Every individual is actually a chorus. This brilliant beefy historical fiction imagines unraveling the story of Cem, pretender to the Ottoman throne & at one point arguably the most important person on Earth, through the testimony of dozens of historic figures. Rich in detail, insight, and narrative, this is a must for fans of historical fiction.
It’s 1481, and as seen from the centers of power in Rome and Venice, the cultures of Europe are under threat from the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. When the exalted Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror dies his eldest son, Bayezid, takes the throne. However, discontented factions within the Ottoman army urge Mehmed’s second son, Cem, a well-educated and experienced warrior, to oppose his brother’s ascension, setting off a ruthless power struggle and forcing Cem into long years of exile, a pawn for European powers that are struggling to maintain the order they have imposed on the continent over the course of centuries.
The Case of Cem, Vera Mutafchieva’s sprawling novel of court intrigue, maintains lasting resonance for being a personal exploration of emigration and loss as told through the historical era during which the politics of the East and West were sketched out with utter clarity. These early lines of demarcation, as voiced through Christian and Muslim emissaries, power hungry rulers, unflinching warriors, and poets, have indelibly influenced the word as we know it today.
About the Author
Angela Rodel is a literary translator who holds degrees from Yale and UCLA in linguistics and ethnomusicology. Eight Bulgarian novels in her translation have been published in the US and UK. She has received NEA and PEN translation grants. Her translation of Georgi Gospodinov’s Physics of Sorrow won the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Literary Translation, and her translation of his novel Time Shelter made The New Yorker’s list of “Best Books of 2022.” A two-time Fulbright scholar, she now lives in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she serves as executive director of the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission.
Vera Mutafchieva (1929-2009) is one of the most influential Bulgarian writers of the twentieth century and undisputedly the most prominent female novelist in the Bulgarian canon. Mutafchieva is known for her intricate historical novels that offer nuanced insight into the complex layers of Balkan history, with its Slavic, Ottoman, and Byzantine Greek threads. The Case of Cem has been translated into dozens of languages; this is the first-ever English-language translation.
"A brilliant and polyphonic novel in which each chapter offers a new point of view, adds a new dimension. A story told through the voices of the living and the dead. A novel that today sounds very topical in the context of contemporary writing and the European East.” —Georgi Gospodinov, Author of Time Shelter, winner of the International Booker Prize 2023
"A beefy historical fiction told in individual testimony so it reads like an oral history. . . . inherently exploring how history is always a story." —Josh Cook, Author of The Art of Libromancy and Porter Square Books co-owner and bookseller
"A rich combination of political machinations, court intrigue, and the feel of get-this secret-telling and gossip, the book raises big historical—and still timely—questions about the tensions between East and West." —The Boston Globe
"A wonderful, complex, colourful tale, a joy to read." —The Modern Novel
"A book that—like the great novels of Ismail Kadare or Orhan Pamuk—belongs to the world [...] A reader like me reads it for seven days, trying to lengthen the 540 pages of the novel as much as possible." — Miljenko Jergović, author of Kin
"With a sense of portent nigh on apocryphal, Mutafchieva’s novel is in fact a story of the internal other: the stranger within, against whom we base our own self-image. . . . Mutafchieva is comparing Cem to that great other of Europe: the Balkans. In her telling, the Balkans are everything that Western Europe is not." —https://www.full-stop.net