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Bilge Karasu. Death in Troy.

Bilge Karasu. Death in Troy. Aron Aji, tr. San Francisco. City Lights. 2002. 166 pages. $11.95. ISBN 0-87286-401-4

DEATH IN TROY is a collection of thirteen stories. It begins with a majestic passage titled "Birth," in which Bilge Karasu's lyrical prose reaches dizzying heights. The remaining twelve stories have characters whose narratives complement one another according to an intricate plan. Some of them have interconnecting story lines, featuring the same characters, but others are connected with them only thematically, frustrating the frail unity achieved with difficulty in the reader's mind. For these narratives--already fractured in themselves with simultaneous representations of exteriority and interiority, descriptions fragmented by abrupt intrusions of speech and thought, and the waywardness of internal monologues--are also refracted by time. Many of them are memories related to recapture "the inaccessible, irrecoverable past." Add to this the uniqueness of Karasu's style and the estranging effect of the novel ways in which he uses language, and you have a very difficult text in hand. once these difficulties are surmounted, however, the rewards are manifold. Each reading reveals beauties unsuspected before, and the overall effect is that of admiration, and at times even awe, which one feels in the presence of a great mind.

One of the reasons for such a complicated design is Karasu's desire to translate the refinement of his thoughts into an equally refined language and structure, which he invents as he goes along. Another, and perhaps a more important reason is that the stories in this book have an unsayable, an unspeakable thematic center--homoerotic desire (or the depths of "male solitude"). The unifying element in all these stories, which can be thought of as "variations on a theme," is a character called Mushfik. His story is dispersed in bits and pieces that must be carefully collected and unified by the reader; but it is a fairly complete story covering the period from the time he is a baby hungrily suckling his mother's breast with eyes that "would slide, squint, and close from pleasure each time he swallowed" to his return to her as a man whose life begins anew when he finds true love after trials and tribulations. These include his painful exposure to heterosexual love in his childhood as witness to an ugly copulation followed by violent death; his innocent homosexual love toward his childhood sweetheart Suat and the pangs of separation he experiences when his family moves to Istanbul; the stifling love of his mother and the guilt-inducing consciousness of the sacrifices she made for his sake; his stepfather's emotional rejection of him; and his various adult liaisons with men who, in different ways, betray his love and finally drive him to madness. His return from madness to sanity with the healing power of love is described in terms of a rebirth, which connects the ending of his story with the beginning scene of "Birth." Aron Aji's translation is beautiful, remaining largely faithful to the original style with occasional lapses in clarity where things are left deliberately obscure by the writer.

Sveda Caliskan

Middle East Technical University, Ankara
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Author:Caliskan, Sevda
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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