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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars should be 4.5 stars
Really enjoyed reading this book especially as my knowledge of modern Turkey is not great. I thought the descriptions of the 'valik' and 'donme' were fascinating and the way in which the narrative hopped between different characters, time frames and settings worked wonderfully without becoming confusing or showy. Farhi has a sense of playfulness that does not allow any...
Published on 11 Dec. 2005 by Mr. Dominic L. C. Baker

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great stories but factual interruptions often deaden pace
This book deals with the interwoven lives of young Turks in the years before, during and after the Second World War. Set in Istanbul, it reflects the city's cultural mosaic (Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Turks, Gypsies and Levantines and all combinations thereof.)
Beautifully plotted, the characters' lives intersect and fly off at tangents under the strains of their...
Published on 13 May 2004 by Dobester


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great stories but factual interruptions often deaden pace, 13 May 2004
By 
Dobester (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This book deals with the interwoven lives of young Turks in the years before, during and after the Second World War. Set in Istanbul, it reflects the city's cultural mosaic (Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Turks, Gypsies and Levantines and all combinations thereof.)
Beautifully plotted, the characters' lives intersect and fly off at tangents under the strains of their lives and the changing society they live in. In addition to the struggle to discover themselves common to teenagers everywhere, these charcters are also struggling to find an identity in the new, secular, post-Ottoman republic of Turkey.
Unfortunately, the historical background to the personal tragedies and triumphs is often described in the characters' conversations or letters. Since the characters must describe the everyday fabric of their lives in order to set the context for the reader, these leaden monologues are prefaced with "As everyone knows" or "I don't need to tell you that..." There then follows a turgid description of the justifications of the punitive tax on non-Muslims in 1940s, and so on. Since Mr Farhi's storytelling skills are superb, it is astonishing that such descriptions are necessary, when they could easily have been brought out through the plot. The effect is to take the reader out of the story, especially since the speakers are adolescents.
Despite this, the book is well worth reading, as the historical mini-lectures dry up after a couple of hundred pages.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars should be 4.5 stars, 11 Dec. 2005
Really enjoyed reading this book especially as my knowledge of modern Turkey is not great. I thought the descriptions of the 'valik' and 'donme' were fascinating and the way in which the narrative hopped between different characters, time frames and settings worked wonderfully without becoming confusing or showy. Farhi has a sense of playfulness that does not allow any grandiose pretentions strangle the narrative, Moris does include a lot of his personal beliefs in this book but I think the literature that is trying to say something relating to the real world is greatly in need at the moment (but not in an Umberto Eco sense). I believe you will enjoy this book if you like Orhan Pamuk.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who is A Turk?, 30 Jan. 2005
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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Thirteen stories, each with their own narrator, are woven together to comprise this tapestry of life in Istanbul from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. Although told through many mouths, the people are all somehow related, through friendship, kinship, schooling, or neighborhood. And while each story is it's own carefully crafted meditation on love, longing, friendship, sex, politics, or religion, they are bound by the common theme of what it means to be Turkish. Although the emphasis is on Turkish Jewry, narrative voices run the gamut, and include Muslim, Christian, Greek, Armenian, Donme, Gypsy, Levantine, and more, all of whom are proud Turks.
Most of the stories are concerned with earnest teenagers attempting to discover their place in the world. A world that is increasingly precarious, as World War II sets Europe ablaze and threatens to draw Turkey into the flames. For many of the characters, there are Jewish relatives to worry about, especially those in Nazi-occupied Greece. Several stories, touch upon the plight of the historically Jewish city of Salonica, where 90% of Jews were deported to death camps. The most memorable story revolves around the plan a few of the teenage boys have to sneak across the border in order bring of the boy's relatives back to Turkey using stolen British passports. Another memorable story revolves around a punitive tax imposed on all minority groups in 1942, when Turkey flirted with aligning itself with Germany. This was designed to strip all minorities, especially Jews, of their wealth, and was repealed 18 months later. The story concerns the efforts of people to help their Jewish neighbors.
Two figures appear throughout the stories as exemplars of what it means to be Turkish. Of course one is Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, and his name is constantly evoked along the lines of "If Ataturk could see this, he wouldn't stand for it." The other is the poet Nazim Hikmet, whose praises are sung throughout. The voice for both of these is a progressive professor who becomes a hero for the young Turks who narrate these stories. Despite all the different narrators, the voice of the storytelling never shifts very much. Male, female, different classes, different backgrounds all sound more or less the same. The prose is a little too lush in painting the rich picture of Istanbul of fifty years ago, and the pervasive sense of tragedy gets somewhat wearying by the end of the 400 pages. Farhi's book is, in the final distillation, a plaintive cry for pluralism, multiculturalism, tolerance, and modernity that's entirely relevant to today, as Turkey struggles with the Kurdish question, EU membership, and Islamic fundamentalists. Probably of greatest interest to those interested in the Jewish angle, but worth reading by anyone with an interest in Turkey.
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