(Author: Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu) + (Year: 1922) + (Goodreads)
(Around the World: Turkey)
I received Kiralik Konak (The Rented Mansion) from a friend, and I knew nothing about it prior to reading it. I was vaguely aware of the theme, as I studied this period of Turkish literature in university, but nothing beyond that.
Ultimately, my opinion is that, while not being amazing, this book is pretty good. The low rating might confuse you, but I did not give it because I thought the book was badly written, but because I didn’t like the characters as people.
In terms of writing, I found the narration very nice, flowing, well put, without too much description, but still having just enough for me to be able to describe the book as poetic.
The characters were very vivid. And that was their issue, for me. They were small, petty, greedy, ugly people. All of them were too focused on one particular thing in their lives. Each of them was unwilling to see another point of view. All of them were unpleasant. Seniha most of all. She was just despicable. She would describe herself as kind and gentle, but from the entire book it was obvious that, even though other people found her nice to look at and therefore at least admired her, she was not a good person at all. And it was infuriating to read her musings about how she is a victim because her dad didn’t send her to Europe to whore around and waste money, or how her innocence was taken away, while she was in fact knowingly active in seducing men, especially for their money.
So I would say that as much as this book is a narrative about the clash of virtues, moral, and different eras, it’s also about obsession, as every character was obsessed with what they thought was the best thing in the world. From Naim efendi, who couldn’t imagine not living in his house (it’s just a house?!?), through Hakki Celis, who really wanted to be more than other people by dedicating himself to things he thought were higher than everything other people did, to all of the money-obsessed social climbers like Seniha and Faik.
The most interesting thing, however, was main topic of Kiralik Konak: the clash between Ottoman values and the new, modern, free way of thinking. The way that the older generations would not be able to understand not only the behaviour of the younger people, but everything, all the way to their speech. And most of all, how this occurrence, which has been happening everywhere throughout history, developed in Turkey, and told in original, and not re-imagined a hundred years later. And even more so, this was interesting because values continue to change and a new era has started in modern Turkey. And this modern era is not really much more than a jump to the values of a hundred or two hundred years ago. On that, I shall not pass judgement here.