1453 The Conquest

Beyazıt Akman

 

In Constantinople, empires were about to collide,
loves were about to depart,
and the world was about to change for ever.

Beyazit Akman’s 600-page-epic, 1453: The Conquest is the first novel to ever appear in the English language to tell the story of the era-changing war of 1453 for Constantinople between the Ottomans and the Byzantines. Written after five years of archival research in libraries around the world, the novel is a page-turner based on meticulous historical research. It is also the first of its kind to cover the life of a widely recognized fifteenth century historical character: Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror. Celebrated as a national bestseller in its home country, the novel has also helped revitalize the genre of historical fiction, becoming inspiration for TV shows and cinema. This historical fiction also brings a new perspective to the centuries-old conquest debate.

Alexander, a young lad who has to escape Constantinople, the center of the Eastern Roman Empire, with the help of an old knight, because of a most tragic event, has to leave his childhood love Mary behind. Yet, he promises to return to his love, and does, but only after many years, and as a different person: a janissary, a elite soldier of the Ottoman army, who has never forgotten his first love. During the same time and in the same region, Italian Alberti Balbi comes to the Ottoman Empire as an ambassador of Venice, but rather turns into a mystic traveler. Mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he falls in love with a 86 Muslim woman, a scribe who copies manuscripts in the lands of the Grand Turk. Alberti’s notebook in which he records with vivid detail of this impossible love, a natural outcome of his love for his late wife, turns into one of the most important witnesses to history. After all, a nineteen-year-old sultan, young Mehmed is about to conquer Constantinople, which is to change not only the fates of Alexander and Alberti, but also that of the whole world.

Filled with fights between knights and janissaries, debates between Venetian artists and Ottoman miniaturists and oscillations between hearts and cultures, this epic novel of war and love presents an imperial panorama. You will read of the love of Alexander, the melancholy of Alberti and the ambition of Mehmed as if watching an epic movie, and the story of the birth of the Queen of cities in The Conquest as the epicenter of a multi-cultural empire will not be easy to forget.

Much has been written about the history of the Ottomans and the East-West discourse. However, only recently has the historical scholarship started to step beyond orientalist clichés. Yet, to date, there is not much work to present this rich history artisticaly and accessibly. The Ottoman Empire Trilogy, planned as an epic series on the Classical Ottoman age, fills this gap. The series has been praised in Turkey for combining in-depth scholarship with artistic creativity, unusual for popular novels, but something crucial when compared to cheaply romanticized versions of history.