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Literature

Stavridis’ Tales from the Last Days of Anatolia

Historical fiction can offer readers insights into history in a more nuanced way than nonfiction. The author’s imagination can bring the history to life through the characters sharing their stories from a distant time period and highlighting the constancy of human nature. The emotions, the basic needs have not changed very much which is why readers can identify with characters from literary works that are hundreds of years old and stories from ancient times can still speak to us in powerful ways. In trying to understand history and the events that shaped our modern world, seeing through the eyes of a fictional character can help us experience history in a visceral way.

Many of the greatest works of literature are historical fiction and they often color the way we think about and understand the historic events which inspired the author. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, for example, brings the French Revolution to life in a way that a history book cannot. We can read the history and learn about the Reign of Terror, the guillotine, but Dickens puts us there by the scaffold as Madame Defarge knits her scarf, recording the names of those killed, and later Sydney Carton repeats “I am the Resurrection and the Life…”

Tales from the Last Days of Anatolia by Terry Stavridis is a collection of short stories dealing with real events in Asia Minor in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. The fictional characters in these stories offer a glimpse into the time period and how lives were irrevocably changed by historic events.

Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt to Greek parents and immigrated to Australia with his parents. An academic, author, historian, public speaker, and freelance writer, Stavridis is also a contributor to The National Herald where some of the short stories from Tales from the Last Days of Anatolia have appeared. He writes, in the introduction to the book, “I have dedicated my historical research to the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1923) for over 20 years,” and points out that the stories in his book revolve “around fictional characters who were participants and eyewitnesses to actual events that occurred in Asia Minor between 1900 and 1923.”

The years of research are evident in the pages of this volume. The attention to detail is clear in each of the stories in the book as we follow the story of a man from Smyrna who witnesses the May 1919 Greek landing, immigrates to America, and then learns of the fate of his family in the Smyrna Catastrophe. In other stories from the collection, a woman from Trebizond becomes a refugee in Greece and a fictional U.S. consul general witnesses significant events in the Balkans and Smyrna from 1893 to 1922.

Other stories in the book follow a Pontian Greek joining guerillas, a Turk telling his experience of the Asia Minor tragedy to his family, and an American relief worker assisting Greek refugees.

Tales from the Last Days of Anatolia by Terry Stavridis is available online.

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