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The Trojan War Museum and Other Stories

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  175 ratings  ·  47 reviews
A debut collection of inventive, fresh, and richly human stories at once uncanny and startlingly real.

The Greek god Apollo reckons with his personal history as he tries to memorialize—and make sense of—war, in “The Trojan War Museum.” A Turkish student at an American university stops eating, and her family, teachers, and soon, the world at large, demand to know why, in “Ic
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  175 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Really great collection, both thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable. Review hopefully to come in another outlet soon.
Tabi⁷ (ᕗツ)ᕗ
Jun 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
probably never gonna read this but the cover reminded me of something

Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The stories in Ayşe Papatka Bucak’s collection, The Trojan War Museum, are the kind that force readers to pay close attention—but in a good way, I promise! These stories allude to Ottoman and Turkish history, mid-nineteenth century French art, death customs, Melungeons, the meaning and symbolism of the body, Orientalism, the Trojan war, the Greek gods, terrorism, and so many things. In addition, a lot of the stories interrupt themselves to go off in different directions that are later shown to b ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Creative, original stories that feel like they have one foot in the modern West and one in the timeless Ottoman East. They range in time period and blend reality and fantasy to varying degrees, but the author takes both worlds equally seriously. A quiet, off-beat sense of humor sets off all the stories beautifully. As with most collections I found some stories stronger than others. Must reads are The Trojan War Museum and The Dead, a story of the Armenian genocide which is all the more powerful ...more
Christopher Alonso
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Challenging and smart, these stories force the reader to pay extra close attention to their structure and movement. Ranging from topics like sponge diving, a fictional museum built by gods, and Turkish history, this is a book for those that like more cerebral fiction.
Maggie Rotter
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was ready to give this collection 5 stars after the first story. Just to be fair I held off to thoroughly enjoy the rest. No need to describe the stories. They are equally thought provoking and askew.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Wow. What to say about this stunning and innovative collection of short stories...

Perhaps my biggest impression of these stories is how much heft they have. Every single one of Bucak's stories is fleshed out and complex, with a real depth to both its narrative and its characters. And because of this, they work on almost every single level. Firstly, I cannot overstate the rich diversity of these stories, both in terms of theme and plot. There is "Little Sister and Emineh," a tale of two
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is truly and honestly the best book I've read all year. Each short story hit like a punch to the gut and now I'm left feeling sore.
Jennifer Spiegel
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read it and then talked to the author!

(This originally appeared at

On Thanksgiving 2019, my family drove to Inola, Oklahoma to spend the holiday with my brother-in-law’s family. There were long drives through New Mexico and Texas. We stopped for coffee, for The White Sands National Monument, and for aliens in Roswell. There was a lot of quiet time in the car.

(I personally love this part of any vacation.)

Though I had preordered Bucak’s debut coll
Kate Grace
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve just finished story three (“Iconography”) of ten in this collection, but already I want to rate the book as highly as possible, five stars.

Here’s why:

First, there’s a beautiful clarity to Ayse Papatya Bucak’s prose that reminds me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work.

And second, Bucak crafts stories that read, to me, like fairytales or folktales with a sort of “modern-day” sensibility. In other words, as the tales unspool, they meaningfully engage not only with storytelling traditions - but with recen
Leah Rachel von Essen
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Trojan War Museum and Other Stories is an excellent short story collection from Ayse Papatya Bucak, a Turkish-American author of short fiction. The collection overall is inventive and exciting.

In “The History of Girls,” young girls ponder tragedy and tell stories while waiting to be rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building. “Little Sister and Emineh” tells of two young girls at the Turkish Village of the iconic Chicago World Fair. “The Trojan War Museum” is one of Bucak’s most effecti
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Mixed Reaction

I purchased this book on the strength of the opening story, which I read as an excerpt online. It's absolutely stunning. Set in a Turkish girl's school that has been demolished by a kitchen explosion in the middle of the night, it is a conversation among those buried in the rubble awaiting rescue, those who have died, and those who are in the midst of crossing over. The girls try to comfort one another as they wait, recall their happier memories, and recount their dreams for a futu
Cokey Cohen
Oct 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I have always struggled with short stories, and that was true with this collection as well. I liked some of the stories quite a bit, particularly "Mysteries of the Mountain South" and "An Ottoman's Arabesque," the first for its character-focused narrative and lovely sense of place, and the second for its unflinching, critical, wondering use of visual art as its centerpiece, almost as a character itself. The best story was the first one, though--a perfect voice, wrenching and unflinching in its y ...more
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It took me months to finish this collection because the stories were just too good to gobble. "The History of Girls" is in my top ten favorite short stories, ever. Maybe top five.
Kim Lockhart
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting and imaginative set of stories, binding East and West. The best by far, is the story of The Trojan War Museum.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
These are excellent stories. I really found myself wanting to be in them, wanting to believe. There is a whimsical approach to them, sometime humorous and sometimes sad, that just makes me want to get in and stay there. Very nice.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the debut collection! It should be stated first that Bucak writes very well. She is able to move her prose laterally, switching seamlessly between poetic waxing and more concrete storytelling, giving the work a tidal sort of feeling; like being pushing gently back and forth by the waves of the sea.

