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, igniting a ruthless power struggle and forcing Cem into long years of exile, a pawn for European rulers who are desperate to preserve the order they have imposed on the continent over the course of centuries.
The Case of Cem, Vera Mutafchieva’s celebrated novel of court intrigue, maintains lasting resonance for being a personal exploration of emigration and loss set in 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, greedy leaders, unflinching soldiers, and lyrical poets, have indelibly influenced the world as we know it today.
Read Angela Rodel’s Translator’s Note at Lit Hub.