Tuesday, August 27, 2013

5 Things I've Learned from "The Bastard of Istanbul"

"Whatever falls from the sky above, thou shall not curse it..That includes the rain..."


I quite enjoyed reading "The Bastard of Istanbul",  for several reasons. Shafak's style of writing is one I admire, full of powerful images, Turkish folklore and the country's agitated past, and Shafak has quite a unique talent for storytelling. 

The book was published in 2006 and it stirred a public controversy due to the account of the mass killings of the Armenian people by the Ottoman government in the 1920s, recognizing it as a genocide. The writer was accused of insulting the Turkish national identity through the voice of the main character and she was sentenced to three years in prison, but the charges were later dropped. This was the first time I have heard or read about the genocide, and it felt rather strange, just happening after the First World War and people already pretending it did not happen. 

On a more happier note, the book is full of Turkish and Armenian food and sweets and a few of the culinary products were tasted on my trip to Istanbul two years ago, but not ASHURE, which plays such an important part all along the novel. Ashure, or Noah's Pudding is believed to have been made by Noah himself after the flood, with  some of the ingredients that were left. More on its story and the recipe here.  

The third thing I discovered was the story behind djinns, or genies, who can interact with people, (and they do so in the book) and who have free will and can do good or bad. 

Dervishes were not something new to me, since I have read about them and I also saw them dancing and whirling in a wonderful show back in Istanbul, but the book stresses once more their importance in the Turkish culture. 

 One cannot mention Turkish elements of culture without some linguistic examples, and SEREFE seems quite an interesting one. It means "Cheers!" and you can learn more about its history here.

No comments: