Life is a Caravanserai is the first book I read by Emine Sevgi Özdamar. I had heard a lot about her before and was very curious; I can say it was very worth reading it. Among the female writers I read this year, she immediately shined out with her different style. And so became one of the authors I would like to read from now on.
Life is a Caravanserai may not be a book that you will immediately admire due to Özdamar’s different style. After a while, when you get used to it, it will become a book that you cannot stop reading. We read a little girl throughout the book. As she grows, we also grow up; we pray to all the dead we know and do not know. While reading about Turkey, we focus on a small on a family.
You will think a lot about Turkey and many other countries as you’ll see both very familiar and foreign lives intertwined with each other. Especially when it comes to the prayers in the book, your reactions will surprise you. You will find yourself thinking about all those ‘education’ you received while growing up. Also, what you could not understand in the past, will linger on your mind. Emine Sevgi Özdamar is a different author, and she is fascinating. You have to read one of her books. Enjoy!
Life is a Caravanserai
Life is a Caravanserai follows a lively, but rather unfortunate family from Istanbul to Bursa, then to Ankara and back to Istanbul. This is a women’s world: the mother, Fatma, nurtures her three children, with the grandmother Ayşe and the “aunties” of the neighbourhood, while Mustafa, the often unemployed father, recites Orhan Veli and drinks copious rakı, dreaming of building a larger family home. Here is the Turkey of the 1950s and early 1960s, with its political struggles, growing urbanisation, the Korean War, American comic books and the departure of the first wave of workers to Germany. The Anatolian grandparents carry with them their sagas of the war and the nascent Turkish Republic, enriched by wisdom, humour and village folklore.
The author’s wonderful use of local narrative, storytelling, proverbs and prayers, and a prose that moves from the lyrical to gritty humour, re-creates this microcosm of neighbourhoods from a young girl’s intimate perspective. We follow her as she sits in school, visits relatives, dreams, listens to stories and experiments with early passions. Reality merges into mythological visions as, naïve, witty and explorative, she absorbs the colourful world around her.
Emine Sevgi Ozdamar
Emine Sevgi Özdamar is a writer, director, and actress of Turkish origin who resides in Germany and has resided there for many years. Özdamar’s art is unique in that it is influenced by her life experiences, which straddle the countries of Germany and Turkey throughout times of turmoil in both.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: