Tag Archives: An Evil Eye

Anyone with £100,000 to spare? (£5 million preferred)

Speaking of orientalists (see previous blog), Sotheby’s have a sale of Orientalist paintings on April 24th in London. The link is at the end of this post.

The star of the sale, to my mind, is Osman Hamdi Bey’s The Scholar: it could be Yashim’s young friend Kadri, from An Evil Eye, continuing his studies.

The estimate is £5 million.

If it’s too short notice to free up that amount, why not John Frederick Lewis’s A Halt in the Desert?

Lewis was not the first English artist to go East, but he was unusual in settling in Cairo for ten years from 1840, where he quietly worked on his sketch books. The British were about to fall in love with the Middle East. For one thing it was actually quite easy to go there by the 1840s, so that the sort of journeys which Byron had made so much of became almost everyday. David Wilkie, it’s true, didn’t make it home: his death aboard ship was commemorated in Turner’s Peace – Burial at Sea. Richard Dadd came home only to murder his own dad, afterwards pursuing his career inside Broadmoor; but others – like David Roberts – managed to lash themselves around the sites in short order. Even Edward Lear was able to roam from Albania to Petra (‘striped ham’, he noted) and get home safely. There is a good Lear in the sale, too. By the 1860s you could visit Palmyra with Thomas Cook.

Travellers by then could contrast the warmth and personality-based governance of the Ottomans with the repressive machinery of centralised government represented by Russia. After fighting the Ottomans in the cause of Greek independence, the British (and the French) tried to prop up the Sick Man by any possible means; British forces saw off an Egyptian incursion into the sultan’s dominions in 1840 (see An Evil Eye) and, famously, fought alongside the forces of the Sultan in the Crimea; some historians go so far as to describe the Ottoman Empire as a British protectorate in all but name. Echoing the spirit of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s observations in the previous century, some observers compared eastern freedoms favourably with the industrial slavery of Victorian England.

Lewis was not alone in trying to convey the dignity of Ottoman civilisation, partly by his emphasis on craftsmanship over soulless machine products (although by the 1840s, Europeans were unwittingly cooing over Manchester cottons on sale in the bazaars of Constantinople, fully in the belief that they had stumbled over a cache of exquisite native prints). There was a receptive audience for this stuff at home. Thackeray wrote: ‘There is a fortune to be made by painters in Cairo…I never saw such a variety of architecture, of life, of picturesqueness, of brilliant colour, of light and shade. There is a picture in every street, and at every bazaar stall.’ Lewis, whom he championed, really did it best: he may have recycled the same stuff for 25 years after he came home, even trying the patience of Ruskin, who had first encouraged him into oils, but he did it with a shy sense of irony.

Both in The Carpet Seller and in Interior of a Mosque, Afternoon Prayer (The ‘Asr) he renders a disguised self-portrait, once as the carpet dealer, the other as an old military man about to pray, which seem to exude a private yearning for fellowship with a world he could, when all is said and done, only watch from the outside. I like this one, A Harem Scene, Cairo, for the detail:

Lewis and his wife had no children. They never went out to parties, he wrote very few letters, and after all the apparent excitement of Cairene life he seems to have lived a life of quiet and blameless activity with his brushes in Walton-on-Thames, part of which, I am sure, can be glimpsed out of the window of his harem picture. His wife modelled for some of the decorous odalisques. Called upon to speak after dinner at a gathering of watercolourists, he apparently gazed silently at the ceiling and then sat down.

Not many painters do so well.

http://www.sothebys.com/en/catalogues/ecatalogue.html/2012/the-orientalist-sale#/r=/en/ecat.fhtml.L12100.html+r.m=/en/ecat.grid.L12100.html/0/15/lotnum/asc/?cmp=L12100_0412_2_ECATexample/

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Emilia Plater revealed!

Well done everyone who guessed the identity of the Polish amazon: it was Countess Emilia Plater. Born in Lithuania, raised in modern-day Latvia, she died at Kapčiamiestis (Kopciowo) in Lithuania in 1831. This is her monument.

Her extraordinary and short life is well told on Wikipedia, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilia_Plater

The first right answer came from Canada, I believe – so congratulations to falcon44! And if they want their copy of An Evil Eye, I just need an address…

Another quiz soon!

 

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Not Nancy Mitford

The dashing girl whose picture I posted yesterday has been identified as – among others –  Mulan, Maria Walewska (closer), Lady Hester Stanhope, Maria Lebstuck, the Contessa d’Aspi d’Istria (from The Bellini Card), Juana Galan, Lady Chatterton and the young Nancy Mitford.

No. She ain’t any one of them. And the only person who got it right so far is my sister Tabitha, who just knows a lot – but she can’t have the prize copy of An Evil Eye because she’s got one already and anyway family members are debarred from winning, as it says on the cornflake packets.

But here’s a clue or two: Stanislaw Palewski would have both known and admired her, and mourned her passing in 1831 at the tender age of 25.

Here she is, doing her thing the year she died. And that really is a clue.

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Another portrait – and a quiz

One of the joys of writing historical novels, crime or otherwise, is discovering real-life characters and making them part of the story.

I’ve recently become devoted to this young lady. Note the sword, and the fly-away hair – and just begin to guess her life history!

 

To tell the truth, it all ends rather sadly, especially for Ambassador Palewski, Yashim’s old friend. That’s a clue by the way.

Any ideas? Email me secretly at jsn.goodwin@gmail.com and a copy of An Evil Eye to the first right answer: who is she?

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Quiz competition

The US edition of An Evil Eye, the latest Yashim adventure, comes out in paperback on February 28th. To mark the event, the first person to get the right answers to three questions wins two signed copies of An Evil Eye – one for them and one, maybe, for a friend! Everyone’s welcome to have a go, wherever they are in the world.

