Tag Archives: Literature in Translation

Review: Like Death by Guy Maupassant

I received an advanced review copy of this title from NYRB via Edelweiss.  This English version has been translated from the French by Richard Howard.

My Review:
like-deathOlivier Bertin is a painter in late nineteenth century Paris and his most famous work, his Cleopatra, has earned him enough fame to be sought out by the rich and famous of high society.  He is not interested in any romantic relationships with the bourgeois women he paints because he feels that are insipid and boring.  At a party one night, however, he meets the Countess Ann de Guilleroy and is immediately captivated by her beauty and charm and decides he must do her portrait.  As Bertin paints the Countess in his studio, the two have stimulating conversations and enjoy one another’s company more and more.

Like many romantic relationships, Anne and Bertin’s starts with great conversations and friendship.  Slowly, feelings of love overtake both of them until the painter can stand it no longer and decides he must have her.  When they consummate their relationship, Anne feels very guilty at first because she has had a good marriage to the Count de Guilleroy for seven years and they have a five-year-old daughter.  But she quickly realizes that Bertin makes her happy and she welcomes the painter into her inner circle so that they can have daily contact.

Henceforth she felt no remorse, merely the vague sense of a certain forfeiture, and to answer the reproaches of her reason, she now credited to a certain fatality.  Drawn to him by her virgin heart and her void soul, her flesh vanquished by the slow dominion of caresses, she gradually became attached, as tender women do who love for the first time.

There is no suspicion among Parisian society that they are having an affair and it simply appears that the Countess and Bertin are the best of friends and both share a love of the arts.  Bertin even becomes great friends with Anne’s husband, the Count.  Their affair carries on for twelve years and settles into an easy comfort, similar to many long-term marriages and relationships.  In two simple lines, Maupassant’s sublime prose describes the deep and abiding affection achieved by the lovers:

Months then passed, then years, which scarcely loosened the bond uniting Countess de Builleroy and the painter Olivier Bertin.  For him, this period was no longer theexaltation of the early days but a calmer, deeper affection, a sort of anitie amoureuse to which he had become easily and entirely accustomed.

The central crisis in the book occurs when Anne’s daughter, Annette, who has been growing up outside of Paris, makes her entrance into Parisian society at the age of eighteen; Annette is the exact image of her mother at that age and everyone, especially Bertin, notices the striking resemblance between mother and daughter.  Maupassant takes a lot of care in his writing to develop the contrast between the youth of Annette and the growing age of her mother and the painter.  He uses the seasons as a backdrop which  mimic the painter’s feelings and observations about mother and daughter.  For example, when Bertin first realizes that Annette is a younger, more energetic version of her mother it is springtime and Bertin has accompanied Annette to the park where children are playing and mother nature is in her first bloom.  The brighter, fresh weather and Annette’s youth give Bertin feelings of energy and passion that haven’t been stirred in him for many years.

At first it seems that the appearance of Annette has just reminded Bertin of the early stages of his relationship with Anne, that all-consuming, passion that marks the beginning of an affair.  But Bertin’s feelings gradually become deeper for Annette and he soon realizes he is even jealous of her fiancé.  Bertin doesn’t acknowledge his love for the young Annette until Anne detects them and points them out to the painter.  At this point in the book, Anne and Bertin both become hopelessly wretched because the painter has fallen in love with Annette, the younger, prettier version of Anne.  At times Anne and Bertin are a little hard to take because their feelings of misery are so intense and  they make frequent allusions to death which seemed a bit melodramatic.

