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Portrait of a Turkish Family [Paperback]

Irfan Orga
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

31 July 2002
Describes in chilling, yet affectionate, detail the disintegration of a wealthy Ottoman family, both financially and emotionally. It is rich with the scent of fin de siecle Istanbul in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. His mother was a beauty, married at thirteen, as befitted a Turkish woman of her class. His grandmother was an eccentric autocrat, determined at all costs to maintain her traditional habits. But the war changed everything. Death and financial disaster reigned, the Sultan was overthrown, and Turkey became a republic. The red fez was ousted by the cloth cap, and the family was forced to adapt to an unimaginably impoverished life. Filled with brilliant vignettes of old Turkish life, such as the ritual weekly visit to the hamam, as it tells the "other side " of the Gallipoli story, and its impact on one family and the transformation of a nation. "It is just as though someone had opened a door marked Private' and showed you what was inside.... A most interesting and affectionate book."-Sir John Betjeman. "A wholly delightful book."-Harold Nicolson

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Product details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd; New edition edition (31 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0907871828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0907871828
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.1 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


An unusually convincing autobiographical sketch. The entire portrait is good. -- Peter Quennell, The Daily Mail

The thing that stands out most, in retrospect, is the author's honesty. -- Sue Earle, The Sunday Morning Post

This book is a masterpiece -- Robert Fox, The Daily Telegraph

an unusual insight into the lives of the much-tried generation which founded modern Turkey -- Andrew Mango, Times Literary Supplement

it gives a rare insight into the psychological transformation which has come over the unchanging East... A wholly delightful book -- Harold Nicolson, The Observer

About the Author

Irfan Orga was born into a rich Ottoman family which was decimated, financially and emotionally, by the First World War. He joined the Turkish Air Force but was forced into exile by a law forbidding members of the armed forces to marry foreigners. Living in England with his Anglo-Irish wife and their son Ates, he was largely supported by his wife, though the publication of Portrait of a Turkish Family and The Caravan Moves On made him a literary celebrity in the 1950s.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A haunting evocation of a childhood in late Ottoman/early Republican Turkey where the abrupt collapse of a single family's fortunes mirrors the disintegration of the old state and a dogged determination to rebuild a new life from, literally, the ashes of the old. The depth of detail in Orga's recollection of his early childhood is quite astonishing. Yet the book is as much about his mother as himself; and what he doesn't he do or say -- perhaps, as his grandmother says, couldn't do or say -- to prevent her decline from effervescent teenage bride into a deranged middle-aged widow. I stayed up until 2 am, mesmerised as the heady flow of his childhood memories gave way to fragmented anecdotes of adolescence and early adulthood and his mother's sanity too began to fracture and then collapse completely, leaving Orga as burnt-out a shell as the ruins of his childhhod home. Extraordinary to think that he should name his son Ates (Fire) when it was a fire that triggered such material and psychological devastation in his family.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a Turkish Family 29 Mar 2009
An interesting book and I enjoyed reading it. Sadness goes through most of the pages, Irfan Orga leading us through the tragic events of his life, of his family and of his country during the first half of the 20th century.
The english is not very good ! Many mistakes and errors,but I would still recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it 12 Dec 2012
By Mine'
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautifully written real life story. I couldn't drop it off my hand. I loved it and I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading real life stories.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turkish Delight! 25 Jan 2011
Whilst spending a fascinating long weekend in Istanbul, I asked our English tour operator if she could recommend any books about Istanbul and Turkey. This book was one of her recommendations. I found "Portrait of a Turkish Family" most interesting and it greatly added to my knowledge of the country. Many of the places referred to were on our weekend tour and I found myself frequently looking at my tourist map of Istanbul whilst reading the book on my return. The book kept alive my wonderful memories of the Bosphorus. I found the 'afterword' by the author's son most interesting, telling the reader of what happened to the family in the end.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Realism 26 Jun 2001
This open, vivid biography shows how ordinary Turkish people suffered great family and economic losses during the First World War. A fresh well written account which is enlightening as much as it is educational.
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