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Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse [Paperback]

Philip Ceallaigh
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Nov 2006
A performance artist opens his chest and displays his beating heart on stage. A young man walks through the hills of south-west Romania, where the locals have peculiar ideas about gold. On the morning of a medical examination, a woman tries to coax her husband off the roof. A smuggler pays off an old debt to his sister and resigns himself to a life of honest toil in the mine-shafts of his home town. A mysterious rodent named Brigitte enters the lives of two old men. And, in the astonishing long story 'In the Neighbourhood', the inhabitants of a crumbling tower-block go about their business, unforgettably. The stories of Philip Ó Ceallaigh create a world that is utterly original and yet immediately recognizable - a world of ordinary people grappling with work and idleness, ambition and frustration, wildness and sobriety, love and lust and decay. Scabrously honest, screamingly funny and beautifully crafted, Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse is a brilliant debut from a writer who cannot be ignored by anyone who cares about the art of fiction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (10 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141029021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141029023
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

‘Winner of the 2006 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature’

‘An extraordinararily good writer … Seldom have I read a debut in which the author’s control of tone, dialogue and narrative contour is so masterful’ Michel Faber, Guardian

‘A truly superb book’ Dermot Bolger, Sunday Independent

‘Shows a lively talent at play’ Daily Telegraph

‘Brilliantly original … The most impressive debut by an Irish writer for some time’ Irish Independent

‘Impressive. Ó Ceallaigh has produced a remarkably assured and truly European collection of stories’ Sunday Tribune

‘Extraordinarily confident for a first collection of stories … remarkable for its sheer readability’ Ireland on Sunday

‘So assured is this debut collection that it can, convincingly and with confidence, echo Hemingway and Bukowski in terms of style and Kafka or Kelman, even some of the great Russians, in relation to theme. These amazingly well-crafted stories – intense, curious, mysterious, alluring – re-awaken the wonder of words and declare the availability of salvation in writing.’ Niall Griffiths

‘With this debut collection Philip O’Ceallaigh gives us not just a new voice, but a whole new literary space. It lies somewhere between Ireland and Eastern Europe, a place where characters live out his harsh and careful fables about men's failure to love women. This work was, at a guess, slow in the making – do not read it too fast.’ Anne Enright --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Philip Ó Ceallaigh, a native of County Waterford, has lived and worked in Britain, Spain, Russia, the US, Kosovo, and Georgia. He currently lives in Bucharest. Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse is his first book.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The sun was getting low and they drove into it and the cars shone hotly and the noise of the city, a machine noise, came through the open window, and even with the open window it was hot and they sweated. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb 26 Jun 2006
By A. Ingr
Having spent a fair amount of time in Bucharest and Romania I can safely say that Ó Ceallaigh has captured its grim and fascinating allure to a T. These stories are so compelling in their slice-of-lifeness the book ends up feeling like a big juicy pamphlet - you just get through it too quickly. He has captured the botched struggling fascinating pit that is Romania in truly wondrous words and I wish the book had been triple the length.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Bukowski on debut 3 Aug 2011
This debut collection of short stories from young Irish writer, Philip O Ceallaigh, contains nineteen stories ranging from the 62-page 'In the Neighbourhood' to others that are just several pages in length. O Ceallaigh's stories are set far and wide in a number of countries and many of the scenes and situations smack of first-hand experience. His characters are downtrodden, downbeat and easily manipulated, and with few exceptions do little more than copulate, eat, drink, commute, work, smoke, and die.

Many of the stories are set in cities, and O Ceallaigh seems to have captured the urban syndrome of city dwellers extremely well, where the roar of traffic, the exhaust fumes and the dirt and dust frustrate and dominate. Indoors, people haggle over bills and speculate on the private lives of neighbours. Bathroom noises echo through the walls, a burst pipe causes havoc, and smoke from bonfires drifts endlessly past windows. The writing is raw and edgy, and masculine, much in the style of Charles Bukowski, and economical and straight up, lacking frills and padding, much like Hemingway.

And as the title suggests, there is a lot of sex in the book. For O Ceallaigh's characters sex comes a lot easier than does love; whether it be a quickie in an alleyway ('Crime and Punishment') or a ravaging of a girlfriend after a male prostitute's session with a client ('Who Let the Dogs Out?') sex is more a release of anxiety than anything approaching pleasure.

Admiration for a first literary work has one drawback, which is that there isn't anything else to enjoy by the same author; the reader regrets coming to the end of the book because there's nowhere to go, nothing to do except await the appearance of the author's next work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly memorable 27 May 2013
By SF Fan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book on impulse a few years ago. I have so many unread books (thanks Amazon) that I try not to walk out of bookshops carrying any more for the stack, but occasionally I can't resist. This was one such, and a gem. It has popped into my mind a lot since then.

The characters are memorable, often likeable, like his old men fixing a hole in the pavement, in the story "In the Neighbourhood" I think. The Neighbourhood appears in another story later. This is something I enjoy - the sense of links between stories, which is here to some extent.

The writing is evocative of place - some stories set in post-Communist Eastern Europe (most likely.) Others on Mediterranean Islands and, presumably, in Turkey.

The atmosphere is well-created, the dialogue is believable, and the stories captured my imagination.

Some stories have a sad feel, like the "Notes", while others have a humorous side. All were superb - I couldn't put this down.

I've just bought his other book of short stories, and can only hope it compares. I expect I'll be reading everything he writes...
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated 30 Sep 2008
On the positive side, O'Ceallaigh knows very well how to write at the sentence and paragraph level. He is more than technically proficient, while also capable of very lyrical language and there is undoubtedly a sense of place in most of these short stories.

However, this is a disappointment even though with its East European locations it initially promises much. In fact, arguably the best story Honey, owes more to Tobias Wolff and the American West rather than Kundera, or Eastern Europe. The principle problem with Whorehouse is that it tries to be too smart and does not pull it off. Too much post modernism, which I for one do not go for at all. In this respect, O'Ceallaigh is a bit like another Irish writer Mike McCormack (Getting it in the Head, Notes from a Coma). There is just way too much attempt at heavy philosophy and showing off and not enough good old fashioned story telling. The former in my view, rarely has much of a place in quality literary fiction. This sort of thing is better off in an essay collection or an actual work on philosophy. I often felt as though I was being preached too and that O'Ceallaigh was unnecessarily obfuscating his meaning or "the point" of the story. And don't tell me that a story - no matter how literary its purport - is not supposed to have a point. It does not have to be epiphany, but it should not be a waste of time either.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious! 25 Jun 2008
By Scott - Published on
I have a peculiar fascination with Romania, perhaps its because when mentioned to most people, they think you just made up a fictitious country. People have no idea Romania even exists. That said, this book did nothing but feed my imagination about this mysterious place.

Notes From a Turkish Whorehouse calls forth the dusty, downtrodden lives of people in a third world existence with first world ambitions. Predominately set in Romania, the depressed characters caught in the downward spiral that is their lives take center stage. The crowning achievement is a story entitled 'In the Neighborhood' a 60+ page tour de force that details the life and times in a post communist Romanian housing block.

I eagerly await Philip O Ceallaigh's next work, which will hopefully continue the fantastic storytelling based in Romania.

I highly recommend this book.
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