By Peter Constantine
Set in Turkey in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, The Purchased Bride reflects the true story of Constantine's Greek grandmother, Maria, who was bought when she was fifteen by a much older, wealthy Ottoman man.
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
As the Ottoman Empire falls, Maria and her parents flee the torching of their Greek village in the Caucasus by insurgents and find shelter in a refugee camp across the border on Ottoman territory. With impending cholera and plague, the priest who is running the camp arranges for Maria to be married off to a wealthy Ottoman Turk in the capital. This is a desperate measure, for marriage in this case means that the wealthy Muslim gentlemen will pay large sums of money, and that the girls, once purchased, will be the buyers’ concubines.
After Maria has been sold, she and her best friend Lita travel through a fascinating world of ancient and forgotten Ottoman mountain communities. As they get closer to the Black Sea coast, violence escalates with sniper attacks and marauding troops as the Empire is collapsing and breakaway provinces are declaring themselves independent caliphates in defiance of the Sultan. When Maria's friend Lita escapes, Maria is left to face her fate alone.
In spite of the mounting violence Maria’s caravan continues to head for the Black Sea port where she is to leave on the last ship to Constantinople. A story of war, struggle, and ultimate success, The Purchased Bride sheds light on a turbulent and dangerous part of history.
Peter Constantine is a literary translator and editor, and the director of the Literary Translation Program at the University of Connecticut. His recent translations, published by Random House (Modern Library), include The Essential Writings of Rousseau, The Essential Writings of Machiavelli, and works by Tolstoy, Gogol, and Voltaire. His translation of the complete works of Isaac Babel received the Koret Jewish Literature Award and a National Jewish Book Award citation. A Guggenheim Fellow, he was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann, and the National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov. This is his first novel.