Reading the past in Turkey

As I mentioned in my last post, about the perils of leaving your computer unattended for too long, we spent our summer holiday in Turkey this year.

One of the books I took with me was The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. I’d like to say this was a carefully considered choice on my part, given that much of the story unfolds during the siege of Troy. Troy was located in north-west Anatolia, in what is now Turkey (of course I knew that). The Turkish connection didn’t enter my head when I drew up my shopping list and headed off to the book-shop. The Song of Achilles was on the list because it won this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction, I’d seen a couple of enthusiastic reviews, and, most important, Waterstones was promoting it in a “buy one get one half-price” deal.

However, it turned out to be an apt choice. We were in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. So not near Troy, but in the area that was ancient Lycia. It was a strange experience — eerie, almost — to visit Xanthos or Patara, say, and then just a couple of days later, in the novel, see the Lycian army arriving to help defend Troy. Or to read about Achilles’ sea-goddess mother, Thetis, and then see her depicted in a mosaic in Antalya museum, dipping her son in the river Styx. History coming to life, indeed.

By the way: one of the nice things about the villa where we stayed, the lovely Villa Castle, was the “library”, a bookshelf of novels left behind by previous residents, signed, dated and bearing the message “Please keep the library going”.

Confession: I ended up bringing most of my holiday books back unread (likewise clothes and sandals — most of them brought back unworn). But at least I’ve got a good supply for the next few months: I love that feeling of having a pile of books waiting to be chosen and read.

Did you read any good books on holiday? Tell us about them in the comments!

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Inspiring article. I went to Side, Turkey, last September, but, staying at a hotel located right on the coast and having a small kid with me, I didn’t really have a chance to enjoy the old architecture and culture. By reading about your experiences, I’m once again inspired to do more than just swimming and sun-bathing next time I go there.

    Best regards,

    1. The sites are well worth visiting. I don’t know what Side’s like as a town, but Antalya has some lovely parks, a lovely Old Town, and attractions for kids. Beaches too, bit I don’t know what they’re like.
      Enjoy your next trip!

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