Birol Ganioğlu: a local author inspired by Anatolia’s history and ancient civilisations
On Saturday June 4th, a book-signing event for the Turkish author, Birol Ganioğlu was held at the outdoor theatre at the Fethiye Culture Centre (FBKM).10 ay önce 1B
On Saturday June 4th, a book-signing event for the Turkish author, Birol Ganioğlu was held at the outdoor theatre at the Fethiye Culture Centre (FBKM). Organised by FETAV (Fethiye Tourism Promotion Education Culture and Environment Foundation), Mavi Kuş Sanat ve Dayanışma Derneği (Blue Bird Art and Solidarity Association) and the bookshop Keçi Kitabevi - the event was the launch of Mr Ganioğlu's book, Nikolas, the third in his Telmessos Bilicisi series of novels. As well as attending Mr Ganioğlu's book-launch, I met with him the following day at the new Vanilla Beach cafe in Çalış, where we discussed his books, local history, and what sparks his interest as an author...
Birol Bey, what inspired you to become a writer?
When I decided to stop my travel agency, I went to live in my place in Kayaköy. During this period I decided to write a guidebook about the Lycian area for professional tourist guides. But one of my friends said, there are approximately 500 guides in Turkey; will you write just for these? You can write a historical novel [with this information], which will not only be more interesting, many more people will be able to read it.
What is it that interests you most about the Lycian period?
When you study the Lycian civilization you soon learn it’s a really interesting, sophisticated civilization. For example, they were the first known federal state. They had city elections; every year, at the same time, they elected their federal administrative system. The President of the Lycian federal system, the Treasurer, Commander and the Judge; they were all elected. This is fascinating. Also interesting is the fact that they were making [elections] in the same period - maybe a little bit before - Athens. But in Athens women could not vote; they could not be elected. In Lycia, women were voting and most of the leaders of Lycia were women. Lycia was a Matriarchal Society.
Another point of interest is that the god of the Lycians - as Homeros (Homer) wrote in Illiada (The Iliad) – Apollon (Apollo), is from Lycia. We know that Apollon is one of the Greek Gods, and also we know that Artemis is his twin sister. This means that Artemis also belongs to Lycia. So, two very important deities, a god and a goddess, [originally] belonged to Lycia!
What's more, [in the beginning] there was not any Father-god [in Lycian culture]. Yes, there was a creative Mother-god, Leto, and her two children. After the Troy war, the patriarchal civilization began to add [the idea of a Father-god] into Western Anatolia. At the same time, the Anatolian civilisation began to pass [their stories] to the Greek side.
So, the Greeks accepted that Apollon and Artemis are also the gods for them. But what did they do for Leto, their mother? They decided that Leto could be the mistress of Zeus. These are good things for the guides giving information about Lycia; there are so many remarkable things about this civilisation.
So, during this period I decided to write about all these things, the civilization, traditions, beliefs, life, the gods in the first books. I decided that, the best time would be the '40s BCE. [The first book 'Syessa Ana', and the second book 'Apollonides' are both set during this period.]
Your book series is called “Telmessos Bilicisi”. Who or what is that?
The title roughly translates as, “The Soothsayer of Telmessos”. Why? Because Telmessos was very famous for its fortune-tellers - particularly at the Apollon temple in Telmessos. Also, the Chief Fortune-Teller of Alexander the Great was from Telmessos. [I thought] he could be a good character; the Soothsayer of Telmessos, who can travel [into] different time periods, collect knowledge and then return with it and explain it to the people. In the story, Syessa Ana - Mother Syessa - she is talking to the Soothsayer of Telmessos. This character is passing this knowledge to us, and in the second book also, Apollonides is giving information to the Soothsayer who is then transferring it to us. I thought that the third and fourth book could continue in the same vein, through the different ages.
I should mention that this first book has been translated into English, and an English friend, who is living in Kaya village, did the editing. Next week the last [editing] decisions will be finished. I hope that in about six weeks, the first book Mother Syessa will be printed in English.
