An epic novel of war with a legendary story of love in a place where East meets West
Beyazit Akman’s six-hundred-page-epic novel The World’s First Day (published in Turkish by Epsilon Publishing), the first part of The Empire saga is the story of the war of 1453 for Constantinople between the Ottomans and the Eastern Roman Empire. In Turkey, only several weeks after the book’s publication, a second edition was done as all the first edition copies were sold out.
As Istanbul is the 2010 European Capital of Culture this year, the novel is very timely; its setting is the very city, the then Constantinople, “the Queen of cities” as travelers called, when and where the East meets the West. The novel is centered on themes of cultural co-existence and religious tolerance through the life of the internationally well-known figure, Mehmed II, the Conqueror.
Alexander, a young lad, who escapes Constantinople, the center of the Eastern Roman Empire with the help of an old knight, has to leave his childhood love Mary and his family behind.He promises to return to his great love, and does so –only after many years, and as a different person: a Janissary who has never forgotten his first love. During the same time period and at the same geography, Italian Alberti Balbi, on the other hand, comes to the Ottoman lands as an ambassador but rather turns into a mystique traveler. Mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he falls in love with a Muslim woman, a scribe who copies manuscripts in the lands of the Grand Turk. Alberti’s notebook where he records with vivid detail this impossible love, a natural outcome of his love for his late wife, is going to turn into one of the most important witnesses of history. After all, a nineteen-year-old sultan, young Mehmed is about to conquer Constantinople, which is to change not only the fates of Alexander and Alberti but also that of the whole world.
Beyazit Akman, a Ph.D. candidate in East-West discourse in Western Literature, lives in the United States. He started writing the Empire series after five years of archival research including more than a hundred resources in Turkish and English in libraries worldwide. This multi-perspective novel, which extends from Constantinople to Venice to Rome, brings together historical figures such as Bellini and Gutenberg as well as the never-been-told story of a ruler, who has won the hearts and minds of people from many religions and cultures. The novel questions the myths about the Christian-Muslim relations in the collective conscious of Europe and offers fresh perspectives on the East-West dichotomy.
Filled with fights between knights and janissaries, debates between Venetian artists and Ottoman miniature painters, and oscillations between hearts and cultures, this novel of war and love presents an imperial panorama, which has long been waited for. You will read the love of Alexander, the melancholy of Alberti and the ambition of Mehmed like watching an epic movie; and the story of the birth of the Queen of cities in The World's First Day will long stay in minds.