I have been putting off the review, one that I could have written midway through the book. I love Elif Shafak's writing in Turkish and in English, andI have been putting off the review, one that I could have written midway through the book. I love Elif Shafak's writing in Turkish and in English, and I have read many of her books, sometimes in both languages. With that said, I have a hard time writing a review for The Forty Rules of Love without it sounding like a criticism of "spirituality" (in this case, Sufism, but really, can be applied to all spiritual practices) So perhaps that says it all: If you are not into spirituality, maybe this is not the book for you. As I was reading this book, I often thought "A Doll's House meets self-help" I liked the modern day story with Ella, the 40 year-old homemaker who is having a mid-life crisis. Ella will surely search for a new life, one thinks, from the very beginning. How that new life comes about, or rather more importantly how the old one is evaluated by Ella along the way is what makes the story interesting. The other half of the book is made up of another book written by a mysterious guy about the relationship of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. And this second book is what bothered me. The writing style is certainly distinct from that of Ella's story, and certainly from that of anything Elif Shafak has written before, perhaps trying to capture a simple, more "folksy" way of speech. The story is supposed to be inspiring, I suppose. And if you are a cynical atheist like me, you will find most of it painfully hypocritical and banal. Again, I do not mean this to be a judgement on any particular religion or belief, perhaps a judgement on how humans practice their beliefs, sort of, but as I said, it is hard to review this book without voicing your opinion about the spiritual beliefs it contains. The 40 rules certainly make up a good self-help book on their own. The attitude of both Rumi and Shams are ignorant, thoughtless, selfish, and sometimes very confusing. The feelings of one of Rumi's sons and those of Rumi's wife have a voice, but the other voices are so overwhelming that even though these two people have perfectly legitimate complaints and highlight certain problems that directly point at the hypocrisy and hedonism of Rumi and Shams' behaviors, I could not help but feel that the writer tried very hard for me to still sympathize with Rumi and Shams and not the son and the wife. And in the end, what is it that we should think about when we leave this book? Should we have learned that love is the only thing worth pursuing in life? Is it really? I am not convinced....more
I will give it 3 stars and actually explain why. Certainly the combination of transvestites and drag queens (working girls, really) with Istanbul placI will give it 3 stars and actually explain why. Certainly the combination of transvestites and drag queens (working girls, really) with Istanbul places this book on a shelf of its own. It deserves some attention due to the unusual characters and settings, though the descriptions of some seem highly unlikely, having grown up in Istanbul. The "girls" certainly seem to enjoy a freedom and lack of abuse that I find incredulous. As open-minded as Istanbul dwellers may be... uhm, not really. And of course, the men... the copious amount of men running after, pining after the main character seems rather unlikely, no matter how stunningly Audrey Hepburn she may be. Don't get me wrong, we are talking about an Istanbul where the transvestites were on so much demand (from the married, straight manly men, of course) that the other prostitutes were ratting them out to eh police to take back the market! So I am not saying that it is unlikely that macho Turkish men would be pining after our heroine, here, but rather that they would be so readily accepting it in public when, say, someone mentions it, or they would just simply blush when their desire is found out... We're talking about a highly homophobic society here, and these men, no matter how much they like the "girls" would be enraged if such things were insinuated about them. So let's leave all that behind, and say that the book is meant to be a romp, in this respect. It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, with a hint of wishful thinking. The main character and many of the other characters, especially the girls, are all very stereotypical. Again, let's say this is due to the fact that all of this is a bit like a drag queen show; you go for the over-the-top effect. Some characters, though again a bit too stereotypical, are done well. The nosy neighbor of Sabiha Hanim, for example, is spot on. The main character is well developed and after a while one can start to see the world through his/her eyes. The plot did not bother me as much as it seems to have bothers others. I thought it was plausible (though what happens in the end at the mosque is highly unlikely) and there were enough twists and back stabbings to last for another book. So why not, say, four stars? Several other people mentioned this and I will try to address it more thoroughly: The writing. I am waiting to get another one of Somer's books to see if the problem might have been the translation. I will read the next one in Turkish and see if the choppy feel that dominates throughout the book is due to translation. Some things in the translation were done well, though. For example, the sen/siz (the familiar you and the formal You) issue is hard to explain, but I thought the translation did a good job with it. But other times, too many times, the narration fails to flow and sometimes even gets confusing due to awkward language. I don't think translation is the only thing to be blamed here, though. I think the main problem with the narration was that it was told in first person. First person narration is very hard to do well and in many cases it is tiring and flat out annoying to read after a while. The writer could have easily focused on the main character, kept the reader and the main character in the dark just the same, with third person narration, which I think would have helped the flow. I understand that a noir detective story is usually told in first-person, but the limitations of this narrow point of view and the lack of a personal voice (due to the narrator and the main character being the same voice) cause the story to suffer. Basically, it it were written better, either a better translation and/or better narration, it would have been a four....more
I read Night in English, and perhaps I should read it in Turkish, too. Even in the English, the language of the book is certainly beautiful, arrestingI read Night in English, and perhaps I should read it in Turkish, too. Even in the English, the language of the book is certainly beautiful, arresting, and sometimes eerie. With that said, I did not "get it," I am afraid. I got that most of it was one big collection of symbols and all those other literary terms one can use... But what did it all mean in the end, I am not sure. It was a book I finished and said, "Yeah, I guess I should read it again. I have no idea what happened." It is exactly the opposite of what can happen with some books you read and you cannot describe them or what happened in plain words to someone else, but you somehow *understand* what happened. So, yeah, I'll have to read it again, maybe in Turkish this time....more
I read this book in English, because I thought the Spanish of maritime adventures of a captain might be too hard for me to understand. Well, I supposeI read this book in English, because I thought the Spanish of maritime adventures of a captain might be too hard for me to understand. Well, I suppose I learned my lesson to look up the plot a bit more carefully before making such conclusions. Yes, Alatriste is a "captain" of sorts, but not a ship captain. Duh! The plot is a solid, simple intrigue, the characters well-done, the storyline is neither overly adventurous, nor too academic. For me, it was the right balance between action and historical fiction. For some, it may be too little action or plot, and for some too much history (though I cannot imagine how a few pages here and there about the state of Spanish-British-Dutch relations is too much, but hey, to each his own.) The narration from the point of view of the captain's page is a fresh perspective and at times aptly humorous. With that said, I'll probably put the Captain Alatriste series on the "buy in an airport if in need of an easy, fun, good read" list and try some of the more formidable Reverte works......more
I don't think I make a good critic of poetry, as I really don't know much about poetry in general and I have had limited exposure over the years. I'mI don't think I make a good critic of poetry, as I really don't know much about poetry in general and I have had limited exposure over the years. I'm trying to read more poetry. I picked up this bilingual (German - Turkish) edition from the Brooklyn Book Festival at the publisher's booth. Senocak sounds like how I sometimes sound in my head (not in terms of poetry mastery, but conceptually.) The poems are a range from brief and fleeting gems to long journeys through many themes and images. I like having the German, because at times I could go back to the original and understand more fully what was being said. The translation seems much better than most translations, though my German is limited, so I am not a great judge of that, either.
With so little of Turkish poetry translated into other languages (Turks are mostly to blame for this; for not reading much, for not reading much of our own literature in the first place, poetry least of all...) this is a welcome translation of a German-Turk dwelling on immigration and self, among other themes. ...more