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Ali and Ramazan Paperback – April 3, 2012

3.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Q&A with Perihan Magden, author of Ali and Ramazan

Question: What inspired you to write this story?

Perihan Magden: Ali and Ramazan is based on a true story. I first met these boys as third page news in a rather short article. Then, three more short news items depicting their tragic ending followed. They were forgotten, nobody. Two orphan lovers--gay street-boys, a male hustler and a glue sniffer--who cares? I couldn’t forget them, but it took me many years to go back and read the papers again and write about them. No writer would dare to make up such a tragic end (unless you’re Shakespeare, but no one is).

Q: Is there any character you most identify with? Why?

PM: I take that restlessness within me and magnify for my character--namely Ramazan. The impatience, the aggression, the anger--I know about all those, though through association.

Q: In 2008, the Turkish Writers Association awarded you the Grand Award of Freedom of Speech. As an outspoken writer in Turkey, what challenges have you met with? What keeps you in Istanbul, where writers may not be as free to express their views as in some other countries?

PM: All through my column-writing years I was sued. Keeping you coming and going to and from the courts is the Chinese-torture-strategy of the Turkish "justice" system. Any court case takes years to resolve, and they threaten you with many at once--at least that’s what they did to me. I’ve received many prison sentences for my essays, but they have all been postponed or converted to fines.

I left my column three years ago, but wrote a couple of essays recently for a daily called "Taraf," and right away I was sued by Erdogan--our prime minister--for two articles. He accuses me of "Insult"--and mind you, Turkey offers prison sentences for that! Anything can be regarded as an insult by Turkish judges--for instance, a Jay Leno joke. Everything is open to interpretation and that is unnerving.

I still live in Turkey because I am scared of being the "foreigner." I’m already a foreigner in my own country and that much is enough for me to deal with. Also, I want to live where I excel in (my own) language, and where I can read people inside and out. When I was seriously threatened by the fascist mob after writing a column defending conscientious objection (I was tried and acquitted) I considered moving abroad to New York, a city I knew as a young woman. I looked at some homes on the internet, but I can’t now -- it's too late to start over.

Q: What books would you recommend to Amazon customers?

PM: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles--this is a pearl of a book--an all times favorite! My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates, Waiting by Ha Jin, Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano, and Seduced by Madness by Carol Pogash. I am a true crime addict; rarely are they this well-written, or this enlightening--for the sociopaths are taking over. It’s an epidemic.

From Booklist

From the instant they meet in an Istanbul orphanage at age 13, Ali and Ramazan fall "as far as it was possible to fall" in love. Handsome Ramazan, found in a mosque courtyard as an infant, reassures himself with fantasies that one day famous parents will rescue him "like a child in a Turkish film." Naive, sweet Ali, an Arab, watched his parents die horrible deaths--something that haunts his dreams at night. Conditions at the orphanage are appalling, and Ramazan is forced to perform sexual favors for the orphanage’s principal. After the boys turn 18, they are released by the state onto the mean streets of Istanbul. With no job prospects, Ramazan turns to prostitution and Ali to pills and inhalants. The cycle of men and drugs spirals out of control, fueled by their co-dependence and obsession with one another. The writing is choppy at times, perhaps owing to the English translation from the Turkish, and is characterized by short, simple sentences. Magden’s novel is slim but affecting, raw and tragic by most counts but punctuated by moments of sheer beauty. --Ann Kelley
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611091411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611091410
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,024,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Istanbul, Perihan Magden has written novels, poetry, and a column in Turkey's national daily newspaper, "Radikal." She is the author of three novels currently available in English, "Messenger Boy Murders," "2 Girls," and "Ali and Ramazan," as well as two titles not yet translated, "Escape" and "The Companion." "2 Girls" was made into film by director Kutlug Ataman and premiered at the 2005 London Film Festival. Her novels have been translated into eighteen languages, including German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Dutch. She is an honorary member of British PEN and winner of the Grand Award for Freedom of Speech by the Turkish Publishers Association. Author photo by Tomasz Kowalski.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just bawled my eyes out for fifteen minutes. When the back of the book promised that it would leave me "reeling in emotion", I had no idea what I was in for. This is a short book, but you quickly grow attached to the characters, Ali and Ramazan. They have a legendary quality, like Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh, of course, being the royal prince - the way that Ramazan is the "boss" of the orphanage. Enkidu, the strong wild-man, born to be Gilgamesh's friend the way it seems Ali is destined to be Ramazan's soul-mate. Yet the book also draws comparisons to the tragic love of Romeo and Juliet, that sense that love is doomed, and the tragedy that occurs because of missed connections and moments.

