(Author: Ayse Kulin) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)
(Around the world: Turkey)
*** 2.5 stars ***
Maybe I am being overly generous with this book. It is definitely not nearly as good as it could have been, that is for sure.
However, this book is a first attempt, and those are always shaky. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but Tutsak Gunes (loosely translated as “Captive Sun”) might actually be the first Turkish dystopian book!
I have read Ayse Kulin before, enough so to know that she has a certain type of female characters: strong, independent, smart, defying the rules of society, free. At least that is how the author would try to sell them to you. Another thing that both Yuna, the main character of Tutsak Gunes, and, let’s say, Aylin, the main character of Adi: Aylin, have in common, is their fascination with the Sufi symbol of spread wings, signifying things beyond even freedom and a rebellion against rules and chains.
However… what I, as the reader, actually sensed, having rid myself of the author’s not-so-subtle propaganda, was that Yuna is a character totally out of place in this story. In fact, Tutsak Gunes offers two narratives so unconnected that they make it hard to remember that are happening simultaneously.
- A shape in the sky has blocked the Sun. The world is living in constant darkness and cold. The borders of the world have changed. The Ramanis Republic is a strict and tyrannical regime in which women possess nearly no rights, lack of education and big families are encouraged, human contact has almost been forbidden. A rebel movement is forming and planning to overthrow the government. Cool, huh?
- And then – the actual story of this book – Yuna. A woman constantly out of the loop, barely aware of her surroundings, and only focused on her lost life, lost dreams, lost aspirations. The author manages to tie her to the actual “heroes” of the story only just, so that she has some role in the events, but not really. She is forcefully presented as strong and smart, but we never witness that. We witness her happy with her role in the regime, her only starting to doubt the tyranny when it’s falling apart and not a moment before, her wondering what to do, and yet always so indecisive.
But I cannot neglect the attempt in this book. Ayse Kulin certainly tries to write a new chapter for Turkish literature. She tries to embed the reality of the country to this new, futuristic world. The thing is… she does it blatantly. She is not subtle. Neither is she masterful. The best of dystopian novels show you a world starkly different from the one you live in, and it takes you some time to realize that this is your world, just in a light you didn’t want to see it in. With Tutsak Gunes, you just know. And that softens the blow she makes on society. Not to mention that if you want to address a problem, say rights of women, you don’t do it in a book so unappealing to male readers that they would never bother getting to the heart of the story.
Overall, an admirable attempt at creativity. Not amazing, but could have been much, much worse.