Istanbul may have a lack of quiet green spaces and respect for cyclists on the road is scant at best but it is great for readers. Despite ‘Shutter Island’ being the only English language novel to be found in the vast French and Turkish library of our rented flat, books are one thing we haven’t been short of this winter.
When we first arrived we found a giant cardboard bookcase in Taksim park hiding a second hand book fair and greedily purchased a few paperbacks. Other books came from England with friends and via Warmshowers guest’s parents. We could have brought new at a number of excellent bookstores with well-stocked English sections, but instead we swapped books with friends here and traded others through the excellent Ebru book exchange tucked away in the Pera back streets.
Promising that I would be sticking around in Istanbul for a while, I was even given access to the book exchange’s library section, which is frankly where all the best Turk-authored books are hidden. The following are some we managed to finish this winter.
- Memet, My Hawk, Yashar Kemal – Without a mention of Istanbul, this tale of a boy turned bandit looks to Turkeys interior
- The Flea Palace, Elif Shafak – Portrayal of the inhabitants of a ‘typical’ inner Istanbul block of flats
- The Black Book, Orhan Pahmuk – A slow burning meditation on identity wrapped loosely in the search for a missing wife
- Istanbul, The Imperial City, John Freely – A history of Istanbul which we’re racing to finish before we leave Istanbul. I wish I’d picked it up upon arrival
- A Fez of the Heart, Jeremy Seal –An outsiders perspective of travel through Turkey in winter
It can be difficult to get a sense of the literature of a place while you are cycling through it, so it has been a pleasure to learn a little more about Turkey through its gifted writers.
With my thirst for a good story quenched for a little while, I’ll be leaving Istanbul with just a few books in my panniers, hoping that the literature gods shine kindly on me as I tackle more remote roads.