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Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills Paperback – July 1, 2000

3.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on the testimony of squatters crammed into makeshift dwellings on the outskirts of Istanbul in the 1960s, Turkish author Tekin paints a fictional portrait of destitute people who literally create a community on a refuse heap. The story of Flower Hill, as the community comes to be called, encapsulates the development of civilization: the inhabitants evolve from exploited workers in unsafe, toxin-emitting factories into union strikers battling the police, from unacknowledged squatters into townspeople whose community is at least nominally given regard by those who wield power in the outside world. Among the more interesting personalities are Gullu Baba, Flower Hill's oldest and wisest resident; Fidan of Many Skills, who teaches women the art of lovemaking; and, most colorful of all, Lado the gambler. Few of the characters are this compelling, however, and Tekin may turn off some readers with a nearly dialogue-free narrative whose metaphorical prose has more in common with that of fairy tales than with the language of conventionally realistic fiction. The later chapters contain the best episodes, but most readers will tire of the effort long before.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Evocations of contemporary urban life on the margins--in a first US publication from Turkish novelist Tekin. Like the Garbage Hills of her setting, Tekin's story contains within itself layers of meaning and action: the tales are based on an actual fact of modern Turkish cities but also offer a wry and sympathetic account of life in marginal communities, as well as a quiet but insistent indictment of the callous manner in which such people are exploited. Flocking to the city in search of jobs, Tekin's poor and unskilled set up homes on the hills where the city's garbage is dumped. They build huts with whatever castoffs they can find; then one snowy night their first flimsy roofs of cloth and paper are torn away by the wind, and babies in cradles are dumped hundreds of yards away--an event that, like so much of what happens here, immediately gives rise to song and legend. Other disasters follow, as factories move in and pollute the water and air, and as strikes divide the community. Meanwhile, there are characters like feisty Fidan; Crazy Gonul, acknowledged as the group's first whore; ``Liverman,'' a storyteller by night and a seller of liver by day; and blind Gullu Baba, who makes predictions about the future of Flower Hill, the new and deeply ironic name for the settlement. Rumors of ``Anarchists,'' the power of the polluted blue water, and the strange, sinister factory a Mr. Izak establishes abound. Life seems to improve as the huts become more permanent and the women find work in the factories, but new squatters are moving in, establishing seedy nightclubs, and just- fired workers threaten violence--a reminder that there can be no happy ending for Garbage Hills, or indeed anywhere else. By using traditional storytelling techniques, Tekin seamlessly marries the timelessness of marginal lives with their contemporary manifestation. An accomplished debut. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tales from the Garbage Hills
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714530115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714530116
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,202,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Latife Tekin tells the incredible story of a group of rural migrants who build a shantytown in a garbage dump and their experiences in trying to adapt to urban life. A nameless narrator recounts the abstract history of the garbage hills from the point of view of a removed observer, which leaves plenty of room for Tekin's characters to take center stage. Although the inhabitants of the shantytown are simple folk, their stories are told in such rich language that even the most mundane events in their lives stir emotion. Tekin presents the hill dwellers as ignorant victims of the changes swirling around them. Their exploitation by outsiders (factory bosses and politicians) and their manipulation by one of their own (a Muslim cleric) are among many tales the author weaves with poetic language and wry wit. No specific dates or places (other than the hills and their immediate vicinity) are mentioned, but the setting and pace of the novel roughly coincide with that of the massive growth of shantytowns and factories on Istanbul's outskirts during the 1970s. Ruth Cristie and Salina Paker have done an excellent job in keeping the author's flowery prose intact in the English translation, but Tekin's constant use of metaphors may loose readers who are not well grounded in Turkish culture.
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Format: Paperback
Latife Tekin is a Turkish woman who began writing shortly after the military coup of 1980. In this short novel, she describes poor squatters who build their shanty town on hills of garbage dumped outside of Istanbul.

The translators must have worked well, for I hear Tekin's singular voice clearly through the static of translation. Tekin's voice evokes a mindset, a web of beliefs in rumor and in superstition, a mindset of naïve ignorance. Her characters' beliefs are in motion, transforming themselves with time, like the shifting forms of clouds. Yet these beliefs serve an unchanging function: to bring some hope and comfort to the miserable lives of squatters in cardboard and tar paper huts in a stinking dump. Here's an excerpt.

"One morning a stone with an inscription was uncovered behind the mosque on Factory Foot. Word spread through the huts that a saint lay under the stone, and it was considered an offence to urinate or spit on the spot or pass by without saying a prayer. The whole community went to the stone and prayed for water. Metal bowls and little tins were filled with water and lined up round the stone to show the saint what water was. They explained the difficulties of carrying water from wells on top of far-way hills in tins dangling from both ends of a yoke slung across their backs. Buttons were undone and backs bared, and everyone in turn showed the stone the calluses on their necks and backs... But not one drop of water could be had from `Water Father' and in time people forgot they had ever prayed to him for water. Instead childless women and those with wishes to be fulfilled took him whatever they could spare from the little water in their cans - until there were so many bowls and tins at Factory Foot that they blocked the way.
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By karistim on February 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
I just don't think magic realism is for me. I didn't enjoy this book but that's not to say others won't. There are things you can get out of it about the overall feelings surrounding mass migration to the cities in Turkey and what that entails, but I'd rather read something a little more down to earth.
2.5
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