Maupassant weaves an interesting commentary throughout the book on beauty, age, youth and the standards of beauty upheld by society.  Anne notices her increasing wrinkles and sagging skin and believes her appearance is to blame for Bertin’s lack of affection towards her.  And instead of being proud of her daughter she is jealous of Annette’s complexion yet unblemished by time and age.  Anne takes more time to apply make-up, takes extreme measures to make herself thin and only greets her lover in the dim light of the drawing room.  Olivier, too, suffers from an obsession with his aging appearance.  His white hair and paleness are particularly emphasized.  When a Parisian newspaper calls his art work old-fashioned, he becomes particularly distraught about his advancing years.  Maupassant’s meditations on the impossible standards of beauty to which we hold ourselves are just as relevant now as they were in the nineteenth century.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read because of Maupassant’s prose which perfectly captures the extreme and conflicting emotions of love and suffering.  The ending is rather dramatic, although not at all surprising given the title and other elements of foreshadowing that Maupassant scatters throughout his text.

 

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Filed under Classics, France, French Literature, Literature in Translation, Literature/Fiction, New York Review of Books

Review: Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

I received a review copy of this title from Istros Books .  It was published in the original Slovenian in 2014 and this English version has been translated by Rawley Grau.

My Review:
panoramaFiction, poetry, travelogue, history, short story, memoir, photo essay. Šarotar’s latest work, translated into English from Slovenian for Istros Books as part of their World Series venture with Peter Owens Publishers, defines categorization into a single,  specific genre.  The unnamed narrator, whose own biography resembles that of  Šarotar himself, opens this piece with a poetic description of his journey through the landscapes he encounters while in Ireland.  The moods and textures of the Irish landscape, with a focus on the sea, dominate his literary illustrations.  The narrator also describes a trip to Belgium where he encounters some follow writers and translators who are expats from his part of the world.  Everywhere he travels, this unnamed narrator captures the plight of the immigrant in his writing as he encounters men and women who are displaced from their homes either by force or by choice.

The narrator is a writer who has journeyed from his home in Slovenia to Galway in order to find time and inspiration to finish writing a manuscript.  He gives us snapshots of his surroundings through his disjointed stories and through his camera lens.  In the first scene our writer is sitting in his damp and cold third floor room in Galway listening to a storm raging outside and in the next scene he is walking along the Galway Bay and looking at a plaque with the names of all the families who had escaped the famine via the ocean between 1847 and 1853.  In another moment he is passing by the Aquarium, a glass semicircular building,  when he encounters a an old pier with diving platforms.  The sea is the dominant force in this landscape and he captures its focal point in a variety of unique vignettes.  For visual interest the narrator also includes photos that serve to enhance the written descriptions throughout the text:

People are really swimming, I thought and was delighted by the chance of seeing somebody dive into the cold, rolling Atlantic Ocean, although at the thought of swimming I felt a chill, in spite of the sun, which was glowing like a white spot on a blue eye.  I sat down on the wet, black rocks beneath the pier and watched a sparse procession of bathers, both male and female, all older townspeople who had probably been bathing here since childhood; they walked in silence, backs straight, with the practiced poise of swimmers, the men in simple blue linen knee-length trunks, the women in black one-piece swimsuits, everyone with close fitting rubber caps on their heads;

panorama-diving-tower

Embedded with the narrator’s story of his journey, is the story of his tour guide and driver through the Connemara region, an Albanian immigrant named Gjini.  Throughout the course of Panorama, the narrator picks up the thread of different pieces of Gjini’s story who leaves his wife and children behind in Albania in an attempt to make a better living in Ireland.  When he arrives on the island, he doesn’t know a word of English so he begins by working at the bus station selling sandwiches during the day and cleaning offices at night.  He gradually learns enough English to pass the language test and enroll as a student in Irish cultural heritage studies.  Gjini’s reflections on being a foreigner, as he is viewing the empty landscape of the peat bogs with the narrator, are profound, enlightening and timely:

