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Children of War

Children of War

Author(s): Ahmet Yorulmaz

Location(s): Crete

Genre(s): Fiction, Historical

Era(s): 1920s

Hassanakis is a young Muslim boy of Turkish descent growing up on Crete during WWI.

Fifteen generations of his family have lived on the island and until now he has never had any reason not to think he is a Cretan. But with the Great Powers tussling over the collapsing Ottoman Empire and the island’s Christians in rebellion, an outbreak of ethnic violence forces his family to flee to the Cretan City of Chania. He begins to lay down roots and his snappy dress earns him the nickname of Hassan ‘the mirror’. As WWI draws to a close and the Turkish War of Independence rages, he begins a heady romance with the elegant Hüsniye. There are rumours that the Cretan Muslims will be sent to Turkey but Hassanakis can’t believe he will be sent to a country whose language he barely knows and where he knows no-one.

This powerful novel drawn from the diary of a refugee family evokes the beauty, complexity and trauma of Crete’s past and weaves it into a moving tale of an ordinary man living through extraordinary times.

Based on 3 diaries left by a Cretan refugee in Ayvalik in Turkey, this novel by Ahmet Yorulmaz is the first of a trilogy. It is one of very few Turkish novels ever written about the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in 1923, during which about 1.8 million people were ‘exchanged’ almost solely on the basis of their religion. This all but emptied the new Turkey of its Christian Greek population, which dated back to about 20 BC, and emptying Crete of its Muslim inhabitants. Most deportees did not speak the language of their new country and had no roots there whatsoever

Advance praise: “This book dazzled and fascinated me. I felt as if Yorulmaz and I were sitting in a cafe, chatting over strong Turkish coffee. And then I fell silent, mesmerized as the old man recounted stories from his life, leisurely…I highly recommend this book to those who like historical or literary fiction, or those who like to read about immigration/immigrants.” @MeredithRankin2

“Children of War embodies everything I love about good historical fiction… It is quite simply beautiful.” @booksbybindu

“Children of War is a short but absorbing read…This is definitely a book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction… It will make you think about what it means to be “from somewhere” and about your own background and family history.” @AboutGassing

“It’s a fascinating story of upheaval, displacement and national identity… I had no idea the history of Crete was such a geo-political minefield and that the migration associated with it was so complex…One of my favourite things about this book is the conversations it can generate.” @mm_cheryl


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