Harem

“This is a serious history, yet an immensely readable one—informative, gossipy, and grand fun.” - The NY Times

“A fascinating illustrated history of one of the strangest, and cruelest, cultural institutions ever devised. A worldwide best seller, translated into 25 languages.

’I was born in a konak (old house), which once was the harem of a pasha,’ writes Alev Lytle Croutier. ‘People around me often whispered things about harems; my own grandmother and her sister had been brought up in one.’

Drawing on a host of firsthand accounts and memoirs, as well as her own family history, Croutier explores life in the world’s harems, from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, focusing on the fabled Seraglio of Topkapi Palace as a paradigm for them all. We enter the slave markets and the lavish boudoirs of the sultanas; we witness the daily routines of the odalisques, and of the eunuchs who guarded the harem. Here, too, we learn of the labyrinthine political scheming among the sultan’s wives, his favorites, and the valide sultana—the sultan’s mother—whose power could eclipse that of the sultan himself.

There were the harems of the sultans and the pashas, but there were also ‘middle-class’ harems, the households in which ordinary men and women lived out ordinary—albeit polygamous—lives. Croutier reveals their marital customs, child-rearing practices, and superstitions. Juxtaposing a rich array of illustrations—Western paintings, Turkish and Persian miniatures, family photographs, and even film stills—Croutier demystifies the Western erotic fantasy of ‘the world behind the veil.’”

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The Kiss Murder

“The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency meets Pedro Almodovar in this outrageous new series featuring an ultraglamorous sleuth

Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer's home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya (aka Turkish Delight) mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States.

A male computer technician by day and a cross-dressing hostess of Istanbul's most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the ‘girls’ at her club fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day, Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills.”

Featuring an irreverent & saucy drag queen, this highly entertaining & occasionally over-the-top story is the perfect read if you’re looking for something light, fun, and a little different as Charlaine Harris, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, & the Guardian all rave. (Also, it’s interesting to read about a feisty gay sub-culture in a traditionally conservative Muslim country.)

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A Mind at Peace

“While lengthy, A Mind at Peace is a magnum opus, a Turkish Ulysses, and a lyrical homage to Istanbul. With an innate awareness of how dueling cultural mentalities can lead to the distress of divided selves, Tanpinar gauges this moment in history by masterfully portraying its register on the layered psyches of his Istanbulite characters.

Surviving the childhood trauma of his parents’ untimely deaths in the early skirmishes of World War I, Mümtaz is raised and mentored in Istanbul by his cousin Ihsan and his cosmopolitan family of intellectuals. Having lived through the tumultuous cultural revolutions following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the early Turkish Republic, each is challenged by the difficulties brought about by such rapid social change.

The promise of modernization and progress has given way to crippling anxiety rather than hope for the future. Fragmentation and destabilization seem the only certainties within the new World where they now find themselves. Mümtaz takes refuge in the fading past, immersing himself in literature and music, but when he falls in love with Nuran, a complex woman with demanding relatives, he is forced to confront the challenges of the World at large. Can their love save them from the turbulent times and protect them from disaster, or will inner obsessions, along with powerful social forces seemingly set against them, tear the couple apart?”

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The Red-haired Woman

“From a Nobel Prize winner, an intense political fable of fathers and sons and the desires that come between them.

On the outskirts of a town 30 miles from Istanbul, a well digger and his young apprentice—a boy fleeing the confines of his middle class home—are hired to find water on a barren plain. As they struggle in the heat, excavating without luck meter by meter, they develop a filial bond neither has known before. But when the boy catches the eye of a stunning red-haired woman who seems as fascinated by him as he is by her, the events that ensue change the young man’s life forever and haunt him for the next 30 years. A tale of family and romance, of youth and old age, of tradition and modernity, The Red-haired Woman is a beguiling political mystery from one of the great storytellers of our time.

It is both a realist text investigating a murder which took place 30 years ago near Istanbul - and a fictional inquiry into the literary foundations of civilizations, comparing two fundamental myths of the West and the East respectively: Sophocles's Oedipus Rex (a story of patricide) and Ferdowsi's tale of Rostam and Sohrab (a story of filicide).”

(A special thank you to book club member, Leslie Tchaikovsky for the suggestion.)

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The White Castle

With elements of myth/historical fiction, literature, & fantasy, this very first novel of famed author Orhan Pamuk will remind you of the stories by Italo Calvino.

“From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Borges, Nabokov, and DeLillo comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West. In the 17th century, a young Italian scholar sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner and delivered to Constantinople. There he falls into the custody of a scholar known as Hoja—’master’—a man who is his exact double. In the years that follow, the slave instructs his master in Western science and technology, from medicine to pyrotechnics. But Hoja wants to know more: why he and his captive are the persons they are and whether, given knowledge of each other's most intimate secrets, they could actually exchange identities. Set in a world of magnificent scholarship and terrifying savagery, The White Castle is a colorful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Julie Jacobs for the suggestion.)

