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Alexander Christie-Miller and Sami Kent on Istanbul's past, present, and future

Thursday 20th June

Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath, York Street, Bath, Somerset BA1 1NG
Doors Open
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'An enthralling guide to one of the world's great cities - that blends history and insights into the present day from one of the most astute commentators on the politics of Istanbul' PETER FRANKOPAN

'A love letter to this ancient capital' THE TIMES

'An absorbing and thoroughly engaging study of modern-day Turkey. His research is first class, and he writes very well...Christie-Miller's love of the city and its people shines through this wonderful book'- MAX HASTINGS

Walking along the crumbling defensive walls of Istanbul and talking to those he passes, Alexander Christie-Miller finds a distillation of the country's history, a mirror of its present, and a shadow of its future.

Caught between two seas and two continents, Istanbul lies at the centre of the most pressing challenges of our time. With environmental decay, rapacious development and tightening authoritarianism straining its social fabric to breaking point, it represents the precipitous moment civilizations around the world are currently facing.

In and around its crumbling Byzantine-era fortifications, Alexander Christie-Miller meets people who are experiencing the looming crisis and fighting back, sometimes triumphing despite the odds.

To the City seamlessly blends two narratives: the story of Turkey's tumultuous recent past told through the lives of those who live around the walls, and the story of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II's siege and capture of the city in 1453. That event still looms large in Turkey, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan like a latter-day sultan invokes its memory as part of his effort to transform the country in an echo of its imperial past.

This is a meditation on the soul of Istanbul, a paean to its resilience and fortitude. Walk with Christie-Miller and see the danger, beauty and hope.

Alexander will be joined by Sami Kent, author of The Endless Country: A Personal Journey Through Turkey's First Hundred Years.

The Endless Country takes a journey through Turkey's past - the nation the author's father left decades ago and he returns to as a young man.

It is not about Erdogan or Ataturk, the two towering Presidents who have book-ended that history, and at times have appeared impossible to escape. Instead Sami Kent's book goes deep beyond them, revealing a history as rich, layered and absurd as his family's favourite dessert, kunefe: a shredded wheat pastry with a core of melted cheese, a topping of pistachios, and a drowning of syrup.

From tiny weightlifters to the world's biggest prison, from a failed socialist commune to a wildly successful orchid ice cream, the book is a tribute to the sheer bewildering diversity of Turkey's past: its people, their ideas and their struggles.

The event will be chaired by Maureen Freely.

Maureen Freely was born in the US but grew up in Turkey. After graduating from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, she moved to England, where she teaches at the University of Warwick.

She has, in addition to authoring eight novels, translated many classics of twentieth century Turkish literature as well as five books by the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. Formerly Chair and President of English PEN, she continues to campaign for freedom of expression worldwide.

Alexander Christie-Miller was born in Wiltshire in 1982, and studied English Literature and Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin. Between 2010 and 2017 he worked as a journalist in Istanbul, where he was correspondent for The Times. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, The Atlantic, Der Spiegel, and the White Review among other publications

Sami Kent is a writer and radio producer based between London and Istanbul. He has reported on Turkey for The Guardian, BBC Radio 4, Al Jazeera, The London Review of Books and many publications. He has also made several radio documentaries for the BBC, and is now working for The Guardian's award-winning podcast 'Today in Focus'. The Endless Country is his first book.