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A Mind at Peace Hardcover – 30 Dec 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 447 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago Books; First edition (30 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979333059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979333057
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.6 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,196,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review


"The greatest novel ever written about Istanbul."--Orhan Pamuk
"Tanpinar's sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of the flesh...His lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel."--"Publishers Weekly"
"A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn't have had to wait this long for such an important work."--"Literary Fiction Review"
"Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition--the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness."--Ugur Akinci
"[A] masterpiece...[A] honeyed, searching, and melanch



"Tanpinar's sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of the flesh...His lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel."--"Publishers Weekly"

"A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn't have had to wait this long for such an important work."--"Literary Fiction Review"

"Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition--the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness."--Ugur Akinci

"[A] masterpiece...[A] honeyed, searching, and melancholy epic...The novel is as much about it setting and colors as about the stories and wonderfully eccentric and varied panoply of characters...One of the 20th century's notable literary love stories and cultural watersheds."--"Los Angeles Times"

"Written by the man who almost single-handedly defined the modern Turkish novel, "A Mind At Peace" follows a group of westernized, urban intellectuals in 1930s Istanbul as they drift through the city in a permanent state of ennui, seemingly caught between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, the East and the West."--Reza Aslan for "The Week"


Tanpinar (1901-62) was a formative figure in modern Turkish letters, although 50 years after his death, his career in English is just getting off the ground. His monumental "A Mind at Peace" (1949), which Orhan Pamuk has called "the greatest novel ever written about Istanbul," found its way into English in 2008 (Archipelago). Set just before World War II, it conjures on a vast scale the world of Istanbul during the early Turkish Republic, a time when modern Western values were abruptly imposed upon a people and a culture unprepared for them. The ramshackle modernity that resulted, in which Ottoman history and tradition were largely written over, became Tanpinar's lasting subject: the "void," as he once described it, of a people "suspended between two lives." -- "New York Times Book Review"
[A] masterpiece. . .[A] honeyed, searching, and melancholy epic. . .The novel is as much about its setting and colors as about the stories and wonderfully eccentric and varied panoply of characters. . .One of the 20th century's notable literary love stories and cultural watersheds." -- The Los Angeles Times"
The greatest novel ever written about Istanbul. -- Orhan Pamuk
Tanpinar′s sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of The flesh...His lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel. "-- Publishers Weekly"
Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition--the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness. -- Ugur Akinci
A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn't have had to wait this long for such an important work. "-- Literary Fiction Review"
Written by the man who almost single-handedly defined the modern Turkish novel, A Mind At Peace follows a group of westernized, urban intellectuals in 1930s Istanbul as they drift through the city in a permanent state of ennui, seemingly caught between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, the East and the West. -- Reza Aslan
His great novel combines the emotional storminess of Dostoevsky with the refined artificiality and cruel psychological analysis of Marcel Proust. -- Ha'aretz


"Tanpinar's sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of the flesh...His lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel."--"Publishers Weekly"
"A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn't have had to wait this long for such an important work."--"Literary Fiction Review"
"Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition--the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness."--Ugur Akinci
"[A] masterpiece...[A] honeyed, searching, and melancholy epic...The novel is as much about it setting and colors as about the stories and wonderfully eccentric and varied panoply of characters...One of the 20th century's notable literary love stories and cultural watersheds."--"Los Angeles Times"
"Written by the man who almost single-handedly defined the modern Turkish novel, "A Mind At Peace" follows a group of westernized, urban intellectuals in 1930s Istanbul as they drift through the city in a permanent state of ennui, seemingly caught between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, the East and the West."--Reza Aslan for "The Week"
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar has been noted as the most prominant Turkish novelist of the twentieth century. Born in Istanbul, he traveled widely in Anatolia before returning to Istanbul in 1919, after the First World War, to study literature with the poet laureate Yahya Kemal. Deeply influenced by Paul Valéry and Bergson, Tanpinar created a cultural universe in his work, bringing together Western forms of writing and the sensibilities of a decadent Ottoman culture. He taught aesthetics, mythology, and literature at the University of Istanbul. Erdag Göknar is assistant professor of Turkish Studies at Duke University. He holds an MFA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in Near and Middle East Studies. He received, with Orhan Pamuk, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his English translation of Pamuk's My Name is Red in 2003. He is also the recipient a Fulbright fellowship and an NEA translation grant for A Mind at Peace.


