A new entry, also to be found in my bibliography under S like Spolsky
A female Turkish bastard encounters an Armenian-American… this controversial yet brilliant novel almost sent its author to jail.

39: As she stepped into the next aisle Rose’s face contorted. International Food. She stole a nervous glance a the jars of eggplant dips and cans of salted grape leaves. No more patlijan! No more sarmas! No more weird ethnic food! Even the sight of that hideous khavourma twisted her stomach into knowts. From now on she would cook whatever she wanted. She would cook real Kentucky dishes for her daughter. For one long minute Rose stood there racking her brain to find an example of the perfect meal. Her face perked up as she thought of hamburgers. Definitely! she assured herself. What’s more, fried eggs and maple-syrup-soaked pancakes and hot dogs with onions and mutton barbecue, yes especially mutton barbecue….And instead of that squechy yogurt drink that she was sick of seeing at every meal, they would drink apple citer! From now on she would choose their daily menu from Southern cuisine, hot spicy chili or smoked bacon…or…garbanzo beans. All she needed was a man who would sit across from her at the end of the day. A man who would truly love her, and her cooking. Definitely, that was what Rose needed: a lover with no ethnic luggage, no hard-to-pronounce names, and no crowded family; a fresh new lover who would appreciate garbanzo beans.
46: Mustafa knew he had to make it in America not because he wanted to attain a better future but because he had to dispose of his past.
48: “My daughter’s full name is Amy Tchakhmakhchian+.
If the words had inspired any negative recognition, Mustafa’s face didn’t show it. So Rose felt the need to reapeat, just in case it hadn’t been understood the first time “Armanoush Tchakh-makh-chi-an!”
It was only then that the young man’s hazel eyes flickered, though not exactly in the way Rose had anticipated.
“Chak-mak-chi-an…çak-mak-çi…! Hey, that sounds like Turksh!”he exclaimed happily.
53-54: “What will that innocent lamb tell her friends when she grows up? My father is Barsam Tchakhmakhchian, my great-uncle is Dikran Stambulian, his father is Varvant Istanbuoulian, my name is Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian, all my family ree has been Something Somethingian, and I’m the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915, but I myself have been brainwashed to deny the genocide because I was rfaised by some Turk named Mustafa! What kind of a joke is that?….Ah, marnim khalasim!”
55: Auntie Varsenig continued: “Tell me how many Turks ever learned Armenian. None! Why did our mothers learn their language and not vice versa? Isn’t it clear who has dominated whom? Only a handful of Turks come from Central Asia, right? And then the next thing you knbow they are everywhere! What happened to the millions of Armenians who were already there? Assimilated! Massacred! Orphaned! Deported! And then forgotten! How can you give your flesh-and-blood daughter to those who are responsiblefor our being so few and in so much pain today? Mesrop Mashtots would turn in his grave!”
56:”But they also say, ‘When two Armenians come together, they create three different churches’, ” said Cousin Kevork, taking a firm stand.
“Das’ mader’s mom’ri, noren koh chi m’nats” Dikran Stamboulian grunted, switching to Armenian as he always did when he tried to teach a young person a lesson, but failed.
Able to comprehend only house-Armenian but not newspapers-Armenian, Kevork chucked, a bit too nervously perhaps, as he tried to conceal the fact that he had understood the first half of the sentence but failed to get the rest.
“Oglani kizdirmayasin”. Grandma Shushan raised an eyebrow, speaking Turkish, as she always did when she wanted to directly convey a message to an elder in the room without the younger ones understanding”.
58: What I’m trying to say is that Rose had no multicultural background.” Barsam remarked. “The only child of a kind Southern couple operating the same hardware store forever, she lives a small-town life, and before she knows it, she finds herself amid this extended and tightly knit Armenian Catholic family in the diaspora. A huge family with a very traumatic past! How can you expect her to cope with all this so easily?”
68: “From this moment on I am going to cover my head as my faith requires.”
“What kind of nonsense is that?” Grandma Gülsum frowned. “Turkish women took off the veil ninety years ago. No daughter of mine is going to betray the rights the great commander-in-chief Atatürk bestowed on the women in this country.”
“Yeah, women were given the right to vote in 1934,” Auntie Cevriye echoed. “In case you didn’t know, history moves forward, not backward. Take that thing off immediately!”.
