Two green otters by Buket Uzuner

Two Green Otters

Two green otters by Buket Uzuner

Turkish fiction

Original title – İki Yeşil Susamuru, Anneleri, Babaları, Sevgilileri ve Diğerleri

Translator – Alexander Dawe

Source – review copy

It wasn’t so long ago when there wasn’t many Turkish novels available outside those by Orhan Pamuk was small , but this last couple of years a few more writers have appeared and a number of strong female voices from Turkey Buket Uzuner I would count in that group like Birgul Oguz and Ciler Ilhan that I have reviewed in recent years shining a light on the female experience of modern Turkish life . Buket studied biology and environmental studies before becoming a writer.

That year a lot of my friends parents got divorced, and we picked on each other in a way that only children can do . We’d say , “Yours aren’t divorced yet ? That’s so uncool, and then we’d laugh. These days I often run into those old friends of mine and nobody laughs about it the way we used to .

Those parents who were leaving hom at the time started up another trend : They’d move to “undiscovered” little towns and villages on the mediterranean coast. Sevin, my mom’s friend from college, was the first in our family to get divorced.Ner husband Semih, an electrical engineer, moved to Bodrum with a young actress and opened a restaurant

I connect with this passage as my own parents split and like Nilsu it was rare in this time for parents to divorce.

The book is the story of  one young womans life in the 1980’s Nilsu has lost her mother how has abandon her at maybe the most important point in her life the verge of adulthood. Her mother took off and this has left the young woman struggling to trust and vulnerable to the wider world at this point she meets the enigmatic Teo who is the leader of a green party in the Turkey . The two fall for each other but hold off on doing anything that is until Teo own mother takes her life and leads him to a downspiral with only Nilsu to help him out as the two draw closer and his political world becomes more turbulent. They try to help them get back to the calmer side of life and carry on with their lives .

“We can talk about Thoreau , Gandhi , Tolstoy and Schumacher “, he said , full of zeal, “but Lao-Tse was the grandfather of them all! Now there is Foucault , and maybe me!” around the same time Siddhartha was making waves in europe and thanks again to Ulla , Teoman got a copy- she still sends him books now and then – hut he knew how differently such a book would affect European Christians and Mediterranean Muslims.

This shows how when books get translated the power they can have over those that read them !!

This is a wonderful insight into how a young woman struggles to get by through in their own world especially in what in Turkey is a very Male oriented society add to the lix her involvement with the green movement at a time when Turkey was just getting over the last of a number of military coups that had happened during the 197o’s . A country that had decide to start looking to the west and is growing, but the green movement is the flipside of this growth. Nilsu and Teo are the new face of Turkey the fresh-faced willing to stand alone and willing to sand together finding strength together in the end as they stop each other from diving into the depths of despair .A great insight into Turkey at the time just as it is waking up to the world maybe and a great leap forward .

 

 

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Hah Birgul Oguz

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Turkish Fiction

Translators –

Kenneth Dakan, Alexander Dawe, mark Wyers, Alev Ersan, Arzu Akbatur, Abigail Bowman, Feyza Howell, Amy Spangler and kate ferguson.

Original title Haha

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letterbox earlier this year, i noted on twitter that it was one of my favourite covers the lonely dog on the cover maybe lets you into more what is on the inside. that is one woman getting to grip with her own fathers death. This collection won the European union prize for literature in 2014 and meant this wonderfully short book could get a wider audience. Birgul lives in Istanbul and has written both fiction and non fiction in her time.

MY MOTHER DIDN’T GIVE BIRTH TO ME. On a whim she left me there under an acacia. And it came to be that I found myself at the foot of Acacia. It rustled and I held on, rustled and I held on. When I was still no larger than a bean I became the dark shadow of that looming tree.

Thank God my mother set me free too soon. I am cool and I am alone. I am the image and the shadow and the oasis to the spirit of the acacia, dripping from its heavy boughs. sentence is anguish to the soul and I never tasted of it. I am solitude. I am that which is distant to the world.

The opening lines of Hah which as I noted has Acacia trees in it as a motif

 

This is one of those books that falls between the lines of what it is a novella in stories, prose pieces or short stories. What we get is abstract poetic stories as one woman struggles to find the way to deal with her father’s death. His past as he grew up in the violent years of Turkish rule in the late 1960’s. There is recurring motifs like acacia trees which crop up in more than one story I feel the wider brim of the acacia is a metaphor for the lost father in a way . Metaphor as well water trickling is like her father’s life as it trickled away from him. A journey through the ways we mourn those closest  to us.We also see the old Turkish life and the modern Turkish world clashing.

She stepped outside. She felt the cold slap her across her face and – clack!- the tongue of the door snapped into place.She hurried down the fig-lined road and , as she turned into Long Meadow Street, shook off three word from the branches of her mind:time, paper, death

The acacia began to sway back and forth with rage of the wind, at its roots lay those three acrid words, fallen like unripe fruit. Then it bent down heavily, as if to unload its entire weight onto that of the morning in an aching march, delivering a clumsy sentence in a voice dark and deep yet vaporous.

Acacia again from one of the last stories but a bent broken tree now .