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Format: Hardcover
I had never read anything by Tanpinar before picking up this book in an Istanbul bookshop. Now I want to read everything he's ever written! For those who know Istanbul, it is a panegyric of the Bosphorus. For those who don't, there are many interwoven stories, but the one which remains with me is the meeting of two hearts, two souls over a piece of music. Tanpinar's lyric descriptions helped me understand Turkish classical music for the first time. I have already returned to re-read the sections on music and have no doubt I will re-read the book someday (something I almost never do). A Mind at Peace belongs with the "great books" of world literature. The physical book itself is lovely, the paper quality made its pages a pleasure to turn. I don't know Turkish well enough to comment on the translation itself, but the English was mellifluous and a great pleasure to read; sometimes near the borders of French-English, I do know French and wondered at times if the translator was a product of the Istanbul or French French-Turkish school system. There were unfortunately some small editing errors that might have been avoided. The book lacked two things, in my opinion. First, it needs a "list of characters" at the beginning, with the sex of each character stated, to aid those who are not familiar with Turkish names. I have thought of giving this book as a gift, but would create a list to tuck in the front, or for use as a bookmark, were I to give it to friends who know nothing of Turkey. Then, again for those unfamiliar with Istanbul, a map of the Bosphorus, with place names mentioned, or even of Istanbul with all place names pointed out, would be helpful to the reader.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a wonderful book that captures the essence of istanbul at a time when everything - culture, politics, the urban landscape, social mores - was in a state of flux
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Glimpses or a sensitive and lyrical book but very difficult to read possible translation issues.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical novel of Istambul 20 May 2009
By las cosas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Orhan Pamur speaks of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar as an essential part of his sense of Istambul. Based on his descriptions of Tanpinar in his book Istambul, I was excited to read this translation of Tanpinar's masterpiece.

The physical book is extremely attractive, even sensual. With an old photo on the cover of several rowboats on the Bosphorus you are being introduced to the world within the book's covers. Elegant endpapers, thick off-white paper, and an unusually square shape to the book all present a pleasant, inviting physical object. Archipelago Books, I publisher I'd not encountered before, did an excellent job (though their editor missed a few too many errors).

On opening the book the first thing you notice is the lack of any notes, introduction, or even an index to the various Parts of the book. This is puzzling, and unfortunate. The dust jacket provides a few sentences on the author and this work (in addition to a few sentence plot summary). And even those sentences tell us little. What does it mean to say that this book is "a Turkish Ulysses"? The book deserves a wide readership, beyond the niche of people already familiar with this author. And that readership needs at least some minimal sign-posts to help navigate this dense examination of Istambul's intellectual, philosophical and moral dilemmas at the start of World War II. One method would be an introduction explaining the dynamics of Turkey at that time, and explaining Tanpinar's place in that debate. Another would be to provide a few footnotes, or end notes, explaining certain words or concepts unlikely to be understood by the average English speaking reader. For example, the debate over whether a character is mevlevi or bektashi was completely lost on me. How about you?

The novel starts "(City of Two Continents, August 1939)". And that could also be the one sentence summary of the novel. Turkey and its citizens are about to be plunged into WWII, a Western war that is very on the periphery of its interests, history and consciousness. But what is consuming the characters in this novel is the doppelganger of living in the past and the present, in the East and in the West, in two continents, two realities.

The novel is told using both the first and third person views of the main character, Mumtaz. And even the third person observations are claustrophobic, told from a ground level prospective never far from the immediate observations of Mumtaz, a young writer and intellectual who "does" essentially nothing during the 1939 focus of the book. He thinks, observes, feels. His love for Nuran, his hatred of yet attraction to Suad, the filial love and respect for Ihsan...these are drawn out in long, complex worlds of emotion that slowly built and deepen as the novel progresses.

But the central character in this novel is Turkey, Turkish, Istambul and the Borphorus. What do these things mean to a well educated, not-poor (I'm not sure what "class" these intellectuals belong to...but few have a conventional job) group of largely male intellectuals? The answer is a deep ambivalence. They live in a city of past architectural glory, the capitol of a vast empire. And while they are part of that heritage, they are also drawn to the present, to the Western. This is most often described in descriptions of music. Some of the most lyrical parts of the book describe Turkish classical music, the sound of the ney while a singer intones verses composed for various sultans. And while this is being lyrically described Mumtaz will realize that he is actually thinking of a Beethoven sonata. Quoting a Farsi couplet the discussion will veer to French symbolist poets. But oh the longing, the sorrow, of those couplets:
The days foreshortened, aged men in Kanlica
Conjure memories of past autumns one by one.

By the end of the novel you are left with a deep understanding of the longing felt by Mumtaz, to be his own person, not dragged down by the weight of his history and culture, yet aware that without those things he would be empty. "The vast fallout of two centuries of disintegration and collapse, of being the remnants of an empire and still unable to establish our own norms and idioms."

