A quick post today to get us started on our Turkey challenge for the month of November….
For many people, the most obvious writer to spring to mind would be Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, the creator of novels such as My Name is Red, Snow and The Museum of Innocence.
I am actually most of the way through Museum of Innocence, and while I am enjoying aspects of it, it is kind of a tough read. It might be because I am reading it in fits and bursts, but the novel is a 560-page story of one man’s obsessive love for his cousin, and at times it is truly agonizing. Unfortunately I cannot give you a proper review of this book, as I am now traveling for the rest of November and I am afraid Pamuk is just too big to carry with me, so Museum of Innocence remains unfinished this month.
On August 17, 1999, northwestern Turkey was hit by a powerful earthquake
which killed around 17,000 people and left about half a million without homes. (More info on the earthquake from the BBC
The novel is the story of an Istanbul family and the impact this event had on them, both in the immediate aftermath and many months into the future.
Shopkeeper Sinan is a Kurdish refugee who desperately tries to keep a hold on his family, religion and values after the earthquake throws everything into
chaos. His teenage daughter Irem has fallen in love with an American boy, his home is destroyed, and cultural and religious clashes abound as the city is filled with well-meaning foreigners who have arrived to ‘save’ both the bodies and souls of the victims.
For those of us with liberal Western upbringings, Sinan’s stubbornness, pride, inability to let go of grudges and patriarchal values will be a challenge, but this is one of the many aspects of the novel I enjoyed. I am forced into Sinan’s shoes. I wouldn’t want him to be my father, but I find myself on his side on many occasions, and willing him to accept that he must adapt to the inevitable changes surrounding him.
As always I am fascinated by novels based on historical events. I may not have paid a great deal of attention to the 1999 earthquake at the time, but ever since reading this novel
, it is etched in my ‘memory’ forever. I had actually read the book several months before the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and I am sure that my understanding of that disaster was enhanced by reading Gardens of Water. Even now, almost a year later, I know characters similar to Sinan and Irem are continuing to try and rebuild their lives in devastated Haiti, long after the world’s attention has passed.
I also enjoyed the books’s exploration of the relationship between Turks and Kurds, an ongoing discord which I knew very little about. While the novel
does not go into the issue in any great depth, it is always helpful to have characters like Sinan in mind when trying to make sense of historical conflicts such as this.
So that’s me for Turkey….what are you reading? Are you attempting Pamuk? Or do you have some other wonderful reads you can share with us? For inspiration, have a look at Packabook’s books set in Turkey
shopfront, and make your choice.
Let us know in the comments below what you plan to read and then leave us a link to any reviews of Turkish-linked books on your own blog…
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