The questions are:

1. The Valide Sultan, the sultan’s mother and Yashim’s old friend, was born and raised a long way from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Question is – where?

2. Stanislaw Palewski, the Polish ambassador, is lucky enough to have an adoring – and resourceful – housekeeper. What is her name?

3. And finally, Yashim cooks plenty of meals in the course of his investigations. Dishes like stuffed mussels, or tiny eggplants filled with spiced lamb, or vine leaves wrapped around aromatic rice, can be eaten as snacks, or meze, and have a generic name which indicates that they are stuffed. What are they called?

Just type your answers in the reply box below, and hit ‘Post Comment’. The winner will be chosen on March 1st.

Good luck!

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Yashim’s Kitchen III

I don’t know if you’re having turkey this year? Or a goose? We are going for guinea fowl because they are so tasty, with a duck for the crisp skin. I quite like turkey but it makes a greasy stock, and a good stock is what you want for this pilaf.

Mehmet the Conqueror’s Grand Vizier used to serve this as a working lunch in divan, the council meeting held on a Friday. Into it he tossed a gold chickpea for some lucky pasha to discover (or break a tooth on): the Ottoman version of putting a sixpence in the Christmas pudding, perhaps.

 

Ingredients:

Basmati rice

Chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled for an hour (but tinned chickpeas are pretty handy, too)

An onion

butter, salt, festive stock

 

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear – this is to remove the starch, which would make the rice too sticky. Leave it to soak while you melt the onions in butter. When they are soft, add the chickpeas.

Drain the rice, stir it into the pan and add enough stock to cover the rice and a little more.

When the stock has all been absorbed, check the rice; it should be a little nutty, but almost edible. If necessary add a little more stock until the rice is almost done.

Now comes the strange pilaf magic: cover the pan with a cloth and a lid. Over a whisper of heat, or none, let the rice steam for fifteen minutes.

Turn the rice out into a dish, helping to fluff it out with a fork.

This rice method sounds like complicated alchemy, but it’s simple really – and it works.

 

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Stuffed mackerel

 

With some trepidation I prepared this rather spectacular dish in front of sixty people at a literary festival one Summer. It was a complete triumph, as you can see from my expression in the photo.

 

 Yashim cooks this, too, in An Evil Eye.

Ingredients:

A large fresh mackerel, not gutted

Olive oil

For the stuffing: A few shallots, scoop of pine nuts, scoop of chopped blanched almonds, scoop of chopped walnuts, a handful of currants soaked in warm water, a few dried apricots finely chopped, and some herbs and spices – generous pinches of cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves, kirmiz biber or chilli powder, sugar and dill and parsley, finely chopped.

 

Cooking is easy – it’s getting there that’s the challenge. You have to make a small incision beneath the gills, and then draw out the guts, and chuck them away. Lay the mackerel on a board and beat it with a rolling pin, or an empty bottle, making sure you’ve snapped the backbone. Massage the skin gently, to loosen it from the flesh and finally – this is the bit that makes your audience, if you have one, groan out loud – squeeze the whole thing out through the incision below the gills!

It is not easy. Go gently, trying not to tear the skin, as if you were squeezing a tube of toothpaste. You are left with an empty skin, still attached to the head. Rinse it out, making sure to remove any little bones, and set it aside.

Now make the stuffing: sweat the chopped shallots in oil, add all the nuts, and let them colour. Add all the other ingredients except the herbs, and stir them around.

Pick out as much of the flesh as you can from the bones, and mix it into the stuffing, with herbs, a squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook it through for another couple of minutes. Let it cool a bit, and stuff that mackerel! Use a teaspoon, and gradually fill the skin, squeezing the stuffing right down to the end. It looks like a mackerel again.

You can roll the fish in flour and fry it, or better still brush with oil and set it under the grill, hot, until the skin begins to blister.

Finally, with a very sharp knife, slice the mackerel thickly, lay it on a plate like a fish, and serve with lemon wedges.

 

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Housekeeping and apologies

Shortly before the British launch of An Evil Eye, a greedy web-hosting company in Melbourne made off with my website. Largely on principle (and partly because they asked for money, and I’d lost all my original set-up passwords, user names and such), I have walked away from it, with my nose in the air.

I’m about to start another at www.jasongoodwin.info. My children assure me that the dot-info tag is very low, but there’s someone else who has .com and frankly, .info describes exactly what I want. Plus it’s delightfully cheap.

Meantime, apologies to anyone searching elsewhere on the web. Come back later!

I’ve had some great feedback for An Evil Eye already, both in the States and in the UK, and I was chuffed that the Christian Science Monitor chose The Janissary Tree and its sequels as one of its favourite foreign detective series…

http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2011/0701/Top-7-detective-series-set-in-foreign-locales/Yashim-the-Eunuch-series-by-Jason-Goodwin

And here is Marco Ventura’s delicious cover, for Faber in the UK.

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Get Yashim’s cooking on Kindle – free here!

We thought this would be fun for Yashim mystery fans – a mini e-book with some new recipes from Yashim’s kitchen.

You can download it here for free – provided you aren’t in the UK. An Evil Eye comes out in Britain on July 7th, so there’s some sort of embargo. Don’t blame me.

http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Yashim-Turkish-Recipes-ebook/dp/B004XHZ0EC/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304015289&sr=1-12

If you enjoy it, do pass it along so that everyone can have a go!

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Daily Telegraph

Here’s a link to the Telegraph piece which sets up the whole US trip… I wrote it before we set off – and a little bit after we arrived…

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/northamerica/usa/8450091/Jason-Goodwin-promotes-An-Evil-Eye-on-a-road-trip-around-the-United-States.html

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