Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Selim Özdogan: Wo noch Licht brennt

Having been thinking a lot about cronyism among critics, I have to start this review with a full disclosure: Selim Özdogan is a friend of mine and has been for about ten years. The friendship evolved through the first book in what became this three-part series, Die Tochter des Schmieds, when I was a pretty much unpublished translator trying hard to get a foot in the door. Next came Heimstrasse 52 and now we have the final part, Wo noch Licht brennt. Together, the three novels tell the life story of Gül, who grows up in 1950s Turkey in the first volume, comes to Germany to work in book two, and in the new novel grows old between the two countries.

In my past reviews (linked above) I wrote a lot about what these novels mean in political terms: finally giving a literary voice to the women of the Gastarbeiter generation who propped up the West German economy, emphasizing individual stories rather than religion, painting a three-dimensional portrait of a family. All that is still true of Wo noch Licht brennt but I found myself reading it differently. By now, I feel so familiar with Gül that the last part of her life story felt like a warm and welcoming chat, catching up with a friend after a long gap. There would be tea, and with Gül involved probably pastries. The TV might be on in the background but we'd ignore it, or maybe we'd end up talking about soaps.

At the start of the novel, Gül returns to Germany after attempting to retire to Turkey, only to find that her husband has been having an affair while she was away. The Turkish husband having an affair with a German woman is a bit of a trope in stories about Gastarbeiter, I presume because it happened a lot in real life. There are other things in the novel that ring true because we've heard about them before: Gül's difficulties with the German language, her feeling that the Germans are cold, her daughters' and grandchildren's lives being very different to her own. And then there are surprising individual moments: her friendship with a young criminal, her observations of drug use around her, the family back home suddenly arguing, a memorable dieting episode. Gül's husband Fuat is still around to provide wry comments and comic relief, and her daughters lead their own lives with their own ups and downs. We get a potted history of Turkish-German media habits, from five-mark pieces saved for telephone boxes to multiple mobile phones, from the one Turkish programme on German TV to satellite dishes to Facebook.

And of course the story is told from Gül's perspective, although not in the first person. It's the tone, perhaps, that makes the novel feel so personal. Gül reflects on life a great deal; she's not an educated woman and the language is simple and sometimes verging on kitsch, but the ideas are not. We follow Gül's moral dilemmas and feel with her; she feels destined to suffer because she lost her mother at a young age and became a kind of mother to her younger siblings. And she thinks about the nature of truth and how we all twist it. Özdogan uses a lot of sensual language and comparisons, and I was very pleased to find once again the repeated glimpses into the future that made the previous novels shine in terms of style. Like its predecessors, the book skips from one episode to the next, showing us small moments of tenderness, shock, pain and friendship. A life lived simply under complicated circumstances.

What Wo noch Licht brennt reminded me of, quite strongly at certain points, was Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels. I hadn't read her work before the first two in the series, but I think they too fit the bill. Selim Özdogan tells the story of a woman's life in loving detail, revealing social changes as they affect her and showing us how she reacts to them. And he also draws us into that life, makes us almost part of the family, creates an addictive pull so that we have to find out what happens next to this woman, whose life is superficially unremarkable. I think this trilogy is a great achievement – as a fictional document of a group of people otherwise ignored by German writers, as a piece of fiction that calmly tells a gripping story, and as a warm and loving portrait of a strong woman, a great survivor.

I wish Anglophone readers will one day get an opportunity to read it. 

26 comments:

Unknown said...

Hi guys, can I Get More Info about modern German authors? I wanna read a novel but not sure about the author. Looking forward to your replies!

123 help me said...

Thanks a lot for the post. It has helped me get some nice ideas. I hope I will see some really good result soon.

simran said...

Polular KEWWORDS for SEO of Massage Parlor Website in Delhi & NCR region are :

Body Massage in Delhi, Massage Parlor in Delhi, Massage Center in Delhi, Body Massage in Mahipalpur, Massage Parlor in Mahipalpur, Massage Parlor in Aerocity, Body Massage in Aerocity & Body Massage in Paharganj

For Body Massage you can click on Body Massage in Mahipalpur,
Massage Parlor in Mahipalpur & Body to Body Massage in Mahipalpur


Following are the link of 100% genuine and popular Spa in mahipalpur, Massage Parlor in Mahipalpur, Spa in Aerocity, Massage Parlor in Aerocity, Spa in Vasant Kunj & Massage Parlor in Vasant Kunj

ahihi said...

