Best Book of the Year – Bloomberg News
A resilient Turkish writer’s inspiring account of his imprisonment that provides crucial insight into political censorship amidst the global rise of authoritarianism.
The destiny I put down in my novel has become mine. I am now under arrest like the hero I created years ago. I await the decision that will determine my future, just as he awaited his. I am unaware of my destiny, which has perhaps already been decided, just as he was unaware of his. I suffer the pathetic torment of profound helplessness, just as he did.
Like a cursed oracle, I foresaw my future years ago not knowing that it was my own.
Confined in a cell four meters long, imprisoned on absurd, Kafkaesque charges, novelist Ahmet Altan is one of many writers persecuted by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s oppressive regime. In this extraordinary memoir, written from his prison cell, Altan reflects upon his sentence, on a life whittled down to a courtyard covered by bars, and on the hope and solace a writer’s mind can provide, even in the darkest places.
A Turkish political prisoner opposes his imagination to the grim reality of oppression in this sometimes harrowing, sometimes luminous memoir. After the failed 2016 coup attempt by members of the Turkish military, novelist Altan (Endgame) was arrested along with his brother Mehmet by President Recep Erdogan's government and prosecuted for sending "subliminal messages" to coup plotters on a TV show, being a "religious putschist," and being a "Marxist terrorist," and was sentenced to life in prison. (His real offense was criticizing the government.) In these essays, Altan vividly evokes the Kafkaesque farce of court proceedings; prison squalor and claustrophobia; the dehumanizing routines of handcuffs, lineups, and confiscations that "carved us out of life like a rotten, maggot-laced chunk from a pear;" a future of heartbreaking constraint in which "I will never see a sky unframed by the walls of a courtyard." But he's also buoyed by small kindnesses, the hope of seeing loved ones, a cellmate who refuses police demands to denounce others, and writerly reveries that let him "pass through your walls with ease." Intertwining gritty detail with lyrical effusion, Altan's narrative is a searing indictment of Turkey's authoritarian regime and an inspiring testament to human resilience.
Outstanding writing and a wonderful read .