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The Flea Palace Paperback – August 5, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (August 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141048956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141048956
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Hyper-active and hilarious Independent An enchanting combination of compassion and cruelty ... Elif Shafak is the best author to come out of Turkey in the last decade -- Orhan Pamuk Picaresque Guardian

From the Back Cover

Shafak uses the narrative structure of A Thousand and One Nights to construct a story-within-a-story, as the mystery of the apartments' stolen garbage is considered from a variety of perspectives. There is the narrator, a womanizing, raki-swilling academic with a penchant for Kierkegaard; Hygiene Tijen, the 'clean freak', and her lice-ridden daughter Su; madly flamboyant Ethel, a lapsed Jew in search of true love, and the charmingly naive Blue Mistress whose personal secret is just one of many hidden within the confines of the building. Add to this a strange, intensifying stench, the cause of which is revealed at the end of the book, and we have a metaphoric conduit for the cultural and spiritual decay at the heart of Istanbul. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Elif Shafak is Turkey's most-read woman writer and an award-winning novelist. She writes in both English and Turkish, and has published 13 books, nine of which are novels, including: The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, Honour and her nonfiction memoir Black Milk. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages. She has more than one and a half million followers on Twitter: @elif_safak
Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the voices of women, minorities, subcultures, immigrants and global souls. Defying cliches and transcending boundaries her works draws on different cultures and cities, and reflects a strong interest in history, philosophy, culture, mysticism, Sufism and gender equality. Her books have been translated into more than forty languages.
Shafak is also a political scientist and has taught at various universities in the USA, UK and Turkey. She has written for several international daily & weekly publications, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent and The World Post/Huffington Post.
She was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is married with two kids and divides her time between London and Istanbul.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on July 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Shafak makes the inhabitants of Bonbon Palace, a rundown apartment building in present-day Istanbul, thoroughly entrancing. It takes a talented writer to get me interested in the daily lives and anxieties of a pair of twin male Turkish hairstylists, for example, and Shafak incredibly did just that.

Mind you, this isn't a summer-at-the-beach page-turner or the kind of mental chewing gum that most people read. The Flea Palace is an insightful, deep novel that is very accessible, yet doubtlessly full of thicker meaning for those familiar with Istanbul. This novel is undoubtedly about Istanbul-the city itself is a major character-but it masterfully transcends the purely local.

Shafak chose an interesting structure for The Flea Palace, beginning with a somewhat abstract narrative introduction about deception and truth. She then sets the premise of the novel's main action: garbage is piling up in the garden of the Bonbon Palace, and relentless hordes of bugs and a sour garbage smell are bedeviling its residents. This short introduction, though, is quickly left behind, as the narrative then turns to the prehistory of the current-day Bonbon Palace, beginning with the displacement of a cemetery and two vanished saints' graves for a construction project, and continuing with the story of its builder, a Russian émigré.

From there, the novel returns to the present day, and quickly immerses the reader in the lives of the inhabitants of Bonbon Palace's ten apartments; the rest of the novel essentially unfolds across ten different stories, each revolving around the inhabitant(s) of the apartments, though as the book goes on they begin to run together.

This is a great book on many levels, bringing characters to life and creating a powerful sense of place. It takes a great writer to spark the reader's interest in the lives of the denizens of an unexceptional apartment building in a distant city, but Shafak does just that.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mujgan Saricicek on December 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Elif Shafak's The Flea Palace struck me as an appropriate reflection of the city it describes. Like Istanbul itself, the book is sewn together from various bits of history, assorted personas (some more memorable than others), and held together by remnants of the lives, of the agendas that people follow, mostly irregardless of one-another. Furthermore, the book, like the city, is generously imbued with both luxury and filth, fact and lies, modernity and tradition: a contradiction, and yet more mystical than unbelievable.

Perhaps the richest and most appreciable aspect of the novel is the depth of the characters, often introduced and explored concisely but extremely vividly. Each character embodies thoughts and fears of the kind amplified in rumors, each rests on the edge of the unbelievable, but is sufficiently grounded in honesty to demand the attention and affection of the reader. I particularly enjoyed the story of the two twin hairdressers, whose actions, more often than not, echoed one-another and whose personalities, though very different, seemed to be two parts of a single whole. Other characters include a full cross-section of Istanbul's population, diverse in age, background, and faith. Though utterly lacking a unified history, the characters of this novel are still tied to one-another by their connections to their residence of faded elegance.

The internal "narrator", who tells some parts of the story in a reflective and analytical first person, is an active character himself, directly connected to the action of the story. Despite his initial lack of interest in the majority of his neighbors, he non-the-less manages to report to the reader an amazing number of intimate details of their lives.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amore Roberto on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
What happens if a once-stately and now dilapidated palace in one of Istanbul neighborhoods is encircled by garbage, pervaded by its stench, invaded by fleas, the families unable to get rid of it?
What if one of the residents starts collecting garbage?

The flea Place is a strange novel.
Unlike other books it has not a true plan and shows a very peculiar narrative structure.

Depending on the perspective, it can be the story of a once stately - now dilapidated and flea infested - palace built by a Russian émigré for his wife.
Or it can be the story of the mystery of the apartments' stolen garbage, a story full of sarcasm that ends in tragedy.
Or it can be the portrait of modern Turkish society in the many characters presented: the university professor, the hairdresser twins, the elderly Madam Auntie, the religious Mr. Hadji Hadji, the naïve Blue Mistress, the young student ... and so on.

It has been said that the writer uses the narrative structure of A thousand and One Nights. I'm not convinced... : the structure used is mainly focused on the palace and the writer shows us each flat, in a rather haphazard - at the beginning at least - way. Each flat has a kind of personal identity and the sum of the many identities creates a living painting of modern Turkish society.

As it can be read under different perspective, so also appraisal of the story can be - and is - different.

It can be a kind of expressionist social portrait: under this angle there is sometimes a flamboyant irony in a kind of almost Almodovar-ian style (specially in the description of the twins hairdressers, madam Auntie and Hygiene Tijen).
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