Saturday, 24 November 2012

Brian Sewell - South from Ephesus revisited.



One of the joys of my recent "retirement" is sorting through my very dusty bookshelves and coming up with a gem I had forgotten I owned and having the time to sit down there and then and start reading.  I can remember buying Brian Sewell's "South from Ephesus" quite soon after it was published in 1988 and loving the honest impressions of South West Turkey.  At that time I hadn't seen him on the TV or read his magazine columns, but was seduced by the painting of the Gümüşkesen in Milas on the back cover.  This volume is a selective record of 10 years of Sewell's visits to Turkey from 1975 to 1985, covering the coast from Ephesus to Side.  It's not a guide as such, more a running dialogue of history, archaeology, anthropology, art, geography and sex that you might enjoy if you were lucky enough to have an extremely well informed travelling companion.  He bounces from the Carians to The Renaissance as he wanders or stumbles around befriending local dogs, cats and villagers. We are now accustomed to his dismissive, grumpy delivery, but I was quite shocked by it in the 1980s. He obviously loves the country but won't be sidetracked from describing it's  drawbacks, even when accompanied by a car and driver donated by the Turkish Tourist board. Especially when, as he can't stand the guide who seems to have no interest in the archaeology, is incapable of pre-booking a damp-free hotel, shouts at waiters and is more interested in his carpet commission.  Sewell's description of an over-weight belly dancer's contortions while submitting  her audience to extortion on a damp New Year's Eve in Bodrum is an image that is still making me cringe.   I love his description of getting lost trying to find Gerga as we did the same although, unlike Sewell, we did eventually find the site and didn't fall into the river. This book has been out of print for a while so I was extremely pleased to get an email from Amazon announcing it's  availability.








20 comments:

  1. B to B, This book sounds like great fun - thanks for the review. We'll be on the lookout.

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    1. I think it will appeal to your sense of humour. It is very irreverent.

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  2. Interesting...I've not read a lot of books about Turkey...perhaps I should try this one...will try to remember to check Amazon for a Kindle edition!

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    1. aIt is available on UK kindle - link to the right. It should be available on US Kindle

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  3. It sounds like a great read. Definitely one to add to my list.

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    1. It's a bit risque - but a good read.

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  4. That sounds like traveling the way it really is! Im looking forward to tracking it down having just started reading again. Thanks!

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    1. I presume it has been re-issued as the second part of his autobiography has just come out.

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  5. Risque and a good read...I haven't seen Sewell on the box so the book will come fresh...thank you.

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  6. ..... will look into purchasing this book.Looks like something I will enjoy reading.Thanks for posting this... :-)

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    1. I think you will relate to much of the book, having been connected with Turkey for such a long time

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  7. I love old Brian’s deliciously witty, brutally frank and withering sardonic style when he writes. He takes no prisoners. Unfortunately, I cringe when I hear him talk – like the Queen chewing a wasp! (Sorry, Brian).

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    1. That's why I like the book - I can tone down his voice in my head. Your episode in the barbers in Fethiye came to mind when I re-read this.

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  8. . . one to add to the 'oldish' books about Turkey shelf - it's fun to have the time to dip in and out at leisure.

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    1. It;s been out of print for a while . It is almost history itself now.

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  9. This is the first book I read about Turkey, before my first visit in the early 1990s, and still treasure it. I haven't read the preface in the new edition but the review in Cornucopia mentions Sewell's sadness and bitterness about himself and Turkey. Given the current rate of change, the descriptions in this book will soon seem as distant and belonging to the past as Freya Stark's. I suppose the world must change. Sigh.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Christine - There are still bits which ring a bell today - but as a historical record, it is priceless.

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  10. Hello, I've never read a book about Turkey. Never. And this one seems a good place to start. I'll see if it's in the Independence, Missouri, library. If not, I'll order it from Amazon. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Peace.

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    1. I'm not sure this should be your first book about Turkey - maybe 3rd or 4th. It's has a different attitude to most books.

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