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Selçuk Altun

Total broken record moment, but if you haven’t subscribed to the Publishing Perspectives daily newsletter, you definitely should. The pieces are always interesting, and very well done.

Anyway, a couple months back I was planning on writing a long piece on Turkish fiction coming out this year, including Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s A Mind at Peace, Orhan Kemel’s The Idle Years, and two Selçuk Altun titles, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me and Many and Many a Year Ago. I had a hard time getting into Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, then got distracted with other things, and then and then it’s suddenly the middle of August . . .

But today’s piece in Publishing Perspectives has remotivated me (is this even a word?) to take a look at the latest Altun book.

As Ed Nawotka writes in his article, Altun’s an interesting guy. He’s served on the board of YKY (Yapi Kredi Publications), one of Turkey’s largest publishers, and was was chairman of Yapi Kredi Bank until he retired at the age of 54 to become a writer. He paid to have his first book translated into English, working under the (mostly correct) assumption that once it was in English there was a much better chance of getting it translated into a bunch of other languages.

That’s all cool (and noble—his book earnings fund three scholarships!), but it’s the book itself that sounds intriguing to me:

Many and Many a Year Ago concerns a young Turkish fighter pilot who, after crashing his F-16, is set up with a generous stipend and an apartment in Istanbul’s Taksim district. In return, the convalescing daredevil must undertake a series of mysterious missions following in the footsteps of American writer Edgar Allen Poe, taking him from Istanbul to Buenos Aires, and beyond. Eventually, he arrives at Poe’s gravesite in Baltimore.

“It is part literature and part travel book, a little bit of Paul Auster and Bruce Chatwin,” says Altun. “It is a Sheherezade-like reading experience in that there’s a chain of eight stories within stories. Poe was himself a very rich character, though financially poor. He was polyglot, he had dreams, and if he had money he would have lived his life in a rich way, so what I tried to do was imagine what the life of a post-modern, well-off Poe would have been like.”

I’ve got a stack of “to be reviewed” titles going already, but this is moving quickly toward the top . . . Speaking of which, we’re always looking for more book reviewers, so if anyone’s interested, e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.



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