The magic of love, intrigue and passion in the style of "1001 nights"

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The magic of love, intrigue and passion in the style of "1001 nights"
The magic of love, intrigue and passion in the style of "1001 nights"

The American Linda Lafferty is the author of three books that have enjoyed international success. The novel with which she will meet the Bulgarian public for the first time is " Nights of the Ottoman Princess". Underneath the writer's modest but radiant exterior is a true researcher of human nature. The entire spectrum of virtues and vices is revealed in her novel. The behavior of her characters - from the seemingly most evil to the so-called good - is always perfectly motivated. The world it describes is not our modern world, but a fascinating story, a glimpse into an authentic historical period, but in which we will find characters and actions that we still encounter today.

The novel "Nights of the Ottoman Princess" has several specific features - the strong female characters; the idea that one can achieve redemption and find peace and insight into the darkest and most hidden corners of the human soul.


“Yes, they say that I write perhaps somewhat darkly. But such is human nature. I hope that I also manage to show the light that dispels this darkness. When I tune into a historical wave, I try to do my best to create that world in which my characters live. This is not our world… But I hope you like it.”

In "Nights of the Ottoman Princess", political ambitions and well-kept secrets in the harem, seduction and longing in the spirit of "1001 Nights" will take us to Istanbul from the beginning of the 19th century.

Constantinople, 1826

Every month at the new moon, when the sun has not yet risen, a boat moves away to the deepest waters of the Bosphorus, between Europe and Asia. There is a strangled cry, a quick clap and… silence again.

The princess – Esma Sultan, the beloved sister of the Sultan, sleeps blissfully in her palace on the coast, having sent another Christian lover to his death.

The Sultan - Mahmud II is considering imposing a new order in the Ottoman Empire and dealing with the unruly Janissaries. That's why he removed the best of them - Agha Ahmed Kadir, sending him to guard the princess.

The Executioner – Ahmed, or Ivan Postiwicz, the born Christian warrior, is trained to ride and fight, but is instead assigned to be Esma Sultan's personal executioner. Two strong personalities face each other…

Esma Sultan falls ill with a strange disease and, on the advice of her doctor, begins to share the thoughts that torment her with the only person privy to her secret. Because it is a disease of the soul, not of the body. Every night she tells Ahmed her life and sends him off before the first rays of the sun, but with a piece of herself revealed:

Who is Esma, what was her life. What turned the princess, who is a friend and protector of women of different nationalities and faiths, into a cruel killer of young men…

Is it possible for a heart to be so disfigured by the cruel acts of power and authority that it ceases to love?

Does love have the power to heal wounded souls and change the course of history?

“Nights of the Ottoman Princess” – a braid of fiction woven around a core of historical truth

Besides writing, the American author Linda Lafferty has another passion - traveling. When she arrived in Istanbul in the summer of 2001, she was captivated by the living history of this city - the rich mix of cultures and religions, and the continuing to this day sense of the incredible influence on the entire world that this city has had over the centuries. Constantinople has often been called the "Jewel of the Universe" - and indeed, its location on the Bosphorus where Europe and Asia meet, its ancient churches and mosques, its massive walls, tall towers and colorful markets are unmatched by anything else in the world, says Lafferty.“The grandeur of this city and the legends of Constantinople mesmerized me. Then how can I not start writing about such a magical place?!

I wove The Nights of the Ottoman Princess as a braid of fiction woven around a core of historical truth. There was indeed an Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II who was an incredibly handsome and powerful ruler and had an older half-sister named Esma Sultan. She was pampered more than anyone else, and her father Abdul Hamid I gave her a palace when she was only ten years old. (Guests to Istanbul can stay in one of its palaces, now converted into an elegant hotel.)

Her life was truly scandalous. Philip Mansell, author of "Constantinople - City of the World's Desires, 1453-1924", writes that Esma roamed all the Christian neighborhoods and villages around in search of lovers. It was also said that after she slept with them, the "exhausted" young men were thrown into the Bosphorus.(Drowning was one of the traditional ways of dealing with enemies and other troublesome persons during the Ottoman period.)

One more thing of interest – although a princess, Esma Sultan had her own harem as well as numerous powerful eunuchs. The harem in those times was a symbol of social status and we alth. In the case of Esma Sultan, her harem may have been primarily a place to house domestic servants, servants, and companions. She really had a women's orchestra.

No less true, unfortunately, is the liquidation of the janissaries by general felling. Many aspects of this sad event are as I have described them. And the order of the Bektashi was actually expelled from Constantinople because it belonged to the janissary corps.

The Hangman of the Bosphorus? After each subsequent lover was drowned, there must have been someone - an executioner - to carry out this execution. And I asked myself what kind of person he was, what nightmares he suffered from, what he regretted. And I started writing.”


“Esma Sultan, you must get dressed for your music lesson!” I can still see my mother giving the eunuch Narcissus a scorching look as she headed inside the harem. Despite the grate blocking the exit, I had still gotten too close to the outside world. "Get back here at once!" A man may see you as he passes through the court on his way to an audience with the Sultan! There will be a big scandal!” Then I lived, of course, together with my mother, whose shadow reached as far as the shadow of the tallest plane tree in the yard. From birth I had the honor of being a sultan-the daughter of a sultan, and as I emerged from my mother's womb I automatically leapfrogged her in rank-for I had Turkish blood in my veins. And she never forgave me for that. If I were a son, I'd put her closer to the throne with the possibility that she might one day become queen mother or valedictorian. But it turned out that all of them? labor pains were for nothing - because I was born a girl. Some mothers considered their daughters a blessing because they were much less likely to be killed in the battle for the throne. And my mother considered me a real insult to the status ?.