So why only 4 starts (and actually I would give it a 3.5)? Because of the lamentable translation. My definition of a good translation is one I don't notice. And this fails my test miserably. There is little plot in this novel. It is a closely observed study, and by necessity that means a book that is slowly, closely, read and observed. The lyrical content simply must be accompanied by similar prose or the image is shattered. On every page the reader encounters a variety of translation ticks: the hackneyed phrase, the unnecessarily complex words, the odd spelling, the anti-lyrical and the weird.

Hackneyed: hither and yond, oft times, by and by, by and large, truth be told, kith and kin, hale and hearty, sing a ditty, let the cat out of the bag, a slave of his baser desires.

Big words: in one paragraph we encounter quiddities, haecceities and ideational.

Odd spelling: phantasy and magick [each used many, many times].

Anti-lyrical: "Ihsan's personality was more agreeable than those personae of his preconceptions might have indicated" "exercise her volition to live apart" "the verdure assaulted one's casing of skin."

Weird: "at whiles." Synonym for periodically or at times. And used way too often!

So maybe Tanipar is addicted to archaic spellings, has a huge vocabulary that he throws around, is addicted to hackneyed phrases and the translator is merely following the original. Maybe, but adding all of these quirks together, if the translator has merely followed the original, this book would not be "the greatest novel ever written about Istambul," quoting Orhan Pamur.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mind at Peace 1 Feb. 2010
By Patrick Oliver Kelley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a novel more in the spirit of a wm Faulkner novel than a Robert Graves piece. Why did I expect more war than personal, romantic intimacy? Frankly, I wonder if the translator has ever been in Turkey for any period of time. Imagery is good, but for me the translation is 'too high brow' maybe I should have tried to read the original Turkish, before turning to the English version because much of the English seems too 'unTurkish.' So much of what is translated seems more an invention of the translator than the intent of the author. I am soldering on reading the book because of the unique subject and unique period it encompasses.
Hope I am not offending anyone, but it's my review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mind at Peace 8 April 2014
By Steven Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"What is it that should be done?" This is the central question of A Mind at Peace at both the public and personal levels. The novel is set on the eve of World War II in Istanbul, Turkey. Its protagonist, Mümtaz, is a young, unmarried academic and would-be novelist. He is principally occupied at the moment, however, with caring for his older cousin İhsan who suffers from what appears likely to be a fatal case of pneumonia. İhsan had been Mümtaz's guardian and mentor ever since the latter's parents died as a result of the Greek invasion of Anatolia in 1919--events which Mümtaz recalls at the beginning of the novel.

Mümtaz also reflects ruefully upon his recently broken love affair with Nuran, a divorced woman slightly older than Mümtaz. In the long walks he takes to escape from the sick room, every sight and sound seems to recall the times he spent with Nuran.

After this prologue, the novel shifts back a year or more in time to Mümtaz's first meeting with Nuran. It is a relationship we know is doomed to failure, but not how or why. In the meantime, the two lovers, enraptured with one another, spend many idle hours in all seasons exploring their city--from palaces to bazaars, from waterways to ancient ruins. Eventually Mümtaz even wonders "Do we love each other or the Bosphorus?"

On a par with their passion for Istanbul is the pair's enthusiasm for traditional Turkish music. There are lengthy discussions about it, as well as sessions where Nuran's uncle, a noted vocalist, and his friends perform for guests. (It's a shame that the novel couldn't have included a CD to satisfy readers' inevitable curiosity about the folk music described in such rapturous terms.)

Notwithstanding the love story and travelogue, A Mind at Peace is essentially a novel of ideas. It is August 1939, and the world is obviously on the brink of another great war. The Turks have no reason to expect that they won't be involved, but should they just let the currents of history carry them into another bloodbath? What is the responsibility of the individual, especially of the intellectual, at times like this? After long talks with his cousin, Mümtaz asks himself: "Maybe İhsan does have a point! This society wants ideas and maybe even a struggle out of me. Not romantic posturing! But to achieve this end must I forget about Nuran?"

There is obviously much of Hamlet's "To be, or not to be..." in Mümtaz's dilemma. Readers of Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities will also find themselves on familiar ground with a protagonist full of ideas but lacking in direction. In contrast to Mümtaz there is Suad, a key character introduced fairly late in the novel, who is his mirror image: a man of intellectual attainment but impulsive, irresponsible, self-indulgent and proud of his Sadean amorality. Nuran, in contrast to both of these men, is centered on her feelings, her family, and her cultural roots. In the author's words, "Nuran depended on a minimum level of selfhood. She lived through her milieu."

