Friday, 5 December 2008

An Ongoing Affair

Today was a red letter day for me as I dropped into Citlembik's offices and picked up a copy of Professor Heath W. Lowry's just published An Ongoing Affair. It's a candidly written set of memoires of his time spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote mountain village in western Turkey in the mid 1960s. The friendships he made there changed his life. He had virtually not heard of Turkey before he embarked on the trip and now he is Ataturk Professor of Ottoman and Turkish Studies at Princeton University in the USA. 

I edited the book for Citlembik and it was a joy to do so; presented as a set of vignettes there are some really touching and also downright shocking events, Lowry pulls no punches. From the accidental poisoning of the beautiful Emine, who Lowry has to minister to as she lies prostrate with white froth foaming from her mouth, to the blood feud which ends shockingly in the murder of innocent children and the mistaken torching of a villager's house, this book is a gripping read from the start. There are some lighter moments too that Lowry conveys with wit and humour such as in the chapter 'Who's that playing with my butt' – you will need to read it to find out! 

His love for the villagers and respect for their culture and how he is accepted by one and all as yet another villager runs as a theme throughout. The village head Kamil, who becomes a lifelong friend, reminds him before his return to the USA: 'Hit [sic], don't forget, you are now one of us. There are things that you have seen and heard here in Bereketli that no one else need know about.'

For me it was a gripping read, here's an extract that we chose for the cover:

As we approached the house I saw a dim light through the windows and began to hear keening wails and piercing screams echoing into the darkness. Upon entering the door the din increased and I suddenly found myself in the midst of close to fifty women, who, without tempering their high-pitched wailing, parted and I moved forward into the middle of a small room. Before me on the floor was a beautiful young girl lying rigidly with white froth bubbling from her mouth. By this time my initial vocabulary of two hundred words had grown two-fold, but instinctively I knew that it wasn’t going to be adequate to deal with what I was facing.
What it is: Heath W. Lowry's An Ongoing Affair – Turkey & I (ISBN 978-9944-424-53-0)

Where it is: Pop into Citlembik's offices in the Tunel area of Beyoglu (Sehbender Sokak 18/4, Asmalimescit) where they offer a whopping 30% discount on their books. An Ongoing Affair has a cover price of 12ytl. (Citlembik's books are also available in all good bookstores in Turkey such as DNR.) For those in the UK I am distributing Citlembik's books, do send me an email.

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