The stories are unique and personal, finding that sweet-spot in between tragic and ironic that makes them feel real, despite the occasionally surreal, or e
J Earl
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, won
The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories from Ayse Papatya Bucak absolutely took me by surprise. One of the best story collections of recent years and easily holds its own against classics.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I chose this book. The blurb sounded interesting and I like short stories a lot. The very first story floored me. I couldn't get it out of my mind and had to wait until the next day to read the next story. My fear was that the rest of the collection was bound to disappoint sin
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book on a whim from the library because the title intrigued me. I hadn’t heard of Ayse Papatya Bucak before, but after reading this debut collection, I’m really looking forward to her future work.

Bucak’se style reminds me a bit of another dreamy collection I read last year-- Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. If I had to pick one word to describe the similarity between the two, the one I’d choose is “oblique” and I mean it as a compliment. These stories all tack
Vel Veeter
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very good short story collection that came out last year. The quality comes in a lot of ways, namely that like other goof story collections there’s both a stylistic and thematically (and especially tonal) consistency among the stories here. The opening story is told in a kind of afterlife collection voice of girls who have died as a consequence of patriarchy — in a kind of displaced ahistorical way — and this narrative distance continues through almost all of the stories. We don’t have ...more
Karen Carlson
Folk tales; elaborated stories about real, if obscure, people; timelines that reach from antiquity to today and even a bit beyond; stories containing stories; stories that address the reader; stories with mystery and tragedy and love: it’s all in here. This is a collection for those who want to hear a storyteller when they read, who want to get a peek at the unusual alongside the ordinary. Interested in chess-playing automatons? A Turkish wrestler on tour? A man who got rich harvesting sponges a ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredible collection of stories, and a reminder to take advantage of opportunities to ask others (online or in person) for their recommendations! On Twitter, I spotted a tweet offering suggestions of what to read next, and I replied that I'm a fan of the short stories of Shirley Jackson and Kelly Link. This title made me curious -- what could the Trojan War possibly have to do with either of these two writers?

This book is the answer to that question, and these three authors have definite si
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE THESE STORIES! What a wonderful little collection. These are magic stories that take you in so many directions and have so many unexpected turns. One story keeps being interrupted with the story teller being interviewed on her motives for telling the story in the first place. I think my favorite (or maybe it was just bc it was the last one I read) was the one The Gathering of Desire about an automaton that played chess, but was really a master chess player jammed inside a machine. All thi ...more
Richard May
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars really. The strength of this book is the writing style of the author, which is inventive, surprising, and unique to them. The weakness of this book is that some of the experiments did not work for me, especially the title story, which is what attracted me to the book, but I give the author praise for daring and look forward to reading her future books. I'll bet her words and stories will always be interesting and sometimes amazing. The first story in this collection is one of the best ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I normally struggle to really connect with short story collections but Bucak's stories immediately captured my attention. The prose is gorgeous and I loved the way she handled the themes of history, storytelling, identity, and self-construction. I have always been fascinated by the process of storytelling and myth-making so I love narratives that explore these concepts. I found Bucak's collection of stories to be beautifully literary while also being readable and accessible. Some of the magical ...more
Lily Gellman
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dreamlike, yes, but also rich with the sort of detail you can savor and turn over for hours. My favorites were the title story (“The Trojan War Museum”), “Iconography,” “Mysteries of the Mountain South,” and “The Gathering of Desire.” But there wasn’t a single weak story in the collection. And the through-lines wrestling (in one or two cases literally) with mythmaking, identity, culture, and memory were everywhere evident.
Carmen  María Pérez
The ten short stories told by Bucak are a collection of enchantments, myths, actual history, human relationships, joy, death, personal identity, culture, art, and more. The two that I liked the most were: Mysteries of the Mountain South and The History of Girls. The stories explore the author’s Turkish roots. The author deploys a range of styles and techniques that create a remarkable and compassionate collection. I give it 3 stars out of five.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this collection. It's wildly smart, and clear, strong writing that's both funny and heartbreaking in the same sentence. The amount of research that it seems goes into historical, cultural detail is very very fun. The final story of the collection, The Gathering of Desire, is just extraordinary, though I'm not sure there's a weak story in the bunch. Despite the range of topics, settings, even tones, there's a satisfying consistency to this collection. She never leaves the reader bored.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-for-fun
I think this book is very well written. If I had to describe the voice it would be something like a news reporter from a parallel universe just to the left of ours. And I was greatly engaged by the first, last, and title stories. But the rest of them were literarily unsettling in a bad way. So the fact of the matter is that I just cannot recommend this book.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book of short stories I have ever read. Each story was beautifully written, completely original, and came to life in ways that were truly magical. The title story is probably my new favorite short story. After reading it, I had to immediately send it to everyone I know, and insist that they read it as well. This book is a must-read, I promise you you will not be disappointed.
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I was born in Istanbul, Turkey—to an American mother and a Turkish father—but spent most of my childhood in Havertown, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. My BA is from Princeton University and my MFA from Arizona State University. You can find my stories and essays in a variety of journals, including Creative Nonfiction, Witness, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, The Iowa Review, and Brev ...more

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