Although I was a foreigner, an immigrant, and still learning the jargon of high academia, and was moreover the oldest student in the group, a person who with some effort and for his own survival was merely skillfully concealing his homesickness, swallowing his anger, the disappointment and despair of the refugee, which were still mixed with will, with determination for a new beginning, and with inconsolable nostalgia, which, in fact, appeared and found its true name only later, when I had somehow got on my feet, as soon as I sensed that we would somehow make it, would be able to transplant ourselves, put down at least shallow roots in new soil, and even later, when I would come back again and stop here, mostly on my own but occasionally with my family, and take long walks, when my second education, if you will, was successfully behind me….—that’s when I realized we were in some ways alike, we can’t hide or suppress our background, no matter where we are from or where we are born, we’re made out of a substance, like soil or an island, and on top of it, nostalgia, Gjini said, and the Irish understand this.

panorama-irish-shore
The history of Kylemore Abbey is also woven into the narrator’s text and serves as a bridge between his journeys to Ireland and Belgium.  The Benedictine Order arrived at the Abbey in 1920 after their own abbey in Ypres, Belgium was burned to the ground during World War I.  The nuns flight on foot to Paris is mentioned in the narrative and Gjini tells the story of how they settled at Kylemore and restored the castle and the garden.  The narrator himself makes this trek in reverse as he travels to Belgium after his trip to Ireland.  He is giving a talk in Ghent and while on his trip he meets up with a woman named Spomenka who tells him the story of her escape from the dangerous wars in Sarajevo.  There is a deep, underlying sadness in her story because she feels as if she is forced to leave her home with her young daughter in order to escape the violence and bloodshed that broke out all around her.  A kind neighbor helps Spomenka to escape and she never goes back.

Finally, a comment must be made about the style of writing that Šarotar employs for his narrative.  The meandering nature of his story reflects his own restlessness as he journeys throughout Europe and encounters others who have been displaced from their native homes.   Different threads and characters are brought up and dropped; some of the threads are brought up again and others are left without a conclusion.  Šarotar is a master at using vignettes to capture the struggle of immigrants and refugees who are attempting to find a place in the world that feels safe and like home.

About the Author:

Dušan Šarotar is a Slovenian writer, poet, screenwriter and photographer. He has published five novels (Potapljanje na dah/ Island of the Dead, 1999, Nočitev z zajtrkom/Bed and Breakfast, 2003, Biljard v Dobrayu/Billiards at the Hotel Dobray, 2007, Ostani z mano, duša moja/ Stay with me, my dear, 2011 and Panorama, 2015), two collections of short stories (Mrtvi kot/ Blind Spot, 2002, and Nostalgia, 2010), three poetry collections (Občutek za veter/Feel for the Wind, 2004, Krajina v molu/ Landscape in Minor, 2006 and Hiša mojega sina/ The House of My Son, 2009) and book of essays (Ne morje ne zemlja/Not Sea Not Earth, 2012). Šarotar is also author of fifteen screenplays for documentary and feature films. His short film, Mario was watching the sea with love, based on authors short stories from the collection “Blind Spot” and on his screenplay, won in 2016 Global short film award in New York and the first prize in Ningbo, China, for the “best short film” in selection of Central and East European film selection. Šarotar has also a several photographic exhibition in national galleries and abroad. Photographies from his series “Souls” was included in permanent collection in Art gallerie of Prekmurje.

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Filed under Istros Books, Literary Fiction, Literature in Translation

Review: His Only Son by Leopoldo Alas

I received a review copy of this title from the New York Review of Books via Edelweiss.  This book was published in the original Spanish in 1890 and this English version has been translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

My Review:
his-only-sonBonifacio Reyes has spent his whole life carrying out the commands that others have bestowed on him.  When he is a young man he is coaxed into eloping with Emma Valcárcel , the spoiled only child of Don Diego Valcárcel, a prominent lawyer in what Alas describes as a “third-rate provincial capital.”  When the couple’s plans are thwarted and they are captured , Emma is confined to a convent and Bonifacio is banished to Mexico where he will live a sad and lonely existence for the rest of his life.  Or so he thought.