This is a short work 88 pages long and as I said is hard to pin down thew language is rich and given the fact it was worked on at a ten-day workshop for Turkish literature means you can see how many translators have tighten Birguls words to the beautiful piece we get here. Another triumph for world editions rarely do we see such short works as this translated into English. Birgul uses a variety of styles from poetic prose , to songs  and short stories as she put in her winning speech for the european union Literature prize  she wove these styles together like a cloth. She started writing the book after the loss of her own father. As her way to deal with the rage and loss of her father she also said this in her winning interview. A great new voice from Turkey to read.

Have you a favourite Turkish writer ?

A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

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Well for the 600th book to be reviewed on the blog it is fitting that it is a translated novel by a Nobel winner. I have reviewed Orhan Pamuk twice before on the blog silent house and the museum of innocence , I have also read snow , my name is read and The white castle before I started blogging, its fair to say Orhan Pamuk is one of those Nobel winners that fit into the writes good not great books I have loved every book by him I have read. This is maybe his grandest book as it tackles Four decades of Istanbul life. Writers and their cities Joyce with Dublin , Doblin in Berlin and Pamuk with Istanbul. This time he has seen the city through one man and the extended network he has.

This is the story of the life and daydreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of Boza and yoghurt. Born in 1957 on the western edge of Asia, in a poor village overlooking a hazy lake in central Anatolia, he came to Istanbul at the age of twelve, living there, in the capital of the world, for the rest of his life. When he was twenty-five, he returned to the province of his birth, where he eloped with a village girl.

The intro Mevlut (the del boy of Turkey) goes to town only to return for his girl.

THe main character in A strangeness in mind is Mevlut, he like many of his generation was drawn to the ever-expanding Istanbul. Like many a young man well he was twelve at the time in search of money and a new life. Of course like many broken dreams Mevlut never quite get where he wants, he is rather like a Turkish Del boy in that way he tries different jobs Selling yoghurt, guarding a car park and always drawn back to selling the Boza in the evenings as he tries to escape the world he is in.

Following months of endless debate, they decide that these letters should be based not on Mevlut’s notions about women but rather on what he knew about Rayiha in particular. Since the only aspect of Rayiha known to Mevlut was her eyes, logic dictated that they should be the focus of the letters .

Mevlut meets her and then in a chater we find out how he started writing love letters to her .

Add to this the love affair between Mevlut and Rayiha, part of the novel is formed of the love letters he sends her back to the village they come from, eventually after a few years she comes and joins him and they are married have kids but their life is tough hence the roles of second jobs Mevlut has to have to make ends meet during the book. As he struggles to fill the role of man of the house that is expected of him.As he says maybe he has a strangeness in my mind , he is a daydreamer!

Through all this feverish activity, the authorities could still send the gendarmes to a hastily built home and knock it down whenever they felt like it or found it politically expedient to do so. The keywas to finish building the house and start living in it as soon as possible. If a house had occupants, it could not be demolished without a warrant, and this could take time to obtain. As soon as they had chance anyone who claimed a plot of land on a hill would , provided they had any sense, recruit their friends and family to help them put up four walls over night then move in immediately so that the demolition crews couldn’t touch them next day.

The slums grow and are knocked down if you aren’t clever enough to claim your spot .

THen the third main character in the book is the background that is the city ever shifting from the early days when he arrives we see how the city grows but like an unruly plant has to be tend and cut back and the parts that are cut back are the parts of the city that Mevlut and his friends live in the slums. Filled with the little people who keep this huge city running and the people who live their in the background , the sellers , the guards , the cleaners the once that never get really notice. The ones that are drawn their by dreams and eventually like where they live crumbled in their dreams.

A huge novel in scope this is maybe  his most ambitious novel. As he takes an almost Dickensian look at the city he so loves and those that are on its underbelly. The inner working those we know but don’t always see the Mevlut yes he is like Del Boy dreams of that one big break but we know in our heart it will never come.I said the other day maybe writers don’t write their best books after winning the big prize. But possibly Pamuk is bucking that trend.

A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish fiction

Translator – Ekin Oklap

 

Exiles by Çiler İlhan

Exiles by  Çiler İlhan

Turkish – short stories

 

Original title –  Sürgün

Translator –  Ayşegül Toroser Ateş

 

Source – review copy

Wear something bright and turn away
Imagine girls behaving in that way
Why don’t you pack your bags and leave?
Look here’s another bruise I didn’t see

You can’t say, it doesn’t really matter
This isn’t T.V., he isn’t William Shatner
Oh, I’ve told you before

These days, you look so pale and thin
Wave down the bus and let’s be rid of him
You’ve spent this night beside your T.V. set
Remember when you used to laugh at it, you laughed a bit

You can’t say, it doesn’t really matter
This isn’t T.V., he isn’t William Shatner
Oh, I’ve told you before

I choose a song from my youth that struck me about how tv heroes hitting women don’t make it ok .

Another book from Istros and this is another EU literature  prize winner .Çiler İlhan is a Turkish writer . She started of studying political science and then hotel management .Taking up a career in hotel business ,whilst writing in her spare time .She currently works as editor in chief for Conde nast traveller in Turkey and lives in Istanbul  .She has won prizes in Turkey for her short stories , this is her first collection to be published in english .