81: “Boredom.” the Dipsomaniac Cartoonist remarked when he had knowcked back his café latte. “Boredom is the summary of our lives. Day after day we wallow in ennui. Why? Because we cannot abandon this rabbit hole for fear of a traumatic encounter with our own culture. Western politicians presume there is a cultural grap between Eastern Civilization and Western Civilization. If it were that simple! The real civilization gap is between the Turks and the Turks. We are a bunch of cultured urbanites surrounded by hillbillies and bumpkins on all sides. They have conquered the whole city.
82 Where can were can we possibly escape to? We are not even a minority. I wish we were an ethnic minority or an indigenous people under the protection of the UN Charter.
134: With Petite-Ma and Grandma Gülsüm as disqualified members, that left only Autie Zeliha and Auntie Cevriye with enough English to move forward from beginner lever to an intermediate stage. That said, there was a stark difference between the two aunts’ command of the English language. Autie Zeliha spoke a daily-life English, woven with slang and idioms and argot, which she practiced almost every day with the foreigners visiting her tattoo parlor; while Auntie Cevriye spoke a graqmmar-oriented, frozen-in-time, textbook English taught at high schools and at high schools only. Concomitantly, Auntie Cevriye could distinguish simple, complex, and compound sentences, identify adverb, adjective, and noun clauses, even recognize misplaced and dangling modifiers in syntactic structure, but she could not talk.
201-202: She noticed many other things, including the fact that everyone at the table spoke English, although with an accent and grammatical flaws. Overall they seemed they seemed to have no trouble switching from Turkish to English. At first, Armanoush attributed such ease to their self-confidence, but by the end of the day, she suspected that the facilitating factor might be less their confidence in their English than their lack of confidence in any language whatsoever. They acted and talked as if no matter what they said or how they said it, one could not really fully express the innermost self and, in the end, language was only a reeking carcass of hollow words long rotten inside.
208: “Actually, Amy is short for Armanoush,” Asya interjecte3d, still in a provocative mood. “She’s Armenian American!”
Now the word Armenian wouldn’t surprise anyone at Café Kundera, but Armenian American was a different story. Armenian Armenian was no problem-similar culture, similar problems- but Armenian Armenian meant someone who despised the Turks. All heads turned towards Armanoush now. Their stares revealed interest tainted with alarm.
254: “If they are oppressing you here, you can always come to America. There are many Armenian communities there who would be more than happy to help you and your family”.
Aram didn’t laugh this time. Instead he gave her a warm smile, warm but somewhat tired.
“Why would I want to do that, dear Armanoush? This city is my city. I was born and raised in Istanbul. My family’s history in this city goes back at least five hundred years. Armenian Istanbulites belong to Istanbul just like the Turkish, Kurkish, Greek, and Jewish Istanbulites do. We have first managed and then badly failed to live together. We cannot fail again.”(…) They fell into an awkward silence, taking a rare distant glimpse into each other’s position, realizing there could be more than georgraphical distance between them -he suspecting she was too Americanized, she construing he was too Turkified. The mordant gap between the children of those who have managed to stay and the children of those who had to leave.
263:Well, the truth is, dear Madame My-Exiled-Soul and dear A Girl Named Turk…some among the Armenians in the diaspora would never want the Turks to recognize the genocide. If they do so, they’ll pull the rug out from under our feet and take the strongest bond that unites us. Just like the Turks have been in the habit of denying their wrongdoing., the Armenians have been in the habit of savoring the cocoon of victimhood. Apparently, there are some old habits that need to be changed on both sides.

One thought on “Shafak, E. (2007). The Bastard of Istanbul. London, New York, Penguin Books.

  1. “Hill billies and Bumpkins on all sides” New Yorkers in general and Manhattanites share that sentiment. People from Brooklyn the Bronx and Queens are considered to be from nowhere. God forbid a son should marry a girl from New Jersey it would not be polite to talk about it. Urbanites share a certain arrogance. Istanbul, NYC, Paris share more commanalities than they do with their own country men.


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