Findikli's short stories are vibrant with diversity and shaded with nostalgia. Progressing from 1863 to 1935, the lives of Jews, Georgians, Italians,...moreFindikli's short stories are vibrant with diversity and shaded with nostalgia. Progressing from 1863 to 1935, the lives of Jews, Georgians, Italians, Turks, and many more, who see the fall of the Sultan and the beginnings of the Republic. Perhaps more upbeat than Los Sokagin Kadinlari, this collection is as diverse and curious as Findikli's other short story collections. Many of the stories involve people whose lives are deeply affected by the political events in the Empire/Republic. While some characters seek to fulfill life-long dreams, some try to start a new life, and others yet try to make peace with their past. Although the political events of the day play a prominent role int he stories, ultimately, the events are deeply private and personal.(less)
The first collection of stories in this double feature is bleak, as the name suggests. The women who tell their stories all live in a dark, bleak stre...moreThe first collection of stories in this double feature is bleak, as the name suggests. The women who tell their stories all live in a dark, bleak street that is overwhelmed with the smell of mildew. They all wish to leave this place, but somehow have not been able to. Some have hopes of leaving soon, some have given up hope. But all tell their story in a melancholic way that ends each sentence with a .. (and not the usual ...)
The second collection of stories chronicled everyday lives of the women and men of Ankara from before the beginning of the was of independence to well after. As the rising capital of the new resistance, the stories reflect the changing moods, the political tensions, but always through the lens of small lives, ordinary worries, and simple hopes. Again, mostly women voice their troubles in this collection.
Findikli captures the Turkish woman at the end of the Ottoman times well with her stories. The anxieties of changing times, the agonies of losing sons, brothers, husbands, father to the wars, the everyday struggles of making a living, feeding mouths, marrying daughters off... Somehow, the particularly Turkish melodrama does not allow the stories to reach a universal dimension; they remain regional, particular, and melodramatic.
Nevertheless, Findikli accomplishes to give voice to the women of the new born republic and their descendants in a way that is personal, detailed, and historic all at the same time. Perhaps most striking is the diversity of her female characters, hailing from various Christian and Muslim faiths, different socio-economic backgrounds, and ethnicities. Her focus remains on the working woman, which seems rather feminist, but perhaps that is one of the main points: the woman was and has always been a bread earner, and more so during wartime than any other time.(less)
Selim Ileri's main character, writer Cemil Sevket Bey, is not exactly based on Nahid Sirri Orik, but more on the impressions and information Selim Ile...moreSelim Ileri's main character, writer Cemil Sevket Bey, is not exactly based on Nahid Sirri Orik, but more on the impressions and information Selim Ileri was able to find from Orik's works. Orik was, indeed, alive and writing during the time the Ottoman Empire fell, the new Turks rose to power, defeating the invading forces, and Cumhuriyet, the Republic, was formed. Orik also traveled around Anatolia and left for Europe to return after the republic formed. And Orik, like Cemil Sevket, was gay and effeminate.
The narrator is a writer who first meets Cemil Sevket in his childhood. Sevket is already an aging, forgotten writer; an old gay man who joins the ladies of the neighborhood in their tea time get-togethers. The interesting thing about the narration is most of it has to be done, since the narrator is often summarizing Cemil Sevket's works and life, in the "story" tense in Turkish. The way Ileri does this is pretty interesting, makes for a rough read in the beginning, but eventually one gets used to it. In general, the language Ileri uses is complex and textured.
Cemil Sevket is at first an unlikable character, towards the middle, as we learn more about his personal life, he becomes a more likable person, and at the end, which corresponds to the very end of Cemil Sevket's life, he becomes a character that demands our pity. All in all, Ileri's character is extremely well-developed among the blurry shadows of Ottoman and early Turkish Republic history. (less)
Veda is a successful novel, a family saga, a historic moment analyzed through the lens of personal tragedies and triumphs. Nestled at ridge defining t...moreVeda is a successful novel, a family saga, a historic moment analyzed through the lens of personal tragedies and triumphs. Nestled at ridge defining the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Turkish Republic, the novel follows a web of characters around the inhabitants of an old Istanbul house. The family of the finance minister of the falling Ottoman Empire, Ahmet Res(h)at, live through some turbulent and rough times as the city is under siege, the Muslims under the abusive control of ex-Ottoman minorities as well as foreigners. Ahmet Reshat Bey walks a thin line between his loyalty to the sultan and helping the emerging resistance against the British-lead foreign forces, birthed in Anatolia under the leadership of the charismatic general, Mustafa Kemal. We all know how the story ends, in a way. But what Kulin manages so deftly is to tell us the story of the every day life of people whose lives are invariably affected by the war and siege, but have to eat, sleep, give birth, fall in love, struggle for domestic authority, grow up to become teenagers and wives... She weaves in the emerging modernization of gender roles (an early version of feminism,) the ever-important power dynamics between a woman and her mother-in-law, the relationship between the elite and the serving class along with a sweeping love story that is sure to make some cry for a while.
All in all, the plot and character development, the language flow, the historic perspective are very well executed. Perhaps my only problem with the book is that some events seem a bit too contrived, and some a bit too emotional. But these are Turks, who are known to be emotional, and the times are rough, so nothing seems out of place.(less)
Having lived in many countries and cities, having been accused of representing too much or too little her culture, her background, her language, Elif...moreHaving lived in many countries and cities, having been accused of representing too much or too little her culture, her background, her language, Elif Safak has a lot to say about the Turk who lives abroad, the woman without a head scarf who is stopped going into a mosque to pray in Turkey [and the woman who gets dirty looks for wearing a head scarf in the US], and my favorite, the writer who has to, somehow, show those foreigners how good/modern/liberal/cultured/great Turks are (Turkey is). Needless to say, I identify very well with Elif Safak and her frustrations with Turks in Turkey as well as outside of Turkey really ring true with mine. My favorite parts are the criticism she brings to the Turks who live outside or Turkey, who are just so busy that they cannot really read many books, but when they do, did she really have to use all those Ottoman words that are hard to understand?! This cracks me up every time... Especially... Well, I'll tell you about a conversation I witnessed at an Ivy-League school. I was, despite my efforts of trying to keep anonymous to all the Turks on campus, at a table with some professors and their wives (first and last time.) They were discussing how Elif Safak was to visit the campus, most likely. Apparently they were all on a first name basis with her. (some of these people are very well-known names in their fields, and certainly "esteemed scholars") One of the wives turned to me and said in Turkish, "I mean, I love Elif, she's a great person, but I cannot read her. No no, I cannot. With all those Ottoman words. Anyway, I don't have much time to read." I smiled and thought of having read Mahrem (the Gaze) with the dictionary, having had to look up some words, for in Turkey I belong to one of many generations deprived of the knowledge of Ottoman Turkish. Though not an easy read for me In Turkish, Mahrem is my favorite of Safak's works. But why read, if it is hard work, right? Right... The conversation then turned to Elif's "questionable" political battles in Turkey, that one of the esteemed profs had tried to convince her to "Just let it go." And the whole time I wondered if his tone was so patronizing when he actually spoke with the writer, too. When I read Med-Cezir, I realized Safak had heard these people say these things, and not just them, but many others. Those who didn't have time to read a book, but thought it their place to criticize Safak's choice of words, those who, with fatherly love and a sense of academic superiority, tried to convince her to keep out of trouble, and the list goes on and on. And in Med-Cezir, having heard all, Safak fights back. From women's rights to religious liberty to the role of the writer, Safak talks about the woes of, well, being Elif Safak.(less)