Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Girl from the Golden Horn

My friend Jen nominated a book I was unfamiliar with for our Istanbook feminist book club, and it became my biggest guilty pleasure read of the year. 

The Girl from the Golden Horn, by Kurban Said, is a novel relatively unknown to most. It had been published in the 1930s and translated from the German. Truly, there are about two reviews of it online. We didn't have to blow dust off our Kindles obviously to read it, but if this book is sitting in libraries somewhere, I suggest it isn't getting its due. That's a shame, as it has much cross-cultural discernment to share with today's reader.

Are there so many novels that feature young female Ottoman intellectuals? I haven't run across another. The protaganist in this book, despite living in Berlin as an exile from her failed Ottoman Empire, had kept her identity and way of thinking as an Eastern woman intact, no easy thing in decadent European society of Berlin and Austria. The book follows her as she pursues her destiny, with agency. 
is this the exact perfect spot
on Istanbul's Golden Horn
to hold our book discussion
of Kurban Said's book,
The Girl from the Golden Horn?
I think it will do, what do you think?

Who had the best view of the Golden Horn
on book discussion day?
Us or the sailboat?
What a magnificent expat experience!
We felt lucky to experience the setting, 
each other's company,
and the book all together.

Just as it would take a unique writer to portray both Ottoman society and Vienesse society so intimately in this book, we felt unique as readers reading a book we felt would be lost on, for example, most American readers back home. 

Jen had been posted to Vienna before she was posted to Istanbul, so you can imagine all of the insight she brought to this discussion from both societies. We had a great exchange of ideas. With three women from the West, and two from the East, there was a perfect number for a fascinating discussion. And here I will stop in my description -- so you get the same joy from the book as I did, knowing nothing about what would happen as I read.

Where is the female movie director from the East who will bring the heroine Asiadeh Anbara's story to the big screen? It's so cinematic!

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