Magazine article World Literature Today

The Assassin from Apricot City: Reportage from Turkey

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Assassin from Apricot City: Reportage from Turkey

Article excerpt

Witold Szab?owski. The Assassin from Apricot City: Reportage from Turkey. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, tr. London. Stork Press. 2013. isbn 9780957391253

Witold Szab?owski is a Polish jour- nalist who has written extensively about Turkey. Twelve pieces of non- fiction have been arranged into his newly translated book, The Assas- sin from Apricot City. Each story can stand alone, but Szab?owski weaves them loosely into a larger work of art. History repeats itself, characters are reincarnated from one story to another, and problems like misogyny and exile are perpetual curses.

The title story concerns Ali A?ca, a right-wing terrorist from Malatya where the summer is "green and orange, with the scent and flavor of apricots." In 1981 A?ca traveled to the Vatican and put four bullets into the pope. John Paul II miracu- lously survived, forgave his would-be assassin, and even visited him in prison. A?ca grew to love the pope like a father and, in what may have been a move to outfox prosecutors, proclaimed himself the messiah. The story parallels an earlier piece on Sabbatai Zevi, a seventeenth-century Smyrna rabbi who also claimed to be the messiah. After gaining thousands of followers from the Jewish com- munity, Sabbatai was interrogated in the sultan's court. He promptly converted to Islam, spurring some adherents to follow suit and starting a crypto-Jewish subculture in the Ottoman Empire that feeds paranoia to this day.

In the opener, Szab?owski takes us to Turkey's Aegean coast. …

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