Here is a Turkish saga reminiscent of War and Peace, written in contemporary prose that traces not only the social currents of the time but also the erotic and emotional lives of its characters. The female characters in Altan's gripping saga will upend prejudices about Turkey, the Middle East, and Muslim nations.
Knowing that the writer of these words is himself in a prison cell for the rest of his life renders lines like these almost unbearably poignant ... The beauty of Altan’s writing is most finely tuned on the nuances of people trapped in unhappy relationships, on frustrated longing and futile hope for redemption – passages that chime horribly with the image of an imprisoned writer ... From his prison cell, [Alan] gives us a reason – a duty, even – to keep reading his work, and the work of Turkey’s many fearless writers.
A brilliant critique of an authoritarian regime on the verge of collapse ... multi-layered, lyrical prose ... [Altan's] outrageous detention makes the reading of his vibrant, engrossing novel, lucidly translated by Brendan Freely and Yelda Türedi, all the more urgent as an act of solidarity. Altan is writing the fourth volume from his prison cell.
While too much modern 'historical fiction' tends to rely on nostalgia and cheap fireworks, Altan reasserts popular history as one of the novel’s greatest subjects ... a breathless portrait of late-19th century Istanbul ... One of Altan’s gifts as a historical novelist is his ability to connect what goes on, say, in the marriage bed with what occurs on a world-scale. There are no grand gestures of 'Great Men' at the expense of everyday experiences. Rather, the commonplace mirrors bigger events or triggers them directly ... Very little about this book is grandiose, a rarity for a work of historical fiction. This is an Istanbul full of disappointing sex, sketchy political murders and the kind of codified fear that comes with living day-after-day under a despotic regime. In Altan’s hands, though, it all has a certain dignity. He picks the garbage off the ground and sets it in the sphere of historical interest. Personally, that’s my favorite sort of history.