It takes a village to truly depict the horrors of war and its aftermath.
Birds Without Wings is set in one village of Turkey where Christian and Muslim families have lived and loved for centuries, with mutual respect and affection. All is well until the fall of the Ottoman Empire and WWI sweep everyone into the void of death and destruction.
We see trench warfare through the eyes of a young villager who takes his father’s place when the recruiters come and that personal view is much more devastating than any general account of war could be. largely because we come to feel that the village is ours, that the inhabitants are our friends and neighbors.
We see the destruction of the village after the war when “the powers that be” make political decisions that force people to leave their homes.
Again, it is these personal stories that grip us in the spell of Bernieres’ powerful story telling largely because we come to feel that the village is ours, that we could be them.