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Hidden Mosaics : An Aegean Tale (Paperback) (Alexander Billinis)
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When Osman, a Turk, met Yiannis, a Greek, by chance, in Izmir--known to Greeks, and to history, as Smyrna--both men still believed, to a greater or lesser extent, the national mythologies of Turkey and Greece. There was, however, an issue—they looked like identical twins. Osman, the more thoughtful of the two, could not get this similarity out of his mind. It set him on a quest to peel back the plaster of Turkish and Greek national identities, to find the mosaic beneath. This is the main theme of the novel, yet given the “millennium-long delicate and deadly embrace” of Greece and Turkey, and the times in question, the mid 2010s, there are several important subtexts to the story. First, there is the economic crisis in Greece, which impacts a semi-employed divorced father like Yiannis and prompts thoughts of emigration to relatives in Australia. Second, there is the crony capitalist boom in Turkey, where a nouveau riche class of Islamists from the Anatolian interior clash with urban, urbane, secular Turks. Osman, son of a Turkish colonel, American educated and avowedly secular, with a liberal wife, feels increasingly like a fish out of water in Erdogan's Turkey. Throughout the work, on both sides of the Aegean, the open wounds of the 1920s Greek-Turkish population exchange, centuries of Greek-Turkish conflicts, the Greek Civil War, and other ethnoreligious conflicts in the Balkans, most notably Yugoslavia in the 1990s, surface constantly in the lives of both the main protagonists, their families and friends.