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Forty years after his death, Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, the “Fisherman of Halicarnassus”, remains a figure of reverence in Bodrum. The main street carries his name, quotations from his work adorn billboards, a small museum dedicated to his memory has recently opened in Bodrum Castle, and his bronze bust stands outside the Belediye, surveying myriad gulets in Bodrum harbour. He is remembered as a novelist, a raconteur and a pioneer of the mavi yolculuk, the “blue voyage”.
For non-readers of Turkish the cult of the Fisherman has always been difficult to share, as so little of his work has been translated –not even his autobiography, Mavi Sürgün (The Blue Exile). So this very readable book, though less of a biography than a broader celebration of Bodrum and the Turquoise Coast, is welcome.
Cevat’s life was colourful, to say the least. Born in 1890 into a prominent Ottoman family (his father was Mehmet Şakir Pasha, a historian and diplomat; his uncle, Ahmed Cevat Şakir Pasha, grand vizier from 1891 to 1895; his mother a Cretan child-bride), he studied at Oxford then in Rome, returning to Turkey in 1913. But the following year he was convicted of shooting his father and sentenced to 14 years in jail, but released after seven. In 1925 he again found himself on the wrong side of the authorities (now those of the Turkish Republic) and was sentenced to three years’ internal exile for seditious writing. He had the good fortune to serve the first half of this sentence in Bodrum, where the Castle, which would normally have been his jail, was uninhabitable owing to shelling by a French battleship in 1915. So Cevat lived in a small fisherman’s house on the beach, obliged simply to report to the police daily. Internal exile can seldom have been so agreeable.
Enchanted by his new home, he stayed for most of the next 30 years. The climate, the beauty of the sea and of nature, the hospitality of the inhabitants, and their tolerant, broadly secular outlook on life, appealed to him. He saw Bodrum’s population as heirs to an Anatolian civilisation thousands of years old and developed a personal philosophy of Blue Anatolian Humanism which saw Anatolia as the true home of Mediterranean culture. He bought a small boat and would explore the coast, pulling up in convenient bays and sleeping under the stars.
Bodrum was far from a typical village in southwest Anatolia at the time. Around half the population were Cretan Muslims, who had come to Bodrum as refugees in the early years of the century and then through the Exchange of Populations of 1923. The Cretans were seafarers; it was their culture Cevat found inspiring, and that is the subject of most of his novels and short stories. How this reality fits with Blue Anatolian Humanism is not clear, but the Fisherman was not a man to be troubled by inconvenient detail.
Cevat Şakir can be compared to European writers of the same era, who described life in other parts of the Mediterranean or southern Europe – such as Gerald Brennan in Spain, or Carlo Levi, exiled to Eboli in southern Italy. But until more of his work is published in other languages he will remain something of an enigma for non-Turks.
This book is about more than the Fisherman of Halicarnassus. It is a celebration of this coast and aspects of its history. It is a delightfully eccentric mix of the author’s and the Fisherman’s enthusiasms – underwater archaeology, sponge diving, Herodotus, ecology, tombstones, gulets, Homer’s Odyssey… And it will enhance the holidays of the thousands of people who now take their own mavi yoculuk every year in comfortable gulets.
The Grand Bazaar: From Iznik to Armani, objets d’art to handloomed carpets: the choice is yours
When David Wheeler set out to satisfy his craving to explore Turkish gardens, he was guided by a diverse cast of committed Istanbul citizens. What he discovered were myriad horticultural havens, from Byzantine market gardens to Ottoman cemeteries – many of them under imminent threat
In his 40-year career, Sinan (1489–1588) transformed the Istanbul skyline. Here we explore three of the chief imperial architect’s masterpieces from the golden age of Süleyman the Magnificent. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg
Justinian’s soaring edifice inspires the same awe today as it did in visitors a millennium ago who wondered if this were Heaven or Earth. Setting out on a tour of the city’s best-preserved Byzantine churches, Robert Ousterhout still senses an air of the miraculous in Ayasofya
The long-awaited Naval Museum has many wonders to reveal, but nothing to compare with the fabulously ornate imperial barges
From a trusty staple to the stuff of feasts, beans are at the very heart of Turkish cuisine. How did we ever live without them?
In a vivid, impressionistic portrait of the Byzantine city, Robert Ousterhout uncovers the history of Byzantium in ten objects, explores the soaring edifice of Ayasofya and picks four of the city’s most inspiring smaller churches.
Take in the Topkapı, where the sultans held sway in secluded grandeur. Saunter round Sultanahmet and the Hippodrome: make the most of the mosques, monuments and museums. Get the buzz of the bazaar: where to snap up covetable collectables and cheerful bargains
Deep in the industrial outskirts of Istanbul, Griselda Warr enters an Aladdin’s cave of Anatolian treasures. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg
AyşeDeniz Gökçin’s musical creations combine the rock-star appeal of Franz Liszt and the psychedelic/progressive brilliance of the band Pink Floyd. Tony Barrell found this prodigiously talented young pianist a force to be reckoned with. Photograph by Charles Hopkinson
John Carswell solves the mystery of the ‘lemon squeezer’ that wasn’t
In a decade of monitoring Turkey’s burgeoning wine industry, Kevin Gould has never been more impressed. He and the Cornucopia tasting team enthusiastically sampled this year’s top bottles and nominated their favourites
It is a joy to explore. New universities, a new museum, and a growing band of new aficionados who have invested modest means in old houses, have created a wonderful sense of optimism. But the ancient waterfront is in the eye of the storm, with many quarters due to be bulldozed and the threat of a hideous new marina. Enjoy it while you can
Hidden away in one of Istanbul’s least prepossessing neighbourhoods is a walled garden surrounding a dream of a kiosk – a favourite of many sultans.
Give yourself over to the grit and bustle of Eminönü’s waterside markets, then ascend to Sinan’s sublime hilltop mosques – the awesome Süleymaniye and the haunting Şehzade. In their shadow is the exuberantly tiles Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Cornucopia devotes 24 pages to this vibrant area, with features on Eminönü and the Suleymaniye district with photographs by Jürgen Frank, and a guide to the mosques beautifully depicted by Fritz von der Schulenburg
Within the deepest reaches of the palace lies the very seat of the sultans’ power
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