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Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills Paperback – July 1, 2000
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From the Back Cover
In this dark fairy tale, Latife Tekin has written a grim parable of survival and dignity.
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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."
There is hard content here, as Tekin speaks of factories that poison the shanty town with their chemical emissions that emit snow-like powder into the air and pump their blue waste water for the inhabitants, causing suppurating sores and loss of babies. She speaks of huts bull-dozed by the police and of roofs and huts knocked down or carried off by wind storms. Tekin recounts repeated beatings of women by their short-tempered and controlling husbands. This would be a socialist-realist and slightly feminist novel, and both strident and unreadable, without the use of fantasy and without the relief offered by Tekin's varied and comical characters.
To some extent, Tekin's style evokes the Latin American writers from the 1960s onward, especially Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The style evokes the Ivorian Ahmadou Kourouma's stunning Allah n'est pas obligé... (God is not obligated...), which used humor and comic voice to render bearable the suffering of child warriors and exploited child laborers. Yet her voice remains original. I look forward to reading more.
Post-Criticum: You MUST read 'Ice Swords' but it isn't publishing yet.So, you should learn Turkish...