Sunday, April 12, 2009

Perihan Mağden's Two Girls

I've been deeply touched by a very strong novel: İki Genç Kızın Romanı ("The novel of two girls", translated by Brendan Freely and published as Two Girls in English), by Turkish author and columnist Perihan Mağden. The novel has also been adapted to the cinema by Kutluğ Ataman. I like Mağden because she speaks/writes her mind, and in Turkey, this is not an easy task. She is of course criticized by many and has even been prosecuted by the Turkish government because of the views she expressed on mandatory military service. In this novel, Mağden depicts the lives of two teenage girls in Istanbul. The polar tone of the novel strengthens the feeling of oppression, especially for a girl in a male dominant environment. The force of Mağden's third person omniscient narration also lies in the encounter of these two characters, the angry Behiye and the naive Handan. Both girls are coming from very distinct backgrounds: Behiye is the sister of an older brother and the daughter of a conservative family she hates, and Handan is the unique daughter of a prostitute she loves. Since the very moment they meet, Behiye sees Handan as her saviour: the beautiful girl who will save her from her life, her brother, her mother who cries all the time... Behiye hates life, she doesn't like herself much either, until she finds Handan and grabs her to the core. Their bond is beyond friendship and sisterhood, it is almost amorous. The murders of boys happening all around Istanbul together with Behiye's unreasonable attitude and open hatred against the world (especially towards men) intensify the sense of danger and threat. This impossible relationship is told in an incredibly honest and down to earth language. The word plays are brilliant (and I guess a real challenge to translate). This is an excellent work of contemporary literature and I believe quite original in the current Turkish literary scene.

The cover of the Turkish edition of the novel published by Merkez Kitapçılık ve Yayıncılık (Istanbul, June 2006, 255 pages)