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The Time Regulation Institute

“A literary discovery: an uproarious tragicomedy of modernization, in its first-ever English translation

Perhaps the greatest Turkish novel of the 20th century, being discovered around the world only now, more than 50 years after its first publication, The Time Regulation Institute is an antic, freewheeling send-up of the modern bureaucratic state.
 
At its center is Hayri Irdal, an infectiously charming antihero who becomes entangled with an eccentric cast of characters—a television mystic, a pharmacist who dabbles in alchemy, a dignitary from the lost Ottoman Empire, a ‘clock whisperer’—at the Time Regulation Institute, a vast organization that employs a hilariously intricate system of fines for the purpose of changing all the clocks in Turkey to Western time. Recounted in sessions with his psychoanalyst, the story of Hayri Irdal’s absurdist misadventures plays out as a brilliant allegory of the collision of tradition and modernity, of East and West, infused with a poignant blend of hope for the promise of the future and nostalgia for a simpler time.”

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The Collini Case

“The internationally bestselling courtroom drama centering on a young German lawyer and a case involving World War II.

A bestseller in Germany since its 2011 release—with rights sold in seventeen countries—The Collini Case combines the classic courtroom procedural with modern European history in a legal thriller worthy of John Grisham and Scott Turow.

Fabrizio Collini is recently retired. He’s a quiet, unassuming man with no indications that he’s capable of hurting anyone. And yet he brutally murders a prominent industrialist in one of Berlin’s most exclusive hotels.

Collini ends up in the charge of Caspar Leinen, a rookie defense lawyer eager to launch his career with a not-guilty verdict. Complications soon arise when Collini admits to the murder but refuses to give his motive, much less speak to anyone. As Leinen searches for clues he discovers a personal connection to the victim and unearths a terrible truth at the heart of Germany’s legal system that stretches back to World War II. But how much is he willing to sacrifice to expose the truth?”

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Go, Went, Gone

New York Times Notable Book 2018; MLA Lois Roth Award Winner

An unforgettable German bestseller about the European refugee crisis: “Erpenbeck will get under your skin” (Washington Post Book World)

“Go, Went, Gone is the masterful new novel by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, ‘one of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation’ (The Millions). The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes. Exquisitely translated by Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone addresses one of the most pivotal issues of our time, facing it head-on in a voice that is both nostalgic and frightening.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Judy Shenk for the suggestion.)

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The Neverending Story

If you’ve only seen the movies, you’ll be astonished by how exponentially better the story actually is & how easily you’ll be swept away. It’s breathtaking originality has ensured that the novel continued to top a huge variety of bestseller lists for many years & consistently won awards.

"Every once in a blue moon, a book captures the imagination, providing a portal into magical places unknown. So it is with The Neverending Story.

Unicorns, dragons, sprites, will-o’-the-wisps: the inhabitants of an enchanted world. And into this world – through the pages of an old book – ventures a lonely boy named Bastian. But this land is slowly decaying, its Childlike Empress dying. Only a real human can set things right. Bastian takes up the challenge, and finds himself crossing the Swamps of Sadness and the Silver Mountains, meeting sorcerers and giants, bats and night-hobs, gnomes and racing snails. As he journeys bravely toward the Ivory Tower, Bastian’s quest is filled with all the wonders of myth and fairy tale. It is a fantasy adventure that will capture your heart – and recapture the magical dreams of childhood.”

"An instantaneous leap into the magical . . . Energetic, innovative, and perceptive."
The Washington Post

"A trumpet blast for the imagination." — Sunday Times

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The Nightwalker

“A psychological thrill-ride of a novel that finds an insomniac wondering if his nighttime excursions have turned into something beyond his imagination.

As a young man, Leon Nader suffered from insomnia. As a sleepwalker, he even turned to violence during his nocturnal excursions and had psychiatric treatment for his condition. Eventually, he was convinced he had been cured—but one day, years later, Leon's wife disappears from their apartment under mysterious circumstances. Could it be that his illness has broken out again?

In order to find out how he behaves in his sleep, Leon fits a movement activated camera to his forehead—and when he looks at the video the next morning he makes a discovery that bursts the borders of his imagination. His nocturnal personality goes through a door that is totally unknown to him and descends into the darkness.”

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Stones from the River

“From an award-winning author, a stunning story [spanning WWI & WWII] about ordinary people living in extraordinary times—epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a defining and mesmerizing vision.” - LA Times

”Trudi Montag is a Zwerg—a dwarf—short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share—from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he’s a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.

Ursula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Beth Cummings for the suggestion.)

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A Woman in Berlin

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

”For eight weeks in 1945, as Berlin fell to the Russian army, a young woman kept a daily record of life in her apartment building and among its residents. ‘With bald honesty and brutal lyricism’ (Elle), the anonymous author depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity, as well as their cravenness, corrupted first by hunger and then by the Russians. ‘Spare and unpredictable, minutely observed and utterly free of self-pity’ (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland), A Woman in Berlin tells of the complex relationship between civilians and an occupying army and the shameful indignities to which women in a conquered city are always subject—the mass rape suffered by all, regardless of age or infirmity.

