History of a Madhouse
by Ayfer Tunc
Translated by Feyza Howell
The novel opens in a provincial mental health hospital on the morning of the 14th February 2007 and comes to a cataclysmic end several hours later Lacklustre guest speaker (‘Love: Self-sacrifice? Or Self-preservation?’) Ülkü Birinci fails to impress the Medical Director, whose plans to write the history of the hospital are destined to remain stillborn. Town elder Türkan, retired judge and staunch Kemalist, leaves him gaping at her photographic archive, grasp of new media, research methods and sheer intelligence. As this literary palimpsest unfolds, the reader travels through time and space, to 1875 and back again, between the Caucasus, Ottoman and Republican Turkey, Europe and the USA, through wars, reform, riots, and coups d’état.
". . . a terrific satirical take on the tackiness of modern Turkey -- all cheap marble cladding and television soap operas. In fact the novel proceeds a bit like one of these soap operas, with one episode melting into the next. The novel is clearly very funny, although there are sudden swoops into serious territory. . . the syntax is quite stately, literary, and orotund, with noun clauses hanging like bunches of grapes, as in Turkish itself. . . .very lively and entertaining."
John Hodgson, translator
"...the brilliance of the novel is how well controlled this is. The author never loses sight of the main thread of the story...I might have been tempted to call it a shaggy-dog story, except in many respects it is everything but, in particular the ending, which pulls together all of the threads of the different characters, is spectacular."
Paul Fulcher, Goodreads
Praise for Ayfer Tunc's The Aziz Bey Incident (2013):
"Some of Tunç’s protagonists love too little; others love too much . . .After reading ‘The Aziz Bey Incident and Other Stories’, it’s hard not to feel impatient for more English translations of works by this deft and unsettling author."
- TimeOut Istanbul
''Ayfer Tunç, an acclaimed novelist and short story writer in her native Turkey, is widely translated abroad but little known in English. . . this haunting, unique collection that vividly evokes Turkey's various landscapes.''
- HuffPost Culture
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