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A haunting evocation of despair and dogged survival
on 26 November 1999
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.