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Bookworm: Ahmet Hamdi TanpA[+ or -]nar's Turkish Near-Miss Masterpiece.

In 1954 Turkish writer Ahmet Hamdi TanpA[+ or -]nar began publishing installments of one of the world's greatest novels in desperate need of editorial intervention. Tanpinar's novel, The Time Regulation Institute, tells the story of a fictional bureaucratic body in charge of regulating time across Turkey. Written in the form of a memoir by one of the Institute's leading members, Hayri Irdal, the novel is part confessional, part historical document, part psychoanalytic exercise. His entire family history and life story and even a sort of disarmingly candid self-reflection are laid out for his readers. What's missing, perhaps, was revision by a hand worthy of the author.

In Tanpinar's writing, you can find the brushstrokes of Italy's greatest psychological writers like Pirandello and Svevo. Hayri Irdal has the temperament of an Italian bureaucrat looking back on his life with that rare strain of irony and slapdash wisdom that makes us laugh at things that aren't even necessarily that funny. In one scene Hayri Irdal expounds on the way physical objects absorb the personas of their owners, and how, having once worn a suit by one of his bosses, he was suddenly afflicted with an incurable passion for the boss's wife. The recursive and incessant unpacking of thoughts, the collected but still near-manic storytelling resembles Dostoyevsky. Tanpinar's work was steeped in these masterpieces, and the translation by Alexander Dawe and Maureen Freely for Penguin's 2014 edition is lyrical. Sentences and ideas cascade one over the other, tumbling into a sort of psychological disarray and perspicacity that can be dreamed up only by the mind of a great and incisive writer.

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Author:Aciman, Alexander
Publication:Tablet Magazine
Date:Mar 12, 2018
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