People in Turkey and around world have reacted with mixed feelings after the Turkish government announced its controversial decision to turn Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declaration on Friday came after a Turkish high court stripped the sixth-century Byzantine site’s museum status, paving the way for it to be converted into a mosque. Is it a bad move by Erdogan?
Tag Archives: Istanbul
In 1962, my father bought me a camera. My brother had been given one already, two years before. His was like a camera obscura, a black, metallic, perfectly square box, with a lens on one side and a glass screen on the other, on which you could see projected the image inside. When my brother was ready to transfer that murky image onto the film inside the box, he would push on the lever—click!—and as if by magic, a photograph would be taken.
Taking a photograph was always a special occasion. It called for preparation and ceremony. In the first place, film was expensive. It was important to know how many exposures would fit on a roll, and the camera kept a running tally of photographs taken. We spoke of rolls and exposure counts as if we were soldiers in some ragtag army running out of ammunition; we chose our shots carefully, and still wondered whether our photos were any good. Every photograph required a degree of thought and deliberation: “Does this look right?” It was around this time that I began to think about the significance of the photographs I took—and why I took them at all.
We took photographs so as to have something to remember the moment by. As subjects, we faced the camera and posed for others—mostly our friends and families but also our future selves—who would be looking back at this image months and years later. So really, we were having our photographs taken in anticipation of our own gaze back. When we faced the camera, we were “posing” for the future.
Last month, the Turkish Statistical Institute announced that the number of public library memberships in Turkey increased by 24.1 percent in 2016, compared to the previous year. In a time of terror, political uncertainty, and a coup attempt, Turks took refuge in libraries.
Some Istanbul libraries owe their existence to taxes; others to banks; one to an English monarch. SALT is located in the previous headquarters of the Ottoman Bank, which was founded in 1856 on the orders of Queen Victoria, a friend of the westernizing Sultan Abdulmecid. The building opened at a time when Turkish-British commercial ties were at their peak. Today, its library houses 110,000 books. Last year, it served more than 47,000 readers.
On a recent weekday the library was bustling with bright-eyed readers, and every seat were occupied. A hush fell over after I entered the reading room. On a desk by the entrance, a young man pored over a book; he checked a page number, and he typed a footnote to his thesis; in the little garden outside, two young girls smoked rollies. SALT is paid for by Garanti, a private Turkish bank. This is part of a trend.
In September, Yapı Kredi, another Turkish bank, opened its culture centre. On its roof, a classic sculpture of a naked woman embracing life with open arms, looks toward the bustling Istiklal Avenue. Among those who see the sculpture, some climb the stairs to the top floor, and take a picture for their Instagram; others enter the library. Yapı Kredi Library has opened to the public this month, after years of renovation. Its collection consists of some 80,000 volumes and hundreds of ancient manuscripts.
Sabahattin Ali published “Madonna in a Fur Coat” in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1943. At the time, the book was one of many of his published works. They were widely circulated in Turkey and held in high esteem although, at times, they got him into trouble. While this book may not have gained much recognition then, its popularity today in Turkey, 70 years later, is greater than many other authors. And now, translated into English by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, it can attract a new generation of readers.
“Madonna in a Fur Coat” is the introspective journey of a young man in the 1930s. Told from a narrator’s perspective – one whose name the reader never learns – it opens with him struggling to find work after losing his job. While desperately wandering the streets, the narrator happens to stumble upon an old friend, Hamdi, who promises to help him out of his predicament. Read more
Source: Arab News
By Tory Lyne-Pirkis
At first glance, Three Daughters Of Eve tells the story of Peri, an academic introverted young girl from Istanbul, torn between the religiosity of her devout mother and the secularism of her irascible atheist father.
At Oxford, she is determined to find out which of her parents is right about God and where her own beliefs lie – and, under the tuition of an unorthodox but beguiling professor, she flourishes.
It’s also the story of modern Istanbul and the constantly changing ley lines of politics, money, faith and patriotism. Read more
Source: The Press and Journal
By Lucy Scholes
This week I’ve read two new fictional works, both of which speak directly to the world today: Vietnamese-American author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s short-story collection, The Refugees; and Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s new novel, Three Daughters of Eve.
The Refugees, with its moving depiction of the immigrant experience in the United States, should be compulsory reading for anyone in favour of US president Donald Trump’s attempts at a refugee ban; while Three Daughters of Eve, in its efforts to speak to the broader ideological concerns that underlie this pernicious anti-Muslim hate-filled rhetoric, is a text to linger over. It’s a novel of ideas – sometimes to the detriment of its story – that advocates replacing dogma with doubt.
Book Review: Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities is a life-affirming history of the city that straddles the Bosphorus – and history
For those who enjoy historical parallels, there was something particularly irresistible about the news in 2013 that the world’s deepest underwater railway tunnel linking Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus had opened beneath Istanbul.
The record-breaking continental connection recalled Herodotus’ description, two-and-a-half millennia earlier, of the Persian emperor Darius I ordering the construction of a mile-long pontoon bridge across the water sometime about 513BC, an act of imperial hubris that would, inevitably, result in the nemesis of the Persian wars and defeat at the hands of the Greeks.
It is difficult to imagine the Turkish prime minister being gripped by such parallels. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, instead made disparaging comments about the long delays to the tunnel caused by “clay pots” and “other stuff”, such stuff including the largest remains of a Byzantine fleet ever discovered, among other important archaeological findings. The modern Islamist is not generally known for his interest in non-Islamic history. Read more
Source: South China Morning Post
William Dalrymple on the overlooked empire that created one of the great cities
Standing amid the arcaded pavilions of the Topkapi Palace, looking down the wooded promontory of Sarayburnu with Asia to your right and Europe to your left, it is easy to see why Istanbul was always going to be one of the world’s greatest cities, and the natural capital for an empire that straddled three continents. Read more