When Emma’s father dies she is finally released from the convent and as her father’s sole heir, she lives a comfortable and pampered life.  Despite the time that has passed, Emma continues to pine away for her beloved Bonifacio but in order to avoid a town scandal, she wants a different husband first before she marries Bonifacio.  Emma manages to capture a sickly husband who doesn’t last very long, and once she is done playing the role of mournful widow, she has her family track Bonifacio down in Mexico where he is working for a newspaper.  Bonifacio is easily lured back to Spain where, within three months, he becomes the kept husband of Emma.

Alas slowly unravels Emma’s dark side throughout the novel.  Emma declares very early on that the honeymoon is over but she keeps her handsome Bonifacio around her, dressed in the finest clothes, to show him off to the rest of the provincial town whenever it is convenient.  Bonifacio spends most of the day playing a flute which he finds among his deceased father-in-law’s old papers.  The couple appears to settle into a comfortable, yet affectionless, existence together:

Emma never asked him about his interests nor about the time they filled, which was most of the day. She demanded only that he be smartly dressed when they went out walking or visiting. “Her” Bonifacio was merely an adornment, entirely hollow and empty inside, but useful as a way of provoking the envy of many of the town’s society ladies. She showed off her husband, for whom she bought fine clothes, which he wore well, and reserved the right to present him as a good, simple soul.

The turning point that really sours their marriage is a miscarriage that Emma suffers which affects her health and prematurely ages her.  After this distressful brush with death, Emma becomes an unbearable tyrant and unleashes all of her frustrations and abuses on Bonifacio.  Alas’ story reads like a tragicomedy in which neither partner in the marriage is happy but neither party can be without the other.  Bonifacio is on call in the evenings so that he can rub unguents and lotions on his wife’s sickly body and while he does these and other demeaning tasks for her she hurls abuses and insults at him.  The most awful part of this for Bonifacio is not the name-calling or even the completion of these tasks, but the sheer noise that Emma raises when Bonifacio is carrying out his duties.  Bonifacio craves, more than anything in life, to have peace and quiet in his house.  Whenever Emma calls his name, the poor man shutters:

Telling Bonifacio off became her one consolation; she could not do without his attentions nor, equally, without rewarding him with shrill, rough words.  What doubt could there be that her Bonifacio was born to put up with and to care for her.

Bonifacio, who prides himself on his appreciation for music and the arts, finds a second home at the local theater where a troupe of second rate opera singers have temporarily set up shop. Bonifacio finds the peace and quiet he so craves among the opera singers who view him, at first, as a cash cow and as a sucker that will pay for their expensive dinners.  Bonifacio gets into a couple of touch spots trying to get money out of his wife’s uncle, who serves as the family accountant.  Bonifacio quickly realizes that the best way to get into the heart and the bed of Serafina is to give her partner Mochi money whenever he asks.  Bonifacio engages in a passionate and sensual love affair with Serafina and he carefully keeps his musician friends away from his home and his wife.

At this point in the story Alas ramps up the comedy as Bonifacio and Emma engage in an elaborate game of cat and mouse.  Emma has gradually been recovering her health and is only pretending to be an invalid.  One night when Bonifacio comes home from the theater smelling of rice powder, Emma suspects that he is having an affair.  But instead of screaming and yelling at her husband, she seduces him and for the first time in years they start having sex again.  The sex, though, becomes, like Emma’s character, a bit crazy and depraved.   Emma admits that she has been hatching a maniacal plan to bring down both her adulterous husband and her accountant uncle who she believes is stealing from her:.

The first part of her plan is carried out when Emma insists on going to the theater and meeting Bonifacio’s music friends with whom he has been spending so much time.   But while at the theater, Emma is herself smitten with one of the opera singers, a baritone named Minghetti.  Emma and Minghetti flirt shamelessly with one another and arrange to see each other on a regular basis when Minghetti offers piano lessons to Emma.  This is where the story reaches its pinnacle of farce as Emma and her lover carry on right under Bonifacio’s nose.