So in about a month-and-a-half, English-readers will also be able to enjoy your work! Will you have a book-launch event for that as you have had with the Turkish version?
Yes, for sure. What’s more, the second book's translation will be finished soon, and should be published later this year.
The third book [Nikolas] is [set in the] fourth century after Christ, but it’s still set in Lycia, as, at this time there was a very well known character, who lived in Lycia. Nearly the whole world knows him - Saint Nicholas, of course! He was born in Patara and lived in Myra. I wanted to write about his life. The fourth century in Lycia [was the time of] early Christianity. [Also] at this time, the different beliefs, religious beliefs, and then the beliefs in the world, let's say; Monotheism, Buddhism in Middle-Asia, Sky God beliefs, antique period philosophy; all of these things I included in the novel.
So, the first book in the series, 'Mother Syessa' will be published in English soon. Please tell us a little bit about that book. What will inspire us to read it?
First of all, when you read this book, even if you don't know about Lycia, I'm sure that by reading it you will want to visit the area. If you are living here [already], if you know the Lycian cities [such as] Patara, Xanthos or Myra, with this book you will go and look at these places again.
If you're living in Fethiye - okay, Fethiye is now a big town, nearly a small city, and 2000 years have passed but [going back to the period of the novel] the Lycian rock tombs are things we can still see. There’s the Nekropol (Necropolis) area too and we can see the temple. One of the temples' walls [is still standing], cut into the rocks. On the right of the theatre (Fethiye's ancient hillside theatre), [the temple wall] is there, just behind the harbourmaster's office.
In the Roman period the theatre changed because this is an earthquake are, every [one in] three is very powerful. As a result it was destroyed many times and then rebuilt again. When it was rebuilt they made the shape in the Roman style. But we know that during the Hellenistic period, and especially the Lycian period there was a theatre on the same location. There are many Lycian style theatres all the way from Anatolia to Greece.
Also, many important scientists and artists were from Western Anatolia; they passed to Greece later. When the Persians attacked Anatolia and then captured here, some of the scientists, philosophers and artists escaped. Some of them went to Athens, some of them went to Italy, Sicilya (Sicily) and because of this, the culture passed [to those places]. This happened from the six century into the fifth century BCE; most of them left because the Persians controlled nearly everywhere in Western Anatolia. Also, we can see that they say that the 'total suicide' happened twice in Xanthos; all the people killed themselves [when the city was attacked]. The first time was the Croesus period - the Persian king - and the second one was during the period of Brutus. This area is very fascinating; the readers will learn valuable information about this area too.
The event yesterday was partly organized by Mavi Kuş. Please tell us a little bit about who they are and what they do.
They are a civil organization, most run by women. They are mainly trying to help disabled children, and they are giving bursaries to some students too. It is a very active organization. By organising the book signing they also received some income for [their association].
I'm thinking that maybe we can do the same for the English copy of the book, with a charity; you know, particularly for the [English speaking] people who are living in Fethiye. Maybe we can organise something similar.
The English-language translation of Birol Ganioğlu's first novel, 'Soothsayer of Telmessos: Mother Syessa' is expected to be published around mid-July 2016. Look out for further details of the book-launch event on the Facebook page, 'Fethiye Arts & Culture Events'.
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DATES FOR THE DIARY
Forthcoming events in the Fethiye area:
- Fethiye Race For Life, 2nd October
- Çalış Christmas Fair, 11th December, Çalış Beach Promenade
- Nif Cherry Festival, 25th June
- Fethiye International Classical
Music Festival, 21st - 24th September,
- Ölüdeniz International Air Games Festival, 11th - 15th October, www.babadag.com
Please note, all dates and information are subject to change.
Anthony Gerard Cooke is an actor from the UK, working under the stage name Gerard Cooke. Living in Fethiye since 2014, he founded 'Mediterranean Theatre' with the aim of producing professional theatre in South Turkey.