Sur Fethiye

POSTSCRIPT (de Louis de Bernières à son roman, Birds Without Wings*)
Fethiye in the Twenty-first Century

One story is that in 1913 Fethi Bey, an intrepid Ottoman aviator endowed with a Blériot monoplane and memorable moustaches, crashed into the bay of Telmessos and was untimely killed. In 1923 the town of Telmessos changed its name in his honour, and became Fethiye.

On the other hand it might be that in 1913 Fethi Bey, an intrepid Ottoman aviator endowed with a Blériot monoplane and memorable moustaches, undertook to fly from Istanbul to Cairo and was killed when his plane crashed in Palestine. Louis Blériot, world-famous not only for flying the English Channel and winning the thousand-pound prize offered by the Daily Mail but also for his own unsurpassable record of spectacular and marvellous crashes, most charmingly and honestly acknowledged that the wires above the wings of his aeroplanes were insufficient to withstand the download caused by turbulence. The French army grounded its Blériot monoplanes, and in 1923 the town of Telmessos changed its name to Fethiye in honour of the first Ottoman pilot to have been killed by a design fault.

Another version is that in 1923 the town of Telmessos changed its name to Fethiye in honour of a pilot named Fethi Bey, who had been killed in action during the Turkish War of Independence.

Since ‘Fethiye’ means ‘conquest’, however, the town might equally have been renamed to celebrate Ataturk’s expulsion of foreigners and the establishment of the modem Turkish state. The identity and manner of death of Fethi Bey, aerial, intrepid and unfortunate, are concealed for ever behind the tangled contra­dictions of multiple and congenial myth, and he lives on solely in the name of a pleasant and modest town that may not indeed be named after him, having existed, it seems, solely for the purpose of demonstrating the impossibility of history.

Every Tuesday there is a market in Fethiye that bestraddles the sides of a shallow and limpid canal that carries the water of the mountains into the sea. It is a market that seems to go on for ever, to be crowded by every nationality, and to sell the strangest possible combination of touristic handicrafts and daily necessities.

There are agriculture and carpentry stalls, laden with nails, adzes and sickles, stalls with generous and redolent bags of spice and saffron, stalls with brass teasets, coffee grinders, kebab skewers, and mortars and pestles, stalls with wondrous aubergines and turgid watermelons, stalls with tapes that alternately blast out the equally lamentable pop songs of both Turkey and America, stalls selling priceless carpets inveigled for a song from the naive peasants of Anatolia, stalls selling hand-sewn silks, waistcoats, hats and socks, and stalls selling seductively beautiful musical instru­ments, geometrically inlaid, which Turks can play by instinct, but which Westerners find impossible, even in theory.

Many of the traders have formerly lived in London; ‘Cheaper than Tesco,’ they cry, ‘cheaper than Asda, better than Harrods. Buy one and get one for nothing. Pay me next year. Who cares about the money? Look, look. English? Deutsch? Please, please, very nice, very cheap. Lovely jubbly.’ They trade con brio, bursting with joy and panache, and each of them has a samovar on a portable gas ring in order to fill themselves and their customers with hospitable and inexhaustible draughts of sweetened apple tea.

There are old ladies crouching in the dust next to cotton cloths upon which is arranged complex and exquisite silver jewellery set with rich semi-precious stones. Young men wander among the throng insisting upon the purchase of genuine Lacoste socks and genuine Cartier watches and genuine Reebok trainers and genuine Chanel perfume. Middle-aged women intent upon the weekly stocking of provisions curse the tourists and mutter to each other irritably as they haul their baskets through the cosmopolitan muddle. A boy is determined to sell his authentic French designer fragrances: ‘Ten pound for one,’ he exclaims, and then, ‘Eight pound for one. OK, five pound for one. OK, one pound for one. OK, OK, ten for one pound.’

Noisy women from Manchester and Newcastle howl and cackle like hens as a spouse tries on a fez. Roasted and rubicund middle-aged blond couples from Amsterdam and The Hague blink in confusion as a dark small boy attempts to sell them a self-illuminating yo-yo or a small carving with an astounding phallus. Policemen on duty, stupefied by boredom, smoke surreptitiously, their aromatic cigarettes smouldering in cupped hands behind their backs.

There is a tall and heartbreakingly lovely German girl. She is golden-haired and freshly rninted, moving with catlike confi­dence and grace through the crowds between the stalls. She wears the skimpiest of tops, and her interminable legs disappear into the shortest of shorts, which have been slashed deliberately across the buttocks in order to expose firm alabaster flesh of inestimable delight. She astounds the local men, who gaze after her with popping eyes, their mouths agape with censorious longing and disgusted desire.

There is only one woman completely enrobed in black, in the Iranian style. There is another who is also clothed in black, except that she wears an ordinary black headscarf and skirt, and a black T-shirt. She is trying to be both East and West, and she is indeed fortunate that she is innocent of the English tongue, for her T-shirt bears the immodest and un-Islamic message ‘Red Hot And Ready To Go’.

All this is quite normal and unremarkable for the town of Fethiye, whose old name was Telmessos, meaning ‘City of Light’, or ‘Megri’, meaning ‘The Faraway Land’. The truly anomalous and remarkable thing about Fethiye, its market and the region of Lycia, is that there are no Greeks.

Louis de Bernières

* ‘Man is a bird without wings’, Iskander told them, ‘and a bird is a man without sorrows’. (page 48)

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2 Réponses to “Sur Fethiye”

  1. Karacaören « Le journal de Joli Rêve Says:

    […] Bernières, un romancier anglais (Capitaine Corelli) malgré son nom : Birds without wings. Voir sa description de Fethiye au XXIe […]

  2. Louis de Bernières « Le journal de Joli Rêve Says:

    […] ici le postface de l’auteur sur Fethiye au XXIe […]

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