[Marxism] Young Turk

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 7 10:38:52 MST 2006

Moris Farhi's Young Turk
by Peter Byrne
Book Review

     Farhi, Moris: Young Turk, Arcade Publishing, 2005, ISBN 
155970764 X, 392 pages.
     In UK, Saqui Books, 2004, ISBN 0-86356-861-0 (hb), ISBN 
0-86356-351-1 (pb), 392 pages.

(Swans - November 6, 2006)  Rifat is on the innocent side of puberty 
in Istanbul at the end of the 1930s. Ataturk has been consecrated as 
savior of the nation. The idea of Turkey as an ethnic monolith has 
been planted but its foliage has not yet obscured the evidence of the 
senses. Rifat's neighborhood is a crazy quilt of various peoples 
getting along together. The New Turkey exists not too uncomfortably 
with the old, myth and magic making room for official Westernizing 
Puritanism. A Turkmen, the local fount of traditional wisdom, tells 
the boy, who is preparing for his Moslem circumcision ceremony, that 
the penis is "the key to heaven (p. 13)." All the same, women seem to 
keep the neighborhood going. Rifat's mentor is Gul, an older girl 
with powers of clairvoyance. She's Jewish, with brothers, and knowing 
in circumcision lore. Rifat's miffed when she calls him a Donme. He 
assures her that his distant forebears may have been these 17th 
century insincere converts, but that his parents chose the Moslem 
faith freely. In a letter to Gul he outlines the not so small virtues 
of the Moslem circumcision: A boy's a man as soon as the knife draws 
blood, and he doesn't have to wait around for any bar mitzvah.

So begins Moris Farhi's Young Turk, a novel told by a baker's dozen 
of friends and acquaintances in the Turkey of the first decades of 
the republic. Each voice bears witness to the complexities and 
richness of a mixed population as Turkish nationalism and world 
events impinge upon it. The freshness of this historical fresco comes 
from its being built on the perplexity of children awakening to the 
sensual delights of life. The intertwining of death and desire, 
defeat and joy lifts the story above the run-of-the mill European or 
American novel. Farhi, a Turk of Jewish provenance, lives in London 
and writes in English. Born in 1935, he has published four other 
books and is a vice president of International PEN. His distance from 
Turkey seems only to have intensified his feeling for its life.

full: http://www.swans.com/library/art12/pbyrne20.html

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