A Woman in Berlin stands as ‘one of the essential books for understanding war and life.’ (A. S. Byatt, author of Possession)”

(A special thank you to book club member, Karen Van Drie for the suggestion.)

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The Great Passage

“An award-winning story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Kohei Araki believes that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years of creating dictionaries, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Along with an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the words that connect us all.”

(A special thank you to Dr. Carol McCrea, the mother of one of our book club admins for the suggestion.)

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The Trial

A new translation based on the restored text from the Schocken Kafka Library!

“Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. This new edition is based upon the work of an international team of experts who have restored the text, the sequence of chapters, and their division to create a version that is as close as possible to the way the author left it.

In his brilliant translation, Breon Mitchell masterfully reproduces the distinctive poetics of Kafka's prose, revealing a novel that is as full of energy and power as it was when it was first written.”

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Difficult Loves

“The quirkiness and grace of the writing, the originality of the imagination at work, the occasional incandescence of vision, and a certain lovable nuttiness make this collection well worth reading.” -Margaret Atwood

“Intricate interior lives are brilliantly explored in these short stories, now presented in one definitive collection as Calvino intended them.

In Difficult Loves, Italy’s master storyteller weaves tales in which cherished deceptions and illusions of love—including self-love—are swept away in magical instants of recognition. A soldier is reduced to quivering fear by the presence of a full-figured woman in his train compartment; a young clerk leaves a lady’s bed at dawn; a young woman is isolated from bathers on a beach by the loss of her bikini bottom. Each of them discovers hidden truths beneath the surface of everyday life. 

This is the first edition in English to present the collection as Calvino originally envisioned it, and includes two stories newly translated by Ann Goldstein.”

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." -Newsweek

“A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.”

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Disgrace

“Set in post-apartheid South Africa, this searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice-divorced professor. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy him. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Lurie is forced to resign and flees to his daughter Lucy’s smallholding in the country. There he struggles to rekindle his relationship with Lucy and to understand the changing relations of blacks and whites in the new South Africa. But when three black strangers appear at their house, a harrowing afternoon of violence follows which leaves both of them badly shaken and further estranged from one another. After a brief return to Cape Town, where Lurie discovers his home has also been vandalized, he decides to stay on with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers. Now thoroughly humiliated, Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs. It is here that Lurie gains a redeeming sense of compassion absent from his life up to this point.

Written with the austere clarity that has made J. M. Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes, with unforgettable, vividness the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of racial oppression.”

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Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

“Clive James’ power as a poet has increased year by year, and there has been no stronger evidence for this than Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. Here, his polymathic learning and technical virtuosity are worn more lightly than ever; the effect is merely to produce a deep sense of trust into which the reader gratefully sinks, knowing they are in the presence of a master. The most obvious token of that mastery is the book’s breathtaking range of theme: there are moving elegies, a meditation on the later Yeats, a Hollywood Iliad, odes to rare orchids, wartime typewriters and sharks—as well as a poem on the fate of Queen Nefertiti in Nazi Germany. But despite the dizzying variety, James’ poetic intention becomes increasingly clear: what marks this collection out is his intensified concentration on the individual poem as self-contained universe. Poetry is a practice he compares (in ‘Numismatics’) to striking new coin; and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower is a treasure-chest of one-off marvels, with each poem a twin-sided, perfect human balance of the unashamedly joyous and the deadly serious, ‘whose play of light pays tribute to the dark’.”

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Quicksand

“A stunning and poignant autobiographical look at the myriad experiences that shape a meaningful life, by the bestselling author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries.  
 
In January 2014, Henning Mankell received a diagnosis of lung cancer. Quicksand is a response to this shattering news—but it is not a memoir of destruction. Instead, it is a testament to a life fully lived, a tribute to the extraordinary but fleeting human journey that delivers both boundless opportunity and crucial responsibility. In a series of intimate vignettes, Mankell ranges over rich and varied reflections: of growing up in a small Swedish town, where he experiences a startling revelation on a winter morning as a young boy; of living hand-to-mouth during a summer in Paris as an ambitious young writer; of his work at a theater in Mozambique, where Lysistrata is staged in the midst of civil war; of chance encounters with men and women who changed his understanding of the world. Along the way, Mankell ponders the meaning of a good life, and the critically important ways we can shape the future of humanity if we are fortunate enough to have the choice. Vivid, clear-eyed, and breathtakingly beautiful, Quicksand is an invaluable parting gift from a great man.”

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Jar City

“‘A powerful, psychologically acute procedural drama.’ - American Library Association

From Gold Dagger Award-winning author Arnaldur Indridason comes a Reykjavík thriller introducing Inspector Erlendur

When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.

An international sensation, the Inspector Erlendur series has sold more than two million copies worldwide.”

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