It is also at this point that Emma finds out that she is pregnant.  Bonifacio becomes maudlin and sentimental over the fact that he will now have a son and promises to changes his ways.  He swears he will take more financial responsibility for his family and he gives up Serafina as his lover.  Bonifacio’s final act of absurdity is his refusal to believe that anyone besides himself is the father of Emma’s baby.  The novel concludes with this one statement that Alas puts in the mouth of his unheroic hero which deftly mixes the tragic and the comic: “Bonifacio Reyes believes absolutely that Antonio Reyes y Valcarcel is his son.  His only son, you understand, his only son!”

 

About the Author:
LEOPOLDO ALAS (1852–1901) was the son of a government official, born in Zamora, Spain. He attended the University of Oviedo and the University of Madrid, receiving a doctorate in law. A novelist and writer of short stories who adopted the pseudonym Clarín (Bugle), Alas was one of Spain’s most influential literary critics. He became a professor of law at the University of Oviedo in 1883 and published his first and best-known novel, La Regenta, in 1884; his second novel, Suúnico hijo (His Only Son), was published in 1890. He died in Oviedo at the age of forty-nine.

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Review: Two Lines 25 World Writing in Translation

I received a review copy of this title from the publisher, Two Lines Press.

My Review:
two-linesA few times a year I find a book that I rant and rave about and recommend to everyone I know.  I become rather obnoxious with my comments that gush with praise.  I am giving you fair warning that Two Lines 25 is one of those books.  Literature translated from Bulgarian, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Russian and Spanish are all contained within the pages of this 192-page volume.  I am in awe of the fact that the editors crammed so many fantastic pieces into one slim paperback (there I go gushing again.)  This is the type of book that everyone needs to experience for him or herself; but I will attempt to give an overview of some of my favorite pieces.

The volume begins with a humorous and absurdist short story written by Enrique Vila-Matas and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.  I have to mention that not only is the English translation provided in these brilliantly collected pages, but an excerpt from each text in the original language also appears on the facing page in a colorful light blue that matches the artwork on the cover.  Vila Matas’s begins his story, Sea Swell, on a jarring and depressing note:  “I had a friend once.  Indeed, at the time, I only had one friend.”  This nearly friendless narrator, who is also completely broke, visits his one friend, Andre, who is living in Paris.  The unnamed narrator is an aspiring writer and Andre graciously agrees to introduce the narrator to Marguerite Duras.  The story becomes increasingly absurd when Duras offers the narrator an attic flat to rent for practically nothing.  But the narrator almost ruins the entire encounter because of his edgy demeanor which due to the two or three (he isn’t sure exactly how many) amphetamines he has ingested.    The expectation throughout the first few paragraphs is that the narrator is an absolute emotional mess and his friend Andres will have to come to his rescue.  But after Andre drinks two bottles of wine at a dinner party hosted by Duras, it is the narrator who has to pull Andre out of the Seine.  Vila-Matas, in the span of a few pages, writes a ridiculously funny tale but one that finishes with unexpected and surprising turn of events.

Russian author Dmitry Ivanov’s writing can also be found within the pages of this brilliant book.  His short story, Where Sleep the Gods, which is translated by Arch Tait, revolves around the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Putin’s strategy to sell the Olympics to the people of Sochi.  The main character in the narrative, a self-proclaimed “creative,” is named Anton and lives a comfortable life in Moscow while working for an ad agency.  Anton is used to dealing with wealthy customers who only demand the best that their money can buy.  Anton’s strategy in dealing with his wealthy clients is to adopt an air of aloofness: “He was accustomed to treating these types in a perfunctory, even insolent manner.  This was not risky, but, on the contrary, the surest approach to respect.”  When Anton is escorted in a private jet to meet a particularly important client he prepares to don his mask of insolence;  but when Vladimir Putin enters the room any and all attempts at smugness instantly dissolve.  Anton is quickly given the task of marketing the Olympics to the Sochians and is whisked off to that city to set up his Olympic headquarters.  What Anton discovers about the Sochians is astute and funny.  After spending about an hour in that city he decides that his slogan will be: “Thieves, because poets.”  You must read Ivanov’s humorous and brilliant story to fully get the joke!

