Sunday, 1 January 2012
EVLIYA IN EUROPE
Paris, 14-15 November
Hosted by UNESCO, a major international two-day conference on Evliya took place in Paris between 14-15 November. See the INALCO website: http://www.inalco.fr/ina_gabarit_article.php3?id_rubrique=2640&id_article=5088&id_secteur=1
Brussels, 12 December
After a long and sometimes exhausting year of events celebrating his 400th anniversary, Evliya finally made it to Brussels. The historical Evliya never came this far, of course, despite the fantasy sections in which he claims to have accompanied Tartar irregulars on raids as far as the cities of the North Sea, including what appears to be Amsterdam.
But on 12 December, thanks to the Turkish Studies programme of Ghent University and the Yunus Emre Centre in Brussels—formerly the Istanbul Centre there—Evliya was the talk of this European capital.
Introduced by Yunus Emre Centre director Ebru Costa, and by Hilmi Kacar, founder of Turkish Studies at Ghent, the event was moderated by author and journalist John van Daele. A panel of Evliya experts introduced a packed auditorium to our equestrian traveller. Renowned Ottoman historian, Suraiya Faroqhi, spoke eloquently yet learnedly on the ways that Evliya’s Seyahatname has, and has not, been read over the years. Evliya’s manuscript first saw the light of day in printed form in von Hammer’s Englished version of the first volumes, while the earliest printed ‘editions’ in Turkish were short selections that gave Evliya the reputation of merely writing fantastic tales. Although reliable editions of the manuscript are only now starting to appear, Evliya became widely known throughout Turkey during the 1970s as the ‘hero’—alongside his noble steed Küheylan—of a popular cartoon series broadcast on Turkish television.
The Evliya Çelebi Way project’s own Mac suggested that Evliya deserves serious consideration alongside William Shakespeare as one of the world’s greatest authors. Yeliz Ozay of Bilkent University spoke of how Evliya characteristically varied established traditions when reporting ‘wonders’ and ‘marvels,’ showing how his literary artistry defies definition in terms of fact and fiction. Guneş Işiksel from the College de France in Paris followed Evliya to Africa on his travels there, and evaluated his status as one of the earliest historians of sub-Saharan peoples and cultures.
After a short break, the auditorium packed out again. After a brief welcoming by the Turkish ambassador to Belgium—HE Ismail Hakkı Musa—van Daele sparked off an animated discussion of the possible relevance of Evliya to today’s world. The audience quickly picked up the theme, which was pursued for well over an hour. Mac managed to squeeze in a reklam for the Evliya Çelebi Way project and guidebook, assuring all that walking or cycling were real alternatives to taking to the horse. Everyone was pleased to adjourn for a koktayl and meze reception: rumours of future Evliya events to be hosted by Turkish Studies at Ghent circulated freely.