but most rewarding in terms of providing an background for understanding a country that is often neglected in contemporary news media.

  • Celine
    2019-01-27 16:05

    Munched my way through this with relish. It has the same mix of honesty,non-judgmental observation and fascinating historical detail that I'm coming to love with Louis de Bernieres. It is ( as seems to be his style) a touch long winded in sections (in this case the Mustafa Kemel sections) but even these are fascinating, so they inspire only the mildest spike of irritation and nothing more.I'm fast coming to love this writer. *makes grabby hands for another of his books*