Useful article, thank you for sharing the article!!!

Website bloggiaidap247.com và website blogcothebanchuabiet.com giúp bạn giải đáp mọi thắc mắc.

fabfello said...

Fabfello is the Best Design Online Shopping of India. Fabfello Online Buy Latest Women Kurti, Latest suits, Women Palazzo & Women Pants Online for Indian Women.
latest women kurti

women kurti online

online shopping for women kurtis

women palazzo online

latest suits online

women suits online shopping

women pants online

Okseoabhinav said...

Hi…this is Abhinav here, from few months I am visiting and following you. What I really like about you is that your writing style. Please keep making such as information for us. Top CA firms in India, Top CA in India.

neha solanki said...

There are top 10 engineering colleges in Ghaziabadprivate mba colleges in delhi ncr they also used these types of of activities.

ankit pal said...

If you're feeling such as you have lost the zeal and intimacy of your sexual life then a reliable sexologist in Delhi are a few things that you just actually would like. He has registered himself within the list of the highest purported sexologist. you've got got it here! he's Associate in Nursing honorable name within the trade of sexologist treatment. and best sexologist in Delhi or top sexologist in Faridabad.

tomassamanter said...

Thanks to the author's comprehensive description, I learnt everything I needed to know about my topic after reading this post. I published a review that you may read on the essaywriter.org reviews. Thank you so much for your time and attention.

Best Spa in Lucknow said...

I really like about you is that your writing style. Please keep making such as information for us.
Best Spa in Lucknow
Thai massage in lucknow


Dolpphin said...

Let us do the chores for you! We are a professional house cleaning service in delhi and work on our own equipment without any sub-contractors, giving you the peace of mind and security that the cleaning is being done by us. We understand that time is money so we have come up with many innovative ways to make sure your cleaning tasks are completed in a timely manner.

Best Astrologer in India said...

Let’s get to know you and your future. See what the stars have in store for you! With our free birth chart analysis, find out what is affecting your life now and in the future – including such influences as career, love, money, health, and travel.

GOSTOPSITE33 said...

It's perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've learn this submit and if I may just I desire to recommend you some attention-grabbing things or advice. Maybe you could write subsequent articles referring to this article. I want to read even more issues approximately it!

Also visit my web page : 고스톱

TOTOSITEWEB33 said...

This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I Have shared your website in my social networks!
스포츠토토

GUIDE1903 said...

I really liked your article post. Really looking forward to read more. Great.
Say, you got a nice article. Really thank you! Fantastic.
I think the restaurant which you told me in the letter is very interesting. I also like to eat out and I usually go to a restaurant for dinner with my family twice a month., The food is delicious so we enjoy it very much. The service is also quick and friendly.
성인웹툰

TOTOSAFEDB33 said...

Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely fantastic. I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is really a great site.
안전놀이터

sportstotohot.com said...

This is frequently an awesome post. this educational article give genuinely best quality information. 토토

racesite.pro said...

I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already! want to learn more? click the link here: 경마

casinosite777.info said...

Thanks for sharing this marvelous post. I m very pleased to read this article.
바카라사이트

reelgame.site said...

Thanks for sharing such great information. I also write about casino& sports betting online on my personal blog. kindly check out my page and learn more about online gambling! Thanks a lot admin! 슬롯머신

totosite365.info said...

This is really great work. Thank you for sharing such a useful information here in the blog.
토토사이트

texasholdemsite.info said...

Way cool, some valid points! I appreciate you making this article available, the rest of the site is also high quality. Have a fun. 텍사스홀덤사이트

메이저사이트 said...

When I read your article on this topic, the first thought seems profound and difficult. There is also a bulletin board for discussion of articles and photos similar to this topic on my site, but I would like to visit once when I have time to discuss this topic. 메이저사이트

casinositewikicom said...

this was a really good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a very good article… 바카라사이트 , 토토사이트 , 룰렛사이트탑 , 토토

casinositeguide.com said...

Thank you for another informative blog. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? 바카라사이트

Extnoc said...

Very nice blog, Thanks for sharing great article.
You are providing wonderful information, it is very useful to us.
Thank you.

For more information about: soc network