Festival guest Richard Fidler is known to many as the presenter of Conversations with Richard Fidler, an in-depth, up close and personal interview program broadcast across Australia on ABC Radio. He’s interviewed prime ministers, astronauts, writers and scientists, but the program often features remarkable people who are unknown to the wider world.
In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son made a journey to Istanbul. Their journey became the starting point for Fidler’s debut book Ghost Empire that will be released in late July.
Inspired by Richard’s passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire – centred on the legendary Constantinople – Ghost Empire sweeps us into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilisations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder.
Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.
‘When my son turned 14, we set out to explore the ghost empire of Constantinople. It was to be a coming-of-age adventure, of sorts,’ says Fidler.
‘My ambition was that Joe and I would walk the entire length of the fabled Land Walls of Constantinople, from the sea of Marmara all the way to the Golden Horn: this was where the Roman Empire died in agony, in the most bizarre and dramatic siege in medieval history.
‘Once you know the story of the Byzantine Empire, you can’t help but feel its ghost pressing against you. You feel it in the crumbling walls.
‘You become suffused with it as you stand under the golden dome of the Hagia Sophia. You hear its echoes in the shadows of the cavernous underground cistern of Justinian.
‘The story of how Constantinople flourished into greatness and then expired in terrible violence is one of the strangest and most moving stories I know. I wanted my son to have that story too.’
• Richard Fidler will be at Byron Writers Festival in conversation with Rosemarie Milsom (Sunday), Fatherhood with David Leser (Sunday), Bearing Witness: The Power of Story with Angela Flournoy and Debra Oswald (Saturday).