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A Mind at Peace, originally published in 1949, is a Turkish Ulysses and a poetic homage to Istanbul. A historical novel of ideas as well as a love story set in the "city of two continents," a Turkish parliamentary leader chose Tanpinar's chef d'ouevre to present to President Obama so that he "might better understand the Turkish people. . . and in it find the nuances of our culture and our identity."
Mümtaz has survived the childhood trauma of his parents' untimely deaths in the early skirmishes of World War I as well as the tumultuous cultural revolutions following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the early Turkish Republic. He takes refuge in the fading past, immersing himself in literature and music, even as he faces an uncertain future with his beloved, Nuran. Can their love save them both from the turbulent times, or will inner obsessions, along with powerful social and political forces, tear the couple apart?
Suggestions for further reading:
Nurdan Gurbilek, The Cultural Climate in Turkey (Zed, 2010)
Azade Seyhan, The Turkish Novel in a Comparative Context (MLA, 2009)
Orhan Pamuk, Other Colors (Knopf, 2007)
Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul (Knopf, 2005)
Erdag Goknar, Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel (Routledge, 2012)
His great novel combines the emotional storminess of Dostoevsky with the refined artificiality and cruel psychological analysis of Marcel Proust."
Suffused with the melodrama of contemplation and obsession ... Hypnotizing and transporting ... the pleasure of reading Tanpinar lies in his ideas, and in watching his Turkish characters debate their tense new Eastern-Western existence."
—The New Republic
Written by the man who almost single-handedly defined the modern Turkish novel, A Mind At Peace follows a group of westernized, urban intellectuals in 1930s Istanbul as they drift through the city in a permanent state of ennui, seemingly caught between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, the East and the West."
[A] masterpiece . . . [A] honeyed, searching, and melancholy epic . . . The novel is as much about its setting and colors as about the stories and wonderfully eccentric and varied panoply of characters . . . One of the 20th century's notable literary love stories and cultural watersheds."
—The Los Angeles Times
A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn’t have had to wait this long for such an important work."
—Literary Fiction Review
Tanpinar's lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition—the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness."
The greatest novel ever written about Istanbul."
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