The three of them suddenly came into my room one night . I saw that my favourite brother , the youngest of my big brothers , had a cable in his hand ! He wrapped it around my throat before I could ask what was going on . he started tightening it .

An honour killing told from the victims point of view in My brother

One word left my mouth after reading this collection WOW .This collection of short stories , well I call them flash monologues myself as Ciler draws the world around her from the American army being in Iraq across the border and what that brings to Turkish life .Then for me the most powerful part of the book is a collection of voices around Honour killing of a sister by a brother  and the way we see this incident from all sides brings the horror to full view .There is a series of recurrent themes  like Batman being a women in Turkey and Iraqi  as the book is divide into five sections with the titles Exile a short one story section crime revenge and cry make up the three middle sections each with stories that are mirrored in the other sections here .and a final section called return with a story that mirrors the first section .

Some kind hearthad brought us a whole load of leftovers and we were full . In good spirits , I mean . Us stray dogs can’t always find something to eat . Some days we just cannot , you understand , but that day we had ; lucky us .And as we what nothing else to do , we were chillin .

Baby girl has another of the themes in the stories dogs and stray dogs .

The power in these collection is the clarity of the voice behind the stories .The stories as I say are very short but the power is in that the punch isn’t drawn out it just smacks you in the face and lets your jaw drop .I think the EU lit prize page about this book winning the prize has it when it quotes Einstein “A formula should be simple as possible and not simpler ” .I was reminded in a way of Alan Bennetts talking heads ,but these have much more impact to the reader these are the espresso of the lit world short and very strong in taste .I think yet again istros has discovered a powerful voice from a country where we have so few translated into English . More important than that a great short story writer ,I struggle with short stories but this for me is the sort of collection that works for me I love recurring themes and the subjects touched in this collection are ones I want to know more about . Have you a favourite book from Turkey ?

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

silent_house

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish Fiction

Original title Sessiz Ev

Translator Robert Finn

Source – Personnel copy

Well I ve read four Pamuk Novels before this one and as is the case in the world of translation ,I’ve read them out-of-order of publications in Turkish I start with my name is read followed by Snow then Back to an earlier book Whit Castle ,then his latest the Museum of Innocence.Now this has arrived in English and was the second novel written by Orhan Pamuk , but is the ninth to be published in English and the first to be translated by Robert Finn .I have previously mention a lot about Pamuk in the other books I reviewed ,he is Turkeys best known writer and has won the Nobel prize for literature .This book is a double hit for me as it is the fourth from the Man Asian Short-list I ‘ve read but also the tenth book I ve reviewed from this year’s independent foreign fiction prize .

But tomorrow they’ll come and I’ll think again . Hello ,hello how are you ,they’ll kiss my hand ,many happy returns ,how are you ,Grandmother ,how are you ,how are you , Grandmother ? I’ll take a look at them .Don’t all talk at once ,come here let me have a look at you ,come close ,tell me what you have been doing ? I know I’ll be asking to be fooled and I’ll listen blankly to a few words of description!

Fatima the night before the hoards descend on here

So Silent House well the title is a bit of joke because this is anything but a book about silence or a silent house .The book is set in the early eighties a turbulent time in Turkey and we are with Fatima and yes at start as she await the hoards to descend (her extended family of grandchildren to arrive for the summer ).The family arrive one by one and each member of the family is like a jigsaw piece as they arrive we learn a bit more about the family ,but also about turkey as a whole as each one of her grandchildren represent a different face of turkey Faruk is the idealist a troubled historian ,the sister Nilgun that is part of a new elite in turkey with money ,a drop-out ,a right-winger ,As they arrive the hose becomes very vocal and the house becomes a micro version of The turkey of the time .The book is set in 1980 just a coup is in the offering .

It’s well after midnight ,but I can still hear them moving about what could they be doing down there ,why don’t they go to sleep and leave me the silent night ? I get out of bed ,walk over to the window ,and look down :Recap’s ;light is still on ,lighting up the garden:what are you doing there ,dwarf ? It’s frighting ! he’s so sneaky ,that one every once in a while I catch him giving me a look ,and I realize he notices everything about me , watching the smallest gestures ,

The house is loud and what does Recap the dwarf know ?

Where does this lie in the body of Pamuk’s work ,well it is very different as one would imagine with a second novel .The book is a book of voices but also a clever way of discussing the turkey of the time without Pamuk using his own voice as he uses the myriad of character in this book to show the troubles with in his own country ,but also to show how these troubles affect people on a personal every day level .The children also in there own ways show how politics effect people in different way , burying your head in the bottle ,being to rich too notice troubles ,joining a gang of fascists and following the latest causes .Then there is Fatima her self the sort of women that runs a large family in her ninties but has the respect of all and she also has a dwarf servant Recap .I did enjoy this more than I have recent Pamuk novels .Now the question is would this have been better published at the time ,part of me thinks yes then another part thinks it is still happening turkey is still a country with many faces and problems of its own and the book still shows how far they have come and how far they have to go .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Orhan Pamuk ? mine is my name is red

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