Reading about Istanbul “Just for heart and soul…” part-2


Reading about Istanbul, part-2,   Just for heart and soul…

There are some books which have influenced my understanding of life in Turkey, its history and present, customs and spirit.

Usually I don´t buy the books at the airport, because of lack of time and concentration, but Buket Uzuner´s My name is Istanbul was a temptation I couldn´t resist. I think this is one of the most poetic books I´ve ever read. Short stories, glimpses like a kaleidoscope. Istanbul like bits of colorful glass changing patterns. In this book Istanbul, the mighty and mysterious woman, narrates her story looking back through the centuries. Very elegant and vigorous. Not possible to retell, it´s an impression.

Kasımpaşa-İstanbul, photos by Eleka Rugam-Rebane

Kasımpaşa-İstanbul, photos by Eleka Rugam-Rebane

Some years ago I had read Orhan Pamuk in Estonian. Snow was the name of his book. It was translated into Estonian shortly after Pamuk´s Nobel prize. I really tried to follow the story but at that point of time I was not ready. I believe I couldn´t understand the context, I had never been to Turkey. There were too many missing bits and pieces in this picture.  Now, years later I found Pamuk´s Istanbul: Memories and the City. Enjoyable experience, eye-opening reading. This is a description of Istanbul life in 1950-60s through an upper class family story. Stories explaining one side of the Turkish mindset or mood. I became thirsty for another Pamuk after reading this and bought one of his latest novels Museum of Innocence in a bookshop on Istiklal. It´s a beautiful but a very sad story really how love can be unbearably painful and obsessive. I would say that reading Museum of Innocence requires a stabile mental condition. In case your (love) life is a mess, better skip it… I have read somewhere that Pamuk has established a museum, Museum of Innocence http://www.masumiyetmuzesi.com/public/ .  It should have been opened somewhere in Cukurcuma. I was looking for it, but couldn´t find it… Would have been interesting to see how he has “materialized” the story.

Beyoğlu-İstanbul, photos by Eleka Rugam-Rebane

Beyoğlu-İstanbul, photos by Eleka Rugam-Rebane

Right now I´m in the middle of Elif Shafak´s The Bastard of Istanbul. Well, it´s an easy reading, not complete waste of time…but… well, you know, once you´ve started with a book you feel like finishing it anyway. Shafak tells simultaneously different stories of Turkish and Armenian families which are connected to each other. She tries to enlighten the reader about Turkish-Armenian problematic historical background through the lens of these families. There are two young women in the middle of the plot, living in Istanbul and in San Francisco, looking for their roots and discovering the mysteries of their families. Yes, the main storyline is about (and maybe for) women, men appear to be rather secondary characters there.
Even if I´m not too fond of this book, it certainly deserves reading. Shafak´s book has got a pretty good review on NYT  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/19/arts/19iht-IDSIDE20.4263447.html?_r=1

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5 responses to “Reading about Istanbul “Just for heart and soul…” part-2

  1. Julia, you are so right about translations :) Recently I discovered that Pamuk´s Kara Kitap was translated to Estonian. Now I´m reading it. But the range of translated Turkish writers could be much wider.

  2. Julia, you are so right about translations ;) Recently I discovered to my surprise that Pamuk´s Kara Kitap had been translated to Estonian. Now I´m reading it. But the range of translated Turkish writers could be wider.

  3. I’ve read a few Orhan Pamuk books but his Istanbul memoir is a definite favourite. I found Snow heavy going but made myself read it to the end. Never read an Elf Shafak but intend too soon. :) Would be good to see more Turkish literature translated for us all, wouldn’t it?
    Julia

  4. Thanks, Ceylan, for your your reading tip, I appreciate it a lot as I don´t know much of Turkish literature… requires some research and discovering.

  5. Unfortunately, Museum of Innocence is not opened yet. It is a red, wooden building on Bogazkesen cad. going up to Cukurcuma. I would also recommend Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s A Mind at Peace; one of the most renowened writers of Turkish literature. This book takes place in Istanbul and was written in 1949.

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