A day out for Mehmet Erbil

Louis de Bernieres, 1999

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Fans of the wonderful Birds Without Wings will pounce on this minuscule offcut from the research trips that lay behind it which tells the story of a botanist who picks up a junk-collector near Eceabat and spends the day driving around the Çanakkale area with him. It’s a witty tale that poignantly plays with the different ways in which tourists and locals try and fail to communicate with each other on more than just the linguistic level. At the same time it serves as a salutary reminder of the days, not so very long ago, when the Turkish economy was a basketcase rather than the breadbasket of today. Most novels contain elements of the author in them, but in this novella we surely hear the experiences of de Bernieres himself coming over loud and clear. You’ll be finished with it in half-an-hour.

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