A Mind at Peace is a great novel that brings forth ideas of epic scale out of an intimate story, and does so against an unforgettable historical and cultural backdrop. The principal characters, notwithstanding their penchant for philosophical abstracts, are convincingly complete and complex. The author's prose, beautifully translated, has an evocative and lyrical quality in keeping with the musical theme running through the novel. Here, for example, is a passage describing Nuran:

"Not a single spot existed on her small face with which he wasn't familiar. For Mümtaz, her face became his panorama of the soul: the way it blossomed to love like a flower, closed definitively upon a despairing smile--the metallic radiance burning in her eyes asquint--and not least of all the way her face changed by degrees like a daybreak over the Bosphorus.... With a look, she dressed him up and stripped him down, at one moment turning him into a pitiful, forsaken malcontent with no recourse but Allah, and at the next into the very master of his fate."

For both its profound discussion of ideas central to the human condition and its vivid portrayal of a place, a time and a people, A Mind at Peace is highly recommended.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mind at Peace has unsettled mine. 25 Jun. 2013
By S. Kammer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book reminds me of something that would be required reading in high school or college. The sentence construction and words are wonderful but by the time I've finished several paragraphs I have completely lost track of where this story is going. I'm embarrassed to say that perhaps I'm not educated enough to fully appreciate what Tanpinar has accomplished here, but this is not an easy book to read for me - especially at night when I do most of my reading.

I have not even gotten through 1/4 of the book so perhaps I will struggle through it and have a different perspective upon completion. I was never wild about The Illiad, either.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful city to fall in and out of love 7 Aug. 2013
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I won't comment on the translation, as other reviewers have done it competently. I will focus on the story and what it meant to me. Like other readers, I arrived to this book after reading the excellent "Istanbul" by Orhan Pamuk. Let's hope his book will spark a flow of (good) translations of this and the other Turkish works mentioned by him. Turkey is and has been for millenia a very important country where many of history's most important situations have taken place and through which many civilizations have passed (or stayed).

"A Mind at Peace" (I wonder if the original title translates literally like this) is a whole revelation: it is a wonderful novel of ideas whose action develops in the years immediately previous to WWII. Turkey was then in the middle of a deep social, economic and political transformation, brought about by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after WWI and by Ataturk's government. The particular situation of the characters, their doubts, fears and hopes are a reflection of the general insecurity and agitation of Turkish society, terrified of being dragged into yet another global armed conflict.

The story begins with young Mumtaz, a professor who wanders around Istanbul on different family errands on account of his cousin and mentor Ihsan's illness. As he walks, Mumtaz is constantly thinking of his beloved Nuran, who has recently left him. He is very hurt and full of longing. We learn of Mumtaz's extremely difficult childhood, the son of a man murdered by Greek invaders, who then lost his mother and has been raised by his much older cousin Ihsan and his wife, both of whom he adores. After this comes a long flashback, really the focus of the novel, in which we are told the story of Mumtaz and Nuran. I won't spoil the details of that story; suffice it to say that Nuran has been recently divorced and that she has a daughter. The relationship is thus very complex in that time and place's social environment. Nevertheless, both lovers plan to marry as soon as the law allows it. Beyond sexual and emotional attraction, they share a great love of Turkish traditional music (a major subject of the novel which also illustrates the tension between tradition and modernity), and are fond of long walks around the city. This really turns the city into the major character of the book: with great beauty and detail, Istanbul's neighborhoods, mosques, palaces and parks are described. A myriad of local characters and festivities people the tale, which acquires epic undertones with multiple references to the history, art, and habits of the yearned-for Ottoman Empire. (As an aside: this very longing makes the book a love-it-or-hate-it object for Turkish people, apparently. Especially the situation of women under Ottoman rule is a contentious point on the desirability of Muslim rule). The characters have long arguments about Turkey's current situation, as well as about the ominous circumstances of Europe. As the general environment and mood deteriorate, so does the romance. This is further aggravated by the sudden intrusion of Suad, a repulsive man who courts Nuran in spite of being married.

With an exuberant and romantic prose (which survives the obviously flawed translation), Tanpinar has woven a wide and deep, alternately lyrical and epic, novel with a great cast of characters, a story where the general trends of society and the specific personal situations have reflecting correspondences. In spite of being in love, Mumtaz and Nuran bear doubts: "were we in love with each other or both with the Bosphorus?". "The greatest novel about Istanbul", according to Pamuk, makes one long to visit (or revisit) this magical city and walk it in the company of these fateful lovers.
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