Last Train to Istanbul - Ayse Kulin
I would never have opened this book if it hadn’t been given to me by a good friend. I consider it my duty, then, to read it – but not to give it a good review, sorry friend. I knew I would have trouble when I was able to count seven clichés on pages 10-12 alone. That’s the translator’s fault, though. On the other hand, the problem of excessive exposition is the author’s. I go back and forth trying to find something positive to say… Young Tarık is a fairly interesting character, and the plot dealing with him deciding what his duty is, the book’s best. But the plot involving Sabiha, her daughter, and the psychoanalyst is just ridiculous! The scene where the consul leaps on a departing train full of deportees and refuses to get off without them is rather thrilling. But the concluding train journey to Turkey, which ought to be climactic, is oddly lacking in suspense. Finally, I have a problem with the book overall – the author wanted to celebrate the Turkish diplomats who managed to get Turkish and non-Turkish Jews out of Nazi-occupied Europe, and indeed that’s an interesting subject. But such a subject risks smug self-righteousness in the telling, and in fact the author does not escape (and inserts a few patriotic praises of Turkey as well). Worse, she portrays all the Jews in the story as completely helpless, a prey to panic, perhaps trying to whip up pity to highlight to good deeds of those who saved “these poor people”. Even Rafael, who should be one of the main characters in the story, is not allowed to take action on his own behalf or even have much character, he’s just colorless. In the face of all these faults, I would have liked to rate this book one and a half stars if it was possible: it wasn’t really that awful, honestly; I didn’t curse the hours I spent reading it. It had a certain entertainment value, and it's a novelty that its heroes are bureaucrats rather than action men.