Book Review: Bir Ses Böler Geceyi, by Ahmet Ümit

On a lonely country road at night, Süha loses control of his jeep and crashes just outside the cemetery of an Alevi village in Turkey. Confused and frightened, he runs from the startling image of the open grave he finds there. Death seems ever present in this haunting tale from Ahmet Ümit, a short novel that borders on an ethnographic study, so keenly aware is the narrator of the ins and outs of Alevi customs and the rituals of the cemevi, the Alevi house of worship and communal gathering. Süha is a man who has lost his way, yet has somehow managed, inadvertently, to make his way back to his own Alevi past (a past he rejected in favor of armed leftist struggle), much as the narrator guides us back and forth through Süha’s past, while deftly intertwining Süha’s tale with that of the dead young man whose fate is being debated within the cemevi of the village. A very well written tale from a masterful writer.

Book Review: Sis ve Gece, by Ahmet Ümit

Very well written account of the complex life of Sedat, a Turkish komiser, and the sometimes tortured inner workings and political dealings between state intelligence and Turkish law enforcement. Which proves to be not quite as tortured as Sedat’s own dark soul as he becomes obsessed with uncovering the fate of his missing young lover, Mine, while trying to keep his relationship with her a secret from his wife and children and his colleagues. I rather wish I hadn’t watched the movie first (which was quite good and worth seeing) if only because my knowledge of the story and its outcome made the clues in Ümit’s tale easier to catch. But I imagine a reader with no previous knowledge of this story will be kept quite intrigued, eager to follow Sedat’s investigation through to the wonderfully crafted end.