Nations will never be in peace as long as they throw the view back to history. All the wars, ethnic conflicts and tensions derive from history. As long as we will walk with head back on the past, our present will be in trouble. History and the relation we should keep with it is an open continuous debate which is, so, not only for post-communist countries as our country, but even for ancient civilizations. “Saras”, a publishing house, has just published the second novel of the famous writer and historian Jason Goodwin, called “Snake Stone”, a historic thriller, which provokes the same topic, the relation with history.
This book is the extension of “Janissary Tree”, translated by Fari Lacka. At his first book, Goodwin wants to describe which were the reasons that pushed Mahmud Sultan the Second to execute overnight the entire Army of Janissaries most of which were Albanians. Meanwhile at the other book, Goodwin sees in depth of the city. Amazed by books, he starts his fables inspired from a book, that, as all the antique books, contains codes, decoding of which can reversed systems. You can find the truth only in antique books, writes Goodwin.
But do we know how to read the history, or have we often burned or hidden it, so it cannot try to stop the present? Gilius has written a book in 1453 in which gave an 1838 Istanbul perception. He has described 3 sequential cities. The first was classic Constantinople of fifth century. In this book he tried to describe the monuments and palaces, even though most of them were destroyed. There was described another Constantinople. The city was constructed centuries later and being for thousands of years under the influence of Greek religion, roman laws and Greek language.
Then the city was occupied by ottomans… This book was found in an antique library of Istanbul. When Jashim (the main character) first arrived in this library, was very interested in French literature, and couldn’t imagine that those books can change the city’s flow… “Snake Stone” takes us in a fascinating conspiracy story, showing us that the history will continue to be an important part of life. Detective Jashim, a character with an extraordinary culture, connoisseur of kitchen art, this time comes back in Istanbul for a difficult mission. We are in 1838, and Ottoman Empire is toward the end. Mahmud Sultan the Second is dying, the city is feeling unsafe.
The sudden arrival of an French archaeologist , Maximillian Lefevre, who tracks hidden treasures of the Byzantine-era among which the holy cup used by Christ the last night of his life, created confusion on the Greek Community, which retains with bigotry these relics. During his investigation about Lefevre, he found him dead, but he was not the only one dead. There are found other victims , too. Later, even the bookseller is found dead. The duty of Jashim is to discover the horrendous truth which lies behind one secret society that is trying to recreate the Byzantine Empire.
Sultan’s mother, Valide, a character known in Janissary Tree, continues to be in this book, too. She continues to be the woman, whose conversation with Jashim is ranked as the best confession of the time. Valide is the future modern mind of Turkey, a woman who is never tired of reading Balzac or Stendal, she means the“Red and Black” on this book pages. Goodwin couldn’t write another history about Istanbul without mentioning Albanians. He understood from the beginning of his journey as tourist, that Albanians have been important protagonists of this city life, not only as janissaries but also as part of governance.
One of them, Enver Xani, who left Albania and created his life in Istanbul, was married with Marta and had two children, Suela and Shpetim, is a very important character of this book. His death marked the beginning of some serial deaths in town, which were related with public water network. Goodwin told that he was inspired by reality, because Albanians had monopolized public water system. Some of them were catholic and some orthodox. As time passes some of them were converted in Islamic. They say that Albanians religion is Albania. They call themselves sons of Albania.
In nineteenth century, most of ottoman Institutions, were controlled by Albanians and it is obvious that they have been ambitious for ottoman history and culture. There is also, Mehmet Ali Pasha who occupied Egypt and made it, his property. Jason Goodwin describes with an extraordinary workmanship, great challenges , where betrayal is paid with death, but where the reader feels immense pleasure, knowing attractive and unusual characters. Albanian language is the 40 language in which this book has been translated.
Goodwin correlates with an amazing style the history and the literature. A book purpose is not only to tell the history, to make it live, but to let it inside of you, too, when it finishes. Goodwin has the ability to make the book not to finish at his last page. Detective Jashim, created by him, will continue to be a beloved character because his mission is the truth. With his work dedication, his loyalty and his way of acting, Jashim recognizes us with that invisible world which walk against our world, and helps us to read the signals.
Everybody falls in love with him, not only with his kindness but also with his ability to finish things, switching on the lights even in the darkest tunnel. In this book, Jashim is putted not only in front of difficult challenges solving the murders , but also, he is putted in front of another challenge, confronting himself. Jashim cannot fall in love, but Goodwin decides to make him rest in Ameli chest, a Greek woman, Lefrevre’s wife.
As they were talking about the big love between Great Sulejman and his love Rokselan, their lips come together and in this way the afternoon finds them in bed. “Snake Stone” is not just an amazing historic thriller, but it is a book that talks to the time showing that “missing worlds” will always affect us. Jashim’s history doesn’t finish in this book.
“Saras” publishing house will bring the third book, “Bellini Cards”. Jason Goodwin has just published his new book, “Baclava Club” in Great Britain, where the main character is still Jashim. “Snake Stone” is nominated for CWA Ellis Peters Historical Crime Awards in 2007. “An extraordinary original detective”- writes Kate Moss.
Lord Byron for Greeks
Do you know what Lord Byron said for Greeks? They cannot divide things. The truth is that they can conspire for nothing, and when I say “fight”, I mean they weren’t united. Almost all the time they just fight with each other. Big mistake! Byron just wanted to see them as classic Greeks with virtues as Platoon, but they aren’t like this. None of them is. They are good people, but they are like children. A Greek can smile, can cry, can forget, can kill the best friend. And he can do all of these in one day. You can call it politics, but it is a game. Greek soldiers are courageous in battlefield. They can beat Mehmed Ali Turks, or can emerge world as Great Alexander, but after doing this they just smoke, drink cafe and forget what happened.
An Albanian killed in Istanbul
Enver took a stick to the wall and put it in the big water deposit, so he could measure the depth. The water slowly filled one side of deposit and flowed on the other side and shed without noise into 7 washtubs. At a certain time he should close the third, fifth and sixth mere. While he was doing this, he felt something in his chest, it seems like a heart tribulation, but he didn’t lose the mind and began to remember the numbers he has learned.
Three, five, six. Then two. The numbers were part of rules. Just like the little ball which sooner will activate the system. He sat down seeing the tubes , the water began to flow, just like the blood does. So he closed the eyes and kept breathing. Most of his brothers were able to understand the time when the little ball was coming, just by hearing the water movement. Still not, he just thought, but he was wrong, in just a minute, the ball was out of there. Disappointed, he saw the water system.
He had to take the ball again, block the tubes and then retake his trip for Istanbul. Three, five, six. Then two. He sat down again and took the little ball. For a while it seems like the light jumped from the water. It was an unexpected radiance. Enver saw everything with his eye tail. After this, everything became dark. He has heard stories about bad spirits.
His brothers told him that this things could happen. He was afraid. The air was becoming colder and colder. He took the little ball and while doing this, he took a look to his face reflected on water.
Then everything changed. He saw a second face watching the black water. He didn’t even take the time to be surprised. Opened the eyes and the last thing he saw in this world was his face being one with the water reflection. He had his mouth opened but he couldn’t speak…
(this was a fragment from the book)