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A Useless Man: Selected Stories Paperback – January 6, 2015
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"Sait Faik’s best stories combine...innocence with a profound intelligence, showing that people also bring sadness, disappointment, rivalry, frustration and confusion. He should certainly be better known among English readers and this volume is a good place to start... His work is full of humanistic portrayals of laborers, fishermen, children, tradesmen, the unemployed, the poor...one of the best loved writers in Turkey." — William Armstrong, Hürriyet Daily News
"Part of the charm of Sait Faik Abasiyanik, who wrote almost 200 short stories in two decades before his premature death in 1954, is the way he floated above the fray of his turbulent times. This new selection of tales is welcome.... His stories bear multiple readings... they are elliptical, fragmentary, defined mostly by what is left unsaid; they never outstay their welcome.... 'The Silk Handkerchief' [is] a poignant masterpiece of concision." — The Times Literary Supplement
"It's heartbreaking and tender.... Masterly storytelling, beautifully translated." — The Irish Times
"[S]uperbly translated. . . evocative and nostalgic without ever being saccharine. . . Like quality chocolates, each story is worth pausing over to savor the nuances, wondering about the hints and where they lead. . . Elliptical and unexpected, sometimes lyrical, sometimes earthy, using elementary language and a stark, Chekhovian simplicity, these loving tributes to the unnoticed loners on the margins of life reveal the world through Sait Faik's eyes in all its brutality and loneliness and beauty." --Nick DiMartino, University Book Store, in Shelf Awareness
"This fascinating collection of short stories from Turkey portray a world of the ordinary and mundane but in such a way as to stimulate the reader's imagination and leave them wanting more. Each story is like a snapshot in time and the evocative description and slightly mysterious subject matter leaves behind a sense that we have scratched the surface of a vast and private world that we can only ever experience through reading... these stories inspire, amuse and move in equal measure... this is a privileged glimpse into lives unknown and worlds rarely visited. Wonderful." — Booktrust
"Abasıyanık’s status as a Turkish national treasure is utterly unsurprising. Chekhov-like in his ability to create sweet, poignant moments from the mundane and melancholy, Abasıyanık is able to fashion even a mother’s death into a comforting embrace... Abasıyanık’s prose is never heavy-handed, as he expertly invokes the colours, smells and tastes of his native Turkey." — Totally Dublin
"These are stories that are not so much unputdownable as unpindownable. Briefer and more open-ended than Chekhov, earthier than Borges and Kafka, less penetrating than Katherine Mansfield and D H Lawrence – yet as beguiling as all of them... It isn’t always easy to get a handle on these stories, but it is not difficult at all to be lulled and entranced by their strangeness." — The National (UAE)
"...beautifully paced and glows with affection for the sights and sounds of working class Istanbul... one of Turkey’s most revered writers... Engrossing and curiously refreshing, Sait Faik opens magical doors to Istanbul as it stood back in the early twentieth century, with its colourful array of prostitutes, barflys and musicians who frequented its coffee and tea houses and drinking dens." — RTÉ Ten (Ireland)
"[S]ince I have come into possession of Abasiyanik’s Stories, I have found myself pursuing loosely structured goals in the region just as an excuse to hop on a train and dive into another succinct tale... Like Robert Walser’s walking stories, these meditations on natural beauty and village life often dance around an ugly truth. Lost innocence, unrequited love, misanthropy. Turn down the wrong street and there they are, crystallized in the form of vegetables left out to dry in the cornice of a building. And the more beguiling and bucolic the tales start out, the less prepared we are when, in the words of translators Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, 'he pulls the carpet out from underneath our feet... [L]est we indulge in false nostalgia for an innocence that we may never have had to lose in the first place, we are reminded of the man who could not and would not go into town. 'I can imagine it now, all those little twenty-five watt bulbs glowing, and all the flies.' Perhaps this is reason enough not to go into town. But if you must, make sure to bring along Abasiyanik’s Selected Stories for the trip." — Nomadic Press
"These stories unfold like secrets or hallowed gossip passed between friends and neighbors. Each one’s telling--intimate and mysterious, earthy and luminous—is propelled universal by a striking glimpse of the human heart. Set in post-Ottoman Istanbul, Sait Faik’s characters span a rich cultural and linguistic array, including Turkish fisherman (and their fish), Greek Orthodox priests, factory girls, thieves, simit sellers and all manner of lovers. The stories take us to a specific place and time, but because of Sait Faik’s unflinching eye, we land precisely in our own backyard." — Anne Germanacos, author of In the Time of the Girls and Tribute
"Reading these stories by Sait Faik feels like finding the secret doors inside of poems. Little moments–here one about milk, there one about death–open out into corridors of narrative, leading to effects and endings that are consistently both gentle and cutting, simultaneously honest and surprising. A distinctive, humane voice worthy of our serious attention." — Rivka Galchen
About the Author
Sait Faik's career marked a fascinating moment in Turkish culture in the 1930s and 40s when the secular, post-Ottoman sensibility placed new demands on the writing of literature. Turkish critics and readers regard him as their finest short story writer, a Turkish Chekhov. While Sait Faik was a talented poet, he preferred the mode of fiction, and his intuitive sense for poetry pervades his stories. Like Chekhov, Sait Faik's characters come to life on the page--we meet Armenian fishermen, Greek Orthodox priests, and the disillusioned and disenfranchised, their complicated emotions, thoughts, and conditions, without ever compromising the full range of their humanity.
About the Translators:
Alex Dawe has co-translated with Maureen Freely Tanpinar's The Time Regulation Institute, for which he won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. Maureen Freely is an American journalist, novelist, professor, and translator. She is a contributor to The Guardian, The Independent, and Cornucopia, and is the author of The Life of the Party and The Other Rebecca. She is best known for having translated Orhan Pamuk's recent novels: The Black Book, Snow, The Museum of Innocence, and others.
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Top customer reviews
I have finished the final story of this collection today and find myself smiling and making notes about the writing on my kindle. The book, author and stories have all grown on me over the course of reading, as I have come to know him a little through his works, his views of his surroundings and his life, the culture which he apparently loved. There was a description I found in the afterword that I feel is especially important for the reader who does not know Turkey and has never encountered Sait Falk before. (Apparently he is somewhat of a folk hero in his own land and is still revered so long after his death.)
Though his stories are often opaque, fragmentary
and oddly plotted, they never fail to conjure up a
mood that lingers in your mind for days. They are
fleeting meditations, blurred pictures full of explosive
creativity; intimate portraits, odes to beloved
individuals or avatars...; slices of everyday life, a
casual remembrance, a crystallized childhood memory,
a veiled and deeply personal confession. [He}..depicted
the lives of lovers, deviants, idlers and the working
class: fishermen, builders, off-the-wall philosophers,
penniless widows, lost souls pocketing dreams in old
countryside coffeehouses. (loc 2411)
Among my favorite stories are several of his later ones, "The Boy in the Tünel", "Kalinikta", and "In the Rain". but there are whole or partial poems that captured me throughout with their sadness, the beauty of a quickly created scene among the islands, the silliness of a dog or the playing of children. Even in those stories, however, there is almost always a background of sadness, some nostalgia for other times, a feeling of loss already experienced or sure to come.
I was initially hesitant about these stories but came to see their power as I continued reading. The only thing I would do differently as a publisher is change the afterword to a forword for the benefit of those who are new to Turkish writing and to this author. I think it would give a well deserved hint before beginning the collection.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I also note that a future edition of this book is being published with a slightly different title, [book:A Useless Man: Selected Stories|24474355].