When Osman, a Turk, met Yiannis, a Greek, by chance, in Izmir – known to Greeks, and to history, as Smyrna – both men still believed, to a greater or lesser extent, the national mythologies of Turkey and Greece. There was, however, an issue – they looked like identical twins. Osman, the more thoughtful of the two, could not get this similarity out of his mind. It set him on a quest “to peel back” the plaster of Turkish and Greek national identities, to find the mosaic beneath.
This is the main theme of the novel, yet given the “millennium-long delicate and deadly embrace” of Greece and Turkey, and the times in question, the mid 2010s, there are several important subtexts to the story. Throughout the work, on both sides of the Aegean, the open wounds of the 1920s Greek-Turkish population exchange, centuries of Greek-Turkish conflicts, the Greek Civil War, and other ethno-religious conflicts in the Balkans, most notably Yugoslavia in the 1990s, surface constantly in the lives of both the main protagonists, their families and friends.
From an early age Alexander Billinis has been interested in history, particularly unofficial history as opposed to its official version. His life, work, travel, and chronicling of history in the Balkans was the subject of his first book, The Eagle has Two Faces: Journeys through Byzantine Europe. This is his first novel. After nearly a decade in Europe, Billinis returned to the US in 2013, settling with his wife and two children in Chicago.
The book Hidden Mosaics: An Aegean Tale by Alexander Billinis is available on Amazon.