BOOKS: New Threads of a Magic Carpet ; Dear, Shameless Death by Latife Tekin, Trans Saliha Paker & Mel Kenne Marion Boyars, Pounds 8.99, 237pp; Aamer Hussein Unravels a Turkish Classic of Myth, Migration and Modernity
Hussein, Aamer, The Independent (London, England)
WHEN Dear, Shameless Death first appeared in Turkish, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the presiding genius of Third World literature. Latife Tekin, in her mid-twenties when she wrote her first novel, probably found the graces and excesses of Marquez-inspired realism ideally suited to her theme and terrain. Her fictional tapestries are steeped in the brightest colours of the primitive picturesque. Fantasy - talking plants, naked witches, shape-shifting jinns - presides over the real, at least in the opening chapters. We only gradually identify the characters of her novel's central family as presences in our time, our world.
But information provided by author and translator soon inflects a first impression of fable. We learn that the novel mirrors the chronology of its author's life. Like Dirmit, her fictional alter ego, Tekin spent her childhood in an Anatolian village and moved, aged nine, to Istanbul. This useful knowledge helps us map the journey Dirmit's family makes, and to mark the stories of her migrant protagonists' inventive attempts to join the urban labour force with time-posts of our own.
In Turkey, stories such as Tekin's may be almost as exotic to urban readers as they are us. Rural superstitions, barely or boldly presented, can make unpalatable fictions. The choice of a mythic mode adds a different dimension to Tekin's project: she may, like Americans such as Toni Morrison, have consciously crafted an idiosyncratically lyrical idiom to voice the sorrows of her own, marginalised group. …