Farewell: A mansion in occupied Istanbul

The novel Farewell: A mansion in occupied Istanbul by Ayse Kulin was brought back by a family member after their travels in Istanbul. The golden award sticker attached to the front of the paperback book said “Best novel award 2008” so I figured the book would be worthy of a look even though I didn’t know who the awarding body of critics were!

Set in the 1920’s amidst the fall of the Ottoman empire and the tumultuous rise of the Turkish Republic. An era of turbulent times as the city of Istanbul is under siege. The novel centres around the occupants of an old Istanbul house. The family is that of the finance minister, Ahmet Resat. Ahmet Resat is torn between his loyalty to the Sultan and his desire to help the emerging resistance. However according to law, civil servants must maintain loyalty to the crown. For Ahmet Resat he is compromised as family issues and involvement forces him to intervene. Family matters conflict with his professional and societal expectations. This novel is a believable tale of everyday life of people who are affected by the city under siege and the war. It is told from a historical perspective and interwoven with the joys and sorrows of daily life. The novel is apparently loosely based on letter’s from the author’s great grandfather, that were written whilst he was in exile.

The book was written in Turkish and translated into English and I have pondered how much of the tale may have been lost in translation. I also wonder which aspects of the story may have been lost on readers of the translated version through our lack of knowledge regarding Turkish culture. It is an educational and enjoyable read. City Libraries does not stock this title within it’s book collection however City Libraries does stock the author Ayse Kulin’s other novel Last train to Istanbul.