This book is no easy book to read. It is crude, harsh, and intense. The main characters are orphans in the city of Istanbul, thrust out onto the streets at age 18. One a prostitute, the other a glue-sniffer, they scrape by and it's hard to imagine how. The descriptions of this life build in intensity. At first, the sexual acts are alluded to only, but as the book progresses, they grow sickeningly more realistic - so that the reader viscerally experiences them along with Ramazan, the main narrator of the book. And let me be clear, it didn't turn my stomach because these characters are gay. Their encounters with each other are beautifully written, touching. It is what Ramazan must do to support himself, the disgust described in his own words and senses.

But despite all the darkness in this book, somehow there is something pure and bright about the love between Ramazan and Ali that kept me turning the pages, hoping they would find a way to be together. I kept exclaiming aloud, in shock, horror, but couldn't stop reading until I had finished - all in an evening.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ali and Ramazan is a love story between two orphans in contemporary Istanbul. Ali is an Arab boy who is placed in a state-run orphanage at a young age after the violent deaths of his parents. Ali is depressed and has a lasting memory and desire to be back living with his deceased mother. Ramazan was abandoned by his familily as an infant, and no one knows the names of his parents or their background. Ali is large and timid while Ramazan is average in size but large in personality and charisma. Ramazan takes on a role of rough guide for the bewildered and psychologically damaged Ali. He gives the trusting Ali a seemingly hard time and the large boy calls him "boss." This uneasy relationsip reminded me of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck Centennial Edition).

The story unfolds in the orphanage in filthy conditions and with limited provisions. This is largely the fault of the administrator who lives as a tyrant with his family. "Master" is an abusive husband and a pedophile, but Ramazan has learned to use his attractiveness to gain favors from the administrator. He hates himself for it but has sex with and manipulates the alcoholic man. Ali is comforted by Ramazan's leadership over himself and the other boys in the orphanage, but is jealous of his sexual relations with the Master.

Over time, Ali and Ramazan become lovers at the initiative of the smaller boy. Both seem to increase in beauty as they develop, and the other boys leave them alone due to Ali's growing physical strength and Ramazan's dominant personality.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on a true story and written by a Turkish woman, this is truly a gutsy, gritty novel in so many ways. Two boys who are living at the same orphanage in Istanbul fall in love, but they do not consider themselves gay as that is not a norm or even familiar for their culture. As they grow up, the bond becomes stronger, but the tensions do too. The forces within their relationship as well as their environment shape this story. It can be said that these forces conspire against them succeeding as lovers. And this is the main theme of this book.

This is a stunning story, simply told without a lot of dynamics to the writing style. I found it difficult to judge as the author lives in a very different culture, and the writing style was not as polished. This is also what makes this novel so amazing. It is a tragic gay love story set in a most unlikely place. The characters, as well as the author, are courageous and true throughout, not wavering in who they are no matter what challenges they faced.

Kudos to the author for telling this story! A very worthwhile read.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In my opinion Ali and Ramazan are two passionately drawn characters. The story of trials they face in an orphanage in Istanbul is heart breaking. The conditions and the cruelty are extreme. The horrible conditions described in the book have been noted in the news and in documentaries. The story is absolutely worth telling and worth reading.

However, the writing here is harsh and choppy. Since I see the book is being compared to The Kite Runner I reread the first chapter of The Kite Runner when I was finished with Ali and Ramazan. There may some overlap in themes but the writing styles are completely different. I don't think the comparison is fair.
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