Walk into any bookstore in Istanbul, wend your way to the English language aisles, and you'll find every variant of Rumi known to humankind, Orhan Pamuk by the dozen, and a goodly portion of Elif Shafak. All of them, wonderful writers to represent Turkey on this worldreads challenge. But I'd read them all and was looking for something new.
What luck that I chanced upon The Bridge of the Golden Horn by Sevgi Emine Özdamar.
The narrator at turns works in a Berlin factory with other Turks, acts in a Brechtian theater in Istanbul, joins the Communist party, and along the way smokes a remarkable number of cigarettes. It's a coming-of-age story that captures the life of one young migrant worker, but also the zeitgeist of 1960s.
When I started this worldreads challenge, I thought I'd only read fiction. I write fiction, after all, so of course I'd want to meet fiction from all over the world. Also, it's so often easier to tell truths in fiction.
But when a friend from Chile recommended Isabel Allende's My Invented Country as the must-read book to get to know her country, I couldn't resist.
It's not Allende's first memoir, so she doesn't feel compelled to tell facts as they happened. Instead, she tells her own truths as she remembers them, embracing the subjectivity of memory and the hypnotic power of nostalgia. After so many years of exile, she finds herself as much a stranger when she returns to Chile as she somehow always is in her new adopted country of California.