Then I thought music lessons were part of revenge ?. We never managed to come to an agreement with the violin - I cursed it, considering it a diabolical invention of the West, forced upon us by the infidels. My fingers were clumsy, the strings cutting my soft fingers and making them bleed. And yet-much to the maestro's dismay-I was forced to take violin lessons because every member of the imperial family had to play some instrument.

“But why do I have to strain my hands with this damn tool?! I shouted once. - Well, I'm not even musical! Even my father admitted that when he heard me!” “You're lucky your father chose to notice the funny in your performance rather than the shame you bring him! – my mother cut me off. "And if you expose yourself to him again with the violin, you can be sure that he will call his daughter a disgrace to the palace and his name!" With these words, my mother tossed back her long brown hair - the same hair with which she had bewitched the Sultana - with contempt.. My hair was quite a bit darker than hers, though not without the reddish ? glare. Although she was already getting old-she was approaching thirty-my mother remained as beautiful as a goddess. The Sultan kept calling her to his chambers, even though he had two hundred other wives. And I continued to be a disappointment to her. "You are not fit for music or women's pursuits. Your father will see to it that he marries you to some old and deaf pasha, who can neither hear your torturous music nor see your pitiful likeness of embroidery!” She kept mocking me as if I were not her daughter. "The other wives and concubines laugh at you," he repeated. “Let me. I don't care what they think," I used to say. "No, my daughter, you have not guessed! When they laugh at you, they laugh at me! You are my creation, the embroidery of my hand! I won't let you betray me!” And with those words he sent me back into the depths of the harem, to our apartment, where I had to change into my clothes for the lesson – the long robe and the yashmak, the transparent face veil.

Narcissus accompanied me to the music room and stayed there while I played. I would take off my yashmak and the teacher would bow to me. Then the maestro would correct the position of my fingers and my chin under the watchful eye of the eunuch. “You must feel the music, Sultan! - he said. - It is in our Turkish souls. Your brother, Prince Mahmud, plays so magnificently that the birds flock to listen to him. You should not treat the tool like a simple piece of wood. He too has a soul that the skillful hand of the fiddler must touch.' And he was right, of course. I think that now, even after all these years, I should try again. It's like I now understand better what he was trying to tell me than I once did when I took a secret delight in the pain I inflicted on him, watching his contorted face struggle to tolerate my invariably false notes.

I think I sort of understood what he meant by "soul". Or so I guessed when I heard my brother playing in the harem. His music filled the corridors with a kind of heavenly glow. Perhaps because he had seen his mother Nakshidil die of a broken heart. He already had a new mother, a French-speaking foreigner who had been given the same name as his real mother. Now she took care of him and did everything in her power to make him understand the passion of music. She also came to my lessons and never failed to encourage me, never mind that I was a big disappointment.

One evening, after another concert in the harem, my little brother found me sulking on a pillow in the corner of the great hall. He sat down next to me under the watchful eyes of my mother and Nakshidil and lifted my chin, “Esma, why are you so sad tonight? Didn't you like the music? I played the violin especially for you - I thought you would recognize my voice among the notes!". I smiled and touched his hand, which was placed gently on my cheek. He was a few years younger than me and loved me like a goddess. “My dear brother,” I replied, “I thought I heard your whisper in the music. But the sweet sounds only made me sadder. I realize that I will never be able to play the violin like you. You're stroking the strings like they're…” Here I blushed and stopped. Mahmoud looked up at his beloved stepmother, who immediately rushed towards us. "Your blush brings our mothers to separate us," he sighed, though I was sure he was very flattered by the color it had brought to my face. "You robbed us of a few more minutes together, but I'll gladly trade them to see the blood stain your face!" U

– I looked up in shock – I couldn't believe that he dared to say that under the roof of the palace. He was still allowed to play with his sisters and cousins just because he was considered an innocent child. But here he was already acquiring the passions of a man and had decided to exercise them on me. Perhaps that is why he, like my cousin Selim, was imprisoned in the cage for princes and released only for great palace ceremonies. “Remember, Esma, we're only half brother and sister! U

When he stood up to meet his and my mother, I felt his warm breath as he sighed. I quickly regained my composure and spoke to the favorite Nakshidil as a princess should. I knew she woke up every day with the hope of someday seeing her son as a sultan on the throne of the empire.

– So your brother has had a crush on you since he was a kid, right? Ivan Postivich finally called. – Is that why he pleases you so now?

– In love? – the princess laughed and covered her eyes with her pale hand, sinking into memories. "But what is love, Janissary?" Such an ignorant word, such a foolish passion!

No one in the imperial harem can afford the luxury of romantic love, what about a prince and a princess who share a father! But the important thing is that my brother cared for me and understood my moods and ambitions as I understood his. It was the same with his cousin Selim, who was older and first to sit on the throne, although in many ways he was much more gentle and compassionate. But when a prince becomes a sultan, he must forget all human emotions. Otherwise - you know what they say? Otherwise, "the Ottoman prince loses his head under the falling leaves of the lemon".

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