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50bookchallenge: #2: Yasar Kemal, Salman

[Ah well. Actually I started reading this one before Christmas, but 260 pages out of 460... more than half, I say it counts. Or I might add another half book to the list, because I can't seem to make that little inner voice shut up that insists I'm cheating. :: headdesk :: I take my own rules way too serious... ]

A strange book. Very dark; passages of forceful poetry turning into haunting apocalyptic visions full of blood and death, violence always very close to the surface, erupting in one way or the other every few pages to the point where it even got a little numbing for me. Death, always death. The story is set against the background of the trauma of the First World War, lost battles, refugees dying by the thousands, the madness of the massacre of the Armenians, and the wounds the war left in people’s souls, especially the uprooted children. Fear is an ever-present leitmotif.

It starts with a children's game of hide and seek in a small Anatolian village in a moonlight night. We get a first glimpse of tragedies that have happened here, seen through the prism of the children's fear. And while the carpet analogy is too tempting and probably much over-used with any writer of oriental origin, especially one whose style is so colourful, it is indeed as if you're offered an extreme close-up look at a small piece of a large carpet and throughout the rest of the book step back trying to make out the complete pattern, let your eyes drift over various parts, follow this ornament or that, pick out more and more details. The narration goes back and forth, connecting characters, picking up pieces, filling gaps, but also varying patterns, merging history with gossip and legend.

The love for the country is tangible in the lovely atmospheric descriptions of landscapes, but set in the time of the transition from the Ottoman empire to the modern Turkish nation it’s also an elegy for a dying world, and things lost, some of them senselessly destroyed in violent ways or simply becoming anachronistic through changing times, like nomads on the brink of having to give up their way of life.

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