Mother Land: Dmetri Kakmi
Dmetri Kakmi paints beautiful word pictures for the reader, effortlessly seducing them into another world – the world of his childhood.
Kakmi grew up on the Turkish island of Bozcaada (formerly Tenedos). His family were among the island’s rapidly dwindling Greek population, living in the shadow of escalating political rancour from the Turkish government. Greek ethnic schools are closed; church bells are banned from ringing; Turks are shipped in from the mainland to take over the houses abandoned by Greeks. The new schoolteacher, a young woman from Istanbul, opens the school year thus: ‘Because you’re not a Turk, may the bread you eat be poisonous.’
Meanwhile, some of the island’s longstanding Turkish residents try to hold back the tides of change. (‘We’re all Allah’s people, aren’t we?’) Kakmi’s family is divided, too. His mother, victim of an enforced arranged marriage to an illiterate fisherman, rails against her condition and pines for Istanbul, where they eat with knives and forks instead of their hands, enduring (and dealing out) savage beatings born of frustration.
Mother Land is a truly gorgeous evocation of Kakmi’s childhood, aged eight and nine, capturing all the contradictions, confusion and wonder of growing up; set against a backdrop of swirling political change and its effects on everyday life. It is also a lament for a long-gone way of life that acknowledges its brutality, while steeping itself in the romance of nostalgia. A stunning achievement.