Finally, I would like to discuss a piece in the collection that occupies the creative literary space somewhere between poetry and philosophy.   Nude Enumerated, written by Jean-Luc Nancy and translated by Charlotte Mandell, is a lyrical reflection on the different societal and emotional views and reactions that we have to nudity. The writing reminds me of Pascal Quignard whose philosophical poetry has also been written in shorter pieces which manage to be unexpectedly thought-provoking with only a minimal amount of words.  This was my favorite translation from the collection and the purchase of the book is worth it just for this one piece.  Nancy begins his reflection with a series of antonyms:

Nude: conquered, triumphant; undone, reassembled; lost, found;

undressed, costumed; obvious, indiscernible; shameless, virtuous;

sexed, neutralized.

Nancy proceeds to challenge us to look at different types of nudity that occur in different circumstances; his words make us uncomfortable but at the same time they make us think more deeply about the experiences we have with our unclothed human bodies.  Note also in this passage that Nancy’s asyndeton, lack of connectives like “and” or “or”, emphasizes the complexity of nudity:

Always elsewhere the male/female nude; not here, which welcomes

only clothed people, but over there somewhere undecided  at a

distance, within reach of desire of touching flattering hiding staining.

If you buy one book this month, if you only buy one more book for this entire year then I implore you to make Two Lines 25.  I haven’t even mentioned the poetry and essays that this volume also offers.  I am wondering how the editors at Two Lines go about choosing what literature to include in their collections.  I have in my mind an image of them exhaustively scouring the world in search of only the best of the best.  I don’t know how else they could produce such an astonishing collection.

To read the full index of works included in Two Lines 25 please visit: http://twolinespress.com/two-lines-journal/

About the Editor:
cj-evansCJ Evans is the author of A Penance (New Issues Press, 2012), which was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and The Category of Outcast, selected by Terrance Hayes for the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets chapbook series. He edited, with Brenda Shaughnessy, Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House, and his work has appeared in journals such as Boston Review, Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Pleiades, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

CJ is the editor of Two Lines Press, the publishing program of the Center for the Art of Translation, which has quickly grown into a premier publisher of international literature, and he has edited translations of the works of authors like Marie NDiaye, Jonathan Littell, and Naja Marie Aidt. He also edits Two Lines: World Writing in Translation, a bi-annual journal of the best international literature in translation and curates Two Voices, an event series in San Francisco. He is a contributing editor for Tin House, and occasionally teaches, most recently in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco.

Prior to working at Two Lines Press, CJ was an editor at Tin House for 8 years, and worked at the Academy of American Poets. He received his MFA from Columbia University, and his BA from Reed College, where he wrote a thesis on the poetics of American Hip-Hop. He was the recipient of the 2013 Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship, and currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, daughter, and son.

For more information visit his website:  cjevans.org

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Filed under Literary Fiction, Literature in Translation, Poetry, Russian Literature, Short Stories, Spanish Literature

Review: Motherland Hotel by Yusuf Atilgan

I received an advance review copy of this title from  City Lights Publishing.  The book was published in the original Turkish in 1973 and this English version has been translated by Fred Stark.

My Review:
motherland-hotelZeberjet, the middle-aged man who is the main character of this novel, says a few times throughout his story that he is “neither dead nor alive.”  Zeberjet works in the same hotel in which he was born and he rarely ventures outside of its walls.  It’s not that he hasn’t wanted to go outside, but it seems more the case that he just hasn’t been interested in the outside world.  His hotel, handed down to him through generations of his maternal family, provides him all of the social outlet that he needs.

