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Apr. 25th, 2003

i'm getting lazy. so many random thoughts, scribblings, half-finished entries all over the computer, and, as always, i can't just let go....

this is from way back, only i never managed to make it sound coherent... it still isn't.

[[ Nedim Gürsel, 'Der Eroberer'

recommended by amazon along with Yasar Kemal's 'Die Ameiseninsel' - very much worth it, even if the review was more than just slightly misleading. or maybe i jumped at the wrong keywords. this is maybe the point where i should admit that i have a weakness for historical novels (in fact i'd like to be more sure that mary renault has nothing to do with my decision to study archaeology, or ending up with a m.a. thesis on macedonian art...). not a very scientific approach, but if it comes down to it, historians have the same preferences and prejudices as the average writer, they just tend to disguise them better.

but this isn't your average historical novel, it isn't about drawing the reader into a different world, or at least not in the usual sense of the genre. it doesn't quite flow, no smooth narration, rather angles and layers both revealed and only hinted at, more than face value...

the greatest appeal is maybe the narrative structure, a bit like a russian doll, but with the different threads and layers of the narration occasionally mingling, something of a Brechtian 'alienation' effect, as he never lets the reader forget he's creating or at least interpreting his figures, only it doesn't have a distancing effect, but rather creates a different kind of intimacy between the reader, the narrative character and his subjects. the author himself is a presence sort of hovering on the edges, almost tied into the story through the first person narrative character who he shares certain points of biography with, but who cannot be wholly autobiographic...

the books starts fairly ordered, with chapters alternating between the historic narrative, told from various persons' viewpoints, and the (fictional) author's pov describing the process of creation, his time spent in Istanbul. after yet the longest of the 'historical' chapters, as the he gets more and more drawn into his narrative or maybe loses patience as he gets distracted by 'real life', he matter-of-factly switches between perspectives, seemingly offhandedly debates whether to kill Nicolo or not, equally offhandedly gives him a childhood and history, interweaves the historical narration with the account of his doomed relationship with Deniz, neither the less real for it.

poetic, understated, ideas only hinted at. makes me wonder what i might be missing through barriers of culture, language and translation...

the short recount of a woman's body found in the sea, set after the end of the novel is it real or fictitious? Gürsel's inspiration for the novel or part of it, an appendix? does or doesn't his narrative character kill Deniz? he's haunted by the thought of having to get rid of her to complete his novel, like his subject, Mehmet II killed Irini to rid himself from his obsession with her, but he says so at the very end of the narrative. the novel never progresses any further. because of her? in spite of her? does he imply he might finally break this age old pattern of male fear and misogyny?

possibilities. ]]


solitary summer

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