The British Socialist 1913

Pierre Loti and Turkey

Source: Unsigned, “Pierre Loti and Turkey,” The British Socialist, Vol. 2., No. 2. Feb 15, 1913, pp. 90-1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The celebrated novelist, Pierre Loti, whose descriptions of Turkey are so enchanting, asked by “l’Humanité” – to express his views on the present situation there, sent the following letter: –

Monsieur le Directeur, – You ask me to give you my impression of the new phase of the Turco-Bulgarian tragedy. How should I refuse it to your paper, which has the rare privilege of being one of the few to remain impartial and not to injure the vanquished? But your amiable request arrives somewhat late, for all that my conscience and my inclination oblige me to say I have already said – in the “Gil Blas,” the only one of the papers I approached which had the courage to comply and to break through the conspiracy of silence on the atrocities perpetrated by the very Christian arms.

Besides, on the subject of this “supreme pressure” (to speak like you in euphemism) which Europe is preparing to exercise against dying Turkey, I should find nothing to say so true, so beautiful nor so irrefutable as what was said by Ahmed Riza and Halil Bey, to whom you last Sunday extended the hospitality of your columns, and I should also have difficulty in remaining, like them, resigned and parliamentary.

By what iniquity does Europe, desirous of insuring peace, which it needs so greatly, bring all its pressure and threats to bear on that unfortunate, distressed Turkey, which has already ceded so much, and never on the Bulgarians, who, on the contrary, have ceded nothing, feeling themselves sustained by a colossus in arms at their back, and who have never for a moment departed from their intransigence and their arrogance? How shall one fail to be horrified at all the meanness on the part of nations supposed to be civilised, in driving to the utmost limits of despair a people to which they formerly promised so much, and which to-day addresses itself to their justice and their pity? Not only justice, commonsense, and the principle, so often invoked, of the grouping of races, command to leave to Turkey that heroic town and province of Adrianople, which are full of tombs and of souvenirs of Islam, and which are entirely peopled by Mussulmen. But there is also, and above all, this which maddens the poor Turks, which would be enough to render sublime their most unreasonable obstinacies and their most sanguinary revolts: their brothers who are going to be bent beneath the baleful and ferocious Bulgarian dominion, what will become of them: In spite of the false promises of Ferdinand of Coburg, millions of Mussulmen, abandoned beyond the new frontiers, what will they have to expect but a continuation of these coldly systematic massacres, these attacks, which even the armistice was not able to interrupt, and which will soon have transformed the country around Adrianople into one vast field of death? (I say this because I know it; and, in spite of the rigid censorship which stops the news, in spite of the lies of a certain subsidised press, the whole world will soon know it, too.)

With what painful stupefaction have I seen our country, through devotion to the Slavs, associate itself, even to the point of militancy, with this unqualifiable “pressure"! ... The eminent man who directs us – and with so much integrity, goodwill and genius – will doubtless recover possession of himself, will once more remember, I dare to hope, the generous traditions of France before going any further on this path, which does not seem to coincide with our traditions. To carry to a finish the destruction of Turkey by forcing the cession of Adrianople would be to sully our national honour, and also it would also irremediably prejudice our interests, give the death-blow to our secular influence in the East, to our millions of educational institutions, and our various industries, which, since the time of Francis I., have flourished there in complete freedom, in that Turkey which was so completely tolerant, which loved us to the point of almost having to become a French-speaking people.