Zeberjet’s hotel is in the Turkish town of Izmir near the railroad tracks and is not the highest end establishment in town.  As a result he gets a wide array of guests that include visitors to the town, lovers having illicit affairs and prostitutes servicing their customers.  During the period of time during which the book is set he describes a myriad of  characters who all book a room at The Motherland Hotel.  A married couple, who are local teachers, are staying at the hotel while they are looking for a permanent residence; a retired officer also stays for a week and sits in the hotel lobby reading for most of the day.  But the most intriguing guest, from Zeberjet’s point-of-view, is a beautiful woman who arrives on the train from Ankara and is visiting relatives in the local town.  There is an aura about this woman that absolutely captivates Zeberjet and he becomes obsessed with thoughts of her.  She has promised to return in a week for another stay and he waits every day in eager anticipation of her return.

Zeberjet’s days at the hotel are very routine: he wakes up at the same time, he eats his breakfast and wakes up the charwoman who cleans the hotel.  He sits at the front desk most of the day waiting for guests to check in and in the evening he pays a little visit to the charwoman for some sexual pleasure.  Zeberjet is a man who adheres to the rigid schedule around which he has built his life but the appearance of the woman from Ankara completely throws him off balance.  The author slowly builds suspense in the narrative by making Zeberjet’s existential crisis begin in small and subtle ways.  He stops his nocturnal visits to the charwoman and he ventures out of the hotel to visit the local tailor where he buys a new outfit.

The tension builds further in the narrative when Zeberjet starts spending hours away from the hotel which he closes for long periods of time.  It is as if he discovers that closing himself up in that hotel for all of those years has not allowed him to live his life to the fullest and he is trying to make up for it.  He eats meals out, starts drinking, goes to a cock fight, and meets a young man with whom he sees a movie.  The contact that he has with the woman from Ankara, even though it was the briefest of encounters, is the catalyst that pushes him out into the world where he seeks out a different life that is far removed from his usual routines.

But Zeberjet doesn’t just look for new adventures when he leave the hotel, he also slowly begins to destroy his previous way of life.  He begins dismantling his former self at first by no longer accepting guests at the hotel.  The culminating and disturbing scene in which he further attempts to separate himself from his life is destructive and violent.  As Zeberjet descends into madness, he narrates the stories of his family which reach back a few generations.  His family history, which includes the hotel, has a deep and strong hold on him and in the end he feels he can only take desperate measures to finally free himself from his past.

The setting of a hotel is a favorite of authors and Baum’s Grand Hotel comes to mind.  But Atilgan uses this setting in an unusual way and makes the proprietor the focus of the narrative instead of the guests.  Although this book was first published in 1973 it is still relevant as a chilling psychological study of one man whose existential crisis brings him to the point of violence and madness.

 

About the Author:
atilganYusuf Atılgan (27 June 1921, Manisa – 9 October 1989, İstanbul) was a Turkish novelist and dramatist, who is best known for his novels Aylak Adam (The Loiterer) and Anayurt Oteli (Motherland Hotel). He is one of the pioneers of the modern Turkish novel.  Atılgan is considered as one of the pioneers of the modern Turkish novel. His novels had a psychological style, digging into themes such as loneliness, questioning, meaning of life.

Atılgan finished middle school in Manisa, then high school in Balıkesir. He graduated in Turkish language and literature from İstanbul University. He finished his thesis titled Tokatlı Kani: Sanat, şahsiyet ve psikoloji under supervision of Nihat Tarlan. Atılgan then began teaching literature at Maltepe Askeri Lisesi in Akşehir. In 1946, he settled down at a village named Hacırahmanlı near Manisa where he took up writing. His novel Aylak Adam was published in 1959 which dealt with psychological themes such as loneliness, scope and possibility of love, meaning of life, seeking and obsession. This was followed in 1973 by Anayurt Oteli, which narrated the life of a hotel doorkeeper (named Zebercet) in an Anatolian town, with deep psychological examinations and touching themes such as sexuality and obsession. It gained further fame with a film based on the novel. In 1976, he began working in İstanbul as an editor and translator. With his wife Serpil he had a son in 1979 named Mehmet.

Atılgan died of a heart attack in 1989 while in the middle of writing a novel titled Canistan.

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