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Madonna in a Fur Coat
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Start discussion here for Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali.


message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited May 15, 2018 07:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments About the Book (by Other Press)

A shy young man leaves his home in rural Turkey to learn a trade and discover life in 1920s Berlin. There, in the city’s bustling streets, elegant museums, charged politics, and notorious cabarets, a chance meeting with a beautiful half-Jewish artist transforms him forever. Caught between his desire for freedom from tradition and his yearning to belong, he struggles to hold on to the new life he has found with the woman he loves.

Emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric, and touchingly profound, Madonna in a Fur Coat is a novel about new beginnings, the relentless pull of family ties, and the unfathomable nature of the human soul. First published in 1943, this unforgettable tale, with its quiet yet insistent defiance of social norms, has been topping best-seller lists in Turkey since 2013.


About the Author

Sabahattin Ali was born in 1907 in the Ottoman town of Eğridere (now Ardino, in southern Bulgaria). A teacher, journalist, and poet, he owned and edited the popular satirical newspaper Marko paşa. A frequent target of government censorship, he was imprisoned twice for his writings and was killed on the Bulgarian border in 1948 as he attempted to flee Turkey. Today, Ali is an icon of social and political resistance among Turkish youth.


message 3: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Discussion Questions (from Other Press)

1. Does the story of Raif Efendi’s love affair with Maria Puder move you as much as it moves the narrator?

2. What writers and stories animate Raif Efendi’s imagination before he goes to Germany? Do the daydreams he has while in Istanbul resemble his adventure in Germany?

3. Describe Raif Efendi as you first meet him through the narrator’s description. Does your understanding of him change once the narrator starts reading his notebook? How?

4. What draws Raif to Maria? How are they similar, and how are they different?

5. Do you think there is any significance to Maria being half Jewish and half German, and not having blond hair and blue eyes? Why or why not?

6. On pages 53–54 Raif says, “No matter what I had bottled up inside me, I was absurdly anxious about letting it out.” Why is he so anxious about revealing himself? In what actions does he reveal his true self to Maria? How does this anxiety about revealing himself mutate and intensify after he returns from Germany and believes Maria has spurned him?

7. What does Maria say she wants from a man? Is she able to find those things with Raif?

8. Raif is compared to a girl by his parents (p 52) and several times by Maria (see pp 90, 93, 116). What qualities about Raif make people liken him to a girl or a woman? Similarly, what qualities in herself does Maria say make her like a man?

9. How is the narrator changed after having read Raif’s notebook?

10. Do you think Raif is able to find some kind of redemption for his betrayal of Maria in his friendship with the narrator, or in allowing the narrator to read his notebook?


message 4: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments LOVE this book and highly recommend it. The style seems reminiscent of Turgenev to me. It amazes me that this book was suppressed for so long. I am grateful that it was republished and translated to English.


Ruth | 451 comments I've just finished this and found the final pages very moving. I went from being very empathetic to Raif to feeling rather irritated by his passivity and back to empathy. Like many a good short story or novella it has an unexpected twist at the end to engage the reader. It raises interesting questions (especially for the time it was written) into how society expects men and women to be. I've wanted to read this for some time having heard a discussion about it on BBC Radio 4's programme A Good Read.


message 6: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Ruth wrote: "I've just finished this and found the final pages very moving. I went from being very empathetic to Raif to feeling rather irritated by his passivity and back to empathy. Like many a good short sto..."

I am glad you enjoyed it.


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