The Silence of Scheherazade

Now available (UK); coming September 19 (US)

Set in the ancient city of Smyrna, this powerful novel follows the intertwining fates of four families as their peaceful city is ripped apart by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

On an orange-tinted evening in September 1905, Scheherazade is born to an opium-dazed mother in the ancient city of Smyrna. At the very same moment, a dashing Indian spy arrives in the harbour with a secret mission from the British Empire. He sails in to golden-hued spires and minarets, scents of fig and sycamore, and the cries of street hawkers selling their wares. When he leaves, seventeen years later, it will be to the heavy smell of kerosene and smoke as the city, and its people, are engulfed in flames.

But let us not rush, for much will happen between then and now. Birth, death, romance and grief are all to come as these peaceful, cosmopolitan streets are used as bargaining chips in the wake of the First World War.

Told through the intertwining fates of a Levantine, a Greek, a Turkish and an Armenian family, this unforgettable novel reveals a city, and a culture, now lost to time.

Suman’s tale is at its heart about those small people living their daily lives within the city, loving each other and loving the land beneath them.
—Laurel Taylor, Asymptote

Told in luminous prose, The Silence of Scheherazade is a romance full of rich and memorable characters whose lives collided with a pivotal and tragic moment in history. The novel is a delight.
—Lou Ureneck, author of Smyrna, September 1922
When Smyrna was reduced to ashes in September 1922, the world lost one of its most beautifully cosmopolitan cities. [It is] brought back to life in all its glory in this rich tale of love and loss, giving voice to the silenced, and music to their histories.
—Maureen Freely, chair of PEN, UK

This novel of Old Izmir and the Great Fire of Smyrna is a must-read!
—Ayşe Arman, Hürriyet

Defne Suman is a story-teller. She tells the story of how history inevitably determines our personalities, destinies and lives. She tells the story of how love, emotions and identities are influenced by socio-political events of a lifetime.
—Oya Baydar, Cumhuriyet
I am honored to be a part of the publication of Defne’s book, which portrays the bonds of humanity and love between faiths, nations, ethnic minorities, in English.
—Betsy Göksel, translator

Silence of Scheherazade is a wonderful, social and historical novel, with delicate touches of love, and realistic moments of a daily life that was lost forever.
—Panos Tourlis, Books and Style

What a good novel The Silence of Scheherazade is… It reminds me the darkness in Joyce’s Dubliners and the works of Louis de Bernieres.
—Leyla Çapan, author

A symphony of literature.
—Professor Mete Tapan

About the translator

Betsy Göksel was born in a small town in South Carolina in 1940. After graduating from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, by chance she began teaching English at The American College for Girls in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1962. She married a Turkish engineer and continued teaching English at the school, which merged with Robert College in 1971, for the next 35 years, while raising three daughters. In 1997 she returned to her native country to oversee the birth of grandchildren, the passing of her parents’ generation, then returned to her adopted homeland in 2008. She lives now on the Aegean island of Bozcaada with three dogs and spends her days translation fiction from Turkish to English, writing, reading, and walking with the dogs over the shores, dunes and fields of the island. Her translations include The Hate Trap by Haluk Şahin as well as several books on art and architecture for the Istanbul Municipality.

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Greek

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Excerpt

The horse, scattering fire, moved towards the sea. The people on the quay cried out and raised their arms in alarm. The girl ran after it. The flames had spread to her arms and hands; to her hair and her shawl. She did not notice. Hilmi Rahmi spurred his horse forward. Everyone turned and stared at the cavalry officer galloping towards the girl.

She flew over an old man lying on the ground. With scorched hands, she gathered her burning skirts. Her legs were festering wounds. The soldier’s eyes shone as if lit by electricity. People moved aside. The girl lifted her bare, bloodied foot and leapt into the darkness, ready to join her beloved horse, already deep in the murky water.

Everyone watched as the girl hung in the air like a bird of fire, suspended over the ghastly sea.

And then, through the gloom, an arm reached out. The bird of fire was caught mid-air. Paying no mind to the flames which leapt at his skin from the waist he’d grasped, Hilmi Rahmi threw Panagiota across the back of his horse. The animal whinnied and tried to buck the flaming creature off his back. Panagiota screamed with all her strength. ‘Ohi!

The crowd closed their eyes.

This is an extract from one of final stages of the story, when the flames of the Great Fire of Smyrna is eating the city and hundreds of thousands of Greek refugees are trapped between the fire and the dark waters of the sea at the quay of Smyrna.

Full Praise

“Suman’s tale is at its heart about those small people living their daily lives within the city, loving each other and loving the land beneath them.”
—Laurel Taylor, Asymptote

“Defne Suman has crafted a wonderfully braided story of family secrets set in the magical city of Smyrna. Told in luminous prose, The Silence of Scheherazade is a romance full of rich and memorable characters whose lives collided with a pivotal and tragic moment in history. The novel is a delight.”
—Lou Ureneck, author of Smyrna, September 1922

“When Smyrna was reduced to ashes in September 1922, the world lost one of its most beautifully cosmopolitan cities. Defne Suman and Betsy Goksel have brought it back to life in all its glory in this rich tale of love and loss, giving voice to the silenced, and music to their histories.”
—Maureen Freely, Chair of PEN, UK

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