Julian Sayarer won the Stanford Dolman prize for travel writing in 2017 for Interstate, a portrait of the United States he made by hitchhiking from New York to San Francisco. His usual mode of transport, though, is the bicycle, which, he believes, allows him to “see better and so write better of everything… around it”. After six months cycling round the world and setting a new circumnavigation record, a journey recollected in his debut, Life Cycles, he returned to work as a bicycle courier in London and wrote Messengers. He has since cycled through Israel and Palestine (Fifty Miles Wide) and across Portugal and Spain (Iberia). In his next book, he’s back in the saddle again, in what he has called his “second nation”, Turkey, in the run-up to the centenary — on October 29 this year — of the founding of the Turkish Republic by Kemal Atatürk and his companions after the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Sayarer was born in London, the son of a Turkish father and an English mother, and grew up in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire. In his mid-twenties, he cycled half a dozen times through Europe to Turkey. In the new book, Türkiye (Quercus, October 12, £25), he explores the country as a whole, setting out from Atatürk’s house in Thessaloniki, in modern-day Greece, and finishing at the border with Armenia. The result, his publisher says, “is a love letter to a country and its neighbours — one that offers a clear-eyed view of Türkiye and its place in a changing world. Yet the route is also marked by tragedy, as Sayarer cycles along a major fault line just months before one of the most devastating earthquakes in the region’s modern history.”