Greece awards book on Istanbul
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Alexandros Massavetas’ book, ‘Istanbul, a City of Absences,’ has received the Greek State Literary PrizeIstanbul-based Greek writer Alexandros Massavetas’ book, “Istanbul, a City of Absences,” which relates the city’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, has received the Greek State Literary Prize for 2012.
Massavetas, who has lived in Istanbul since 2002 and spent eight years exploring Istanbul’s historical quarters, said the prize was just another sign of growing interest among Greeks in the history of Istanbul and in the city itself.
“This interest has now begun to extend beyond the spectrum of Greek history and presence in the city to cover many other aspects as well. The fact that my book received a literary prize awarded by the state, even though its approach on a variety of issues is rather heretical, also shows that there is ample room to reassess a series of issues under new light,” Massavetas told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
The book’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only book to date which examines the history, heritage and contribution to the city of all the communities of non-Muslims once prominent here – Greeks, Levantines, Jews, Armenians and Russians – and does not focus on one of them exclusively.
“A City of Absences” was published by Patakis in 2011 in Greek and English; the book was granted the national Greek award in the “Travel Literature - Testimonies - Chronicles - Biographies” category and has sold 7,200 copies to date. Massavetas said “A City of Absences” deals with problems arising within minority communities and stemming from the communities themselves, rather than focusing on issues rooted in the state or Turkish society. He also focuses on the thorny issue of inter-minority relationships and the even more contentious role of the church during Byzantine and Ottoman times.
“I was actually quite nervous about the potential reception of some of my evaluations, findings and comments,” Massavetas said.
“However my worries seemed unjustified: The book was much acclaimed by critics. The time for a more critical approach to official history seems to have come, both in Turkey and in Greece,” he said.