Monday, October 13, 2008
One of the latest in the Akashic Noir series, Istanbul Noir edited by Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler, more than holds up the quality standard of this excellent series. There are 16 stories, all original, all but 2 translated by the editors. Most of the stories in the international segment of the City Noir series have not been focused on police or detectives, and the Istanbul collection is entirely populated by marginalized people, criminals and others who have stepped outside social norms in various ways--the only cops are a retired torturer and a detective haunted by his family's Communist past (perhaps literally). The result is an underground portrait of the city and of Turkey, told in evocative, often poetic, and always compelling language. The two stories by non-Turks, Lydia Lunch and Jessica Lutz, and Amy Spangler,are equal to the rest but somewhat different: Lunch uses sentence fragments and breathless phrases strung together with commas to evoke a couple of horny tourists who encounter a deadly world traveller. Lutz enters the head of a radical Islamist who has justified to himself actions more associated with the Mafia than social or religious movements. Ismael Güzelsoy's "The Tongue of the Flames" is a surreal odyssey of double revenge, multiple murder, and madness. In Feryal Tilmaç's "Hitching in the Lodos," a laconic narrator describes the erotic encounter of a retired teacher and a young man, leaving one dead and one at the brink of an encounter with the justice system. "An Extra Body" by Baris Müstecaplioglu twists time and motivation in a tale of deception, error, and surprise (for the reader and the characters). "Black Palace" by Mustafa Ziyalan combines a serial killer and political revenge. In "The Bloody Horn," Inan Çetin tells a melancholy and moving tale combining revenge, guilt, and submission. The editors' introduction is particularly important in this collection, setting not only the historical but also the emotional context for the stories.