This remarkable, touching memoir...is a collection of experiences, thoughts, conversations, internal debates ... While the experiences of those unjustifiably locked up is surely similar in many ways, Altan's talent as a writer allowed him to communicate his experience in rich, haunting detail. Some pages are full of pain, but others are full of hope ... Despite the oppressive, cruel darkness at the core of Altan's memoir, his words shine like bioluminescent creatures patrolling the abyss. His reflections, observations, and indomitable spirit are a testament to human resilience and the power of thought ... While the writing is brilliant and Altan's strength permeates this memoir, his situation and that of those around him make this a difficult read ... I Will Never See the World Again walks a fine line between loveliness and horror, hope and pain, devastation and strength. Altan's prose is sharp and lyrical ... Altan is locked up, but his words are free, and they demand to be read.
It speaks for itself with such clarity, certainty and wisdom that only one thing needs to be said: read it. And then read it again ... It is wonderfully distilled, but not sententious; even in extremis, Altan never loses the limpidity and translucence, vivid with the vividness of dreams, which is characteristic of his other writing ... It is a radiant celebration of the inner resources of human beings, above all those triggered by the imagination. Its account of the creative process is sublime, among the most perfectly expressed analyses of that perpetually elusive phenomenon. And it is a triumph of the spirit.
For the most part it is the novelist, not the journalist, who comes to the fore with a love of character and observation. It is, Altan acknowledges, part of a coping strategy to keep his mind occupied and ward off despondency. Indeed, much of this book is about emotional and psychological self-preservation. But it is not without telling detail. Altan relates a story about sharing a TV with a fellow inmate, a devout Muslim ... He wants to watch religious programs, but Altan, a non-believer, would rather watch shows with scantily clad singers performing pop songs. This almost sitcom-worthy scenario encapsulates the cultural chasm between Turkey’s secular and religious traditions.
The first essay, ‘A Single Sentence’, describes his arrest and, like the others, it’s written in short sentences and staccato paragraphs, as though each represents a thought Altan has hurried to jot down in secret. The effect of this style is to build a case, block by block, to create a solid reef by the accumulation of small, fragile ideas ... essays often read like Altan’s therapy for himself, and it’s a pleasure to find him exploring ideas, turning them around, arguing against himself and conjuring up the reader—you, me—as a form of companionship in isolation. Perhaps it’s this that has kept his spirit intact in the face of indignities (such as seeing psychiatric patients being treated while still in handcuffs) that are, if not exactly Kafkaesque, certainly Kafka-ish. All in all, the lack of rancour in these pages is miraculous.
Though Altan was and is principally a political writer concerned with collective governance, I Will Never See the World Again salutes the individual will, and exalts the imagination as an ultimate and ineradicable expression of freedom ... With typical defiance Altan warns the reader in a moving final chapter against ‘playing the drums of mercy’ for him. Though he may be in prison for life, he says, he is not bereft of beauty or meaning or, indeed, of life itself. All this is rendered deftly by Altan’s friend and former deputy editor at Taraf, Yasemin Çongar ... Yet Çongar captures Altan’s solitude and the highly personal quality of his writing in such a way that it is easy to forget her important role in its final expression.
...translator Yasemin Çongar...transfers...immediacy onto the page with reverence and grace, the essays alchemized into this phenomenally inspiring memoir. Despite stifling, Kafka-esque circumstances, Altan channels freedom through his imagination; he escapes through his mind. His unfailing creativity feeds his very soul to survive[.]
Stark, compact essays ... The author acknowledges the harrowing nature of his ordeal, and he positions himself in the tradition of imprisoned writers who respond to their plight by acknowledging its surreal qualities ... This spirit infuses the book and lends rhythmic urgency to Altan’s voice as he reflects on the intensity of life in a cell, the plights of fellow prisoners, and how to recall loved ones without succumbing to despair. An inspiring account of the writing life and a chilling glimpse of authoritarianism’s slippery slope.
...[a] sometimes harrowing, sometimes luminous memoir ... In these essays, Altan vividly evokes the Kafkaesque farce of court proceedings; prison squalor and claustrophobia; the dehumanizing routines of handcuffs, lineups, and confiscations ... Intertwining gritty detail with lyrical effusion, Altan’s narrative is a searing indictment of Turkey’s authoritarian regime and an inspiring testament to human resilience.