Serenade for Nadia
Named a Favorite Book of the Year by readers of the Boston Globe and a Best Book of the Year by PopMatters
In this heartbreaking Turkish novel based on the real-life sinking of a refugee ship during World War II, an elderly professor leaves America to revisit the city where he last glimpsed his beloved wife.
Istanbul, 2001. Maya Duran is a single mother struggling to balance a demanding job at Istanbul University with the challenges of raising a teenage son. Her worries increase when she is tasked with looking after the enigmatic Maximilian Wagner, an elderly German-born Harvard professor visiting the city at the university’s invitation. Although he is distant at first, Maya gradually learns of the tragic circumstances that brought him to Istanbul sixty years before, and the dark realities that continue to haunt him.
Inspired by the 1942 Struma disaster, in which nearly 800 Jewish refugees perished after the ship carrying them to Palestine was torpedoed off the coast of Turkey, Serenade for Nadia is both a poignant love story and a gripping testament to the power of human connection in crisis.
A 36-year-old divorc e working at Istanbul University draws inspiration from an 87-year-old visiting professor's recollections of WWII in this affecting novel about love, loss, and personal identity from Livaneli (Bliss). When octogenarian Max Wagner returns to Istanbul after a 59-year absence to lecture at the university where he once taught, narrator Maya Duran has the job of escorting him around the city. Maya accompanies Max on an out-of-town expedition to a beach by the Black Sea, site of the 1942 sinking of the Struma, a ship filled with Jewish refugees, including Max's wife, Nadia. There, Max plays his composition, "Serenade for Nadia," on the violin. Back in Istanbul, despite Maya's brother's warnings against dredging up the past, Maya records Max's account of emigrating from Germany to Turkey in 1939 along with his desperate attempts to arrange for Nadia to join him. Maya also learns how her grandmothers one Armenian, one Crimean Turk assumed false identities to survive acts of brutal repression. Their experiences and Nadia's inspire Maya to find the courage to declare her independence, defy her brother, and tell the world Max's story. Livaneli smoothly switches between 2001 and 1938 1942, offering insights into Turkey's rich cultural, political, ethnic, and religious divides. Livaneli's worthy portrait of a man coming to terms with his tragic past and a woman coming to terms with her Turkish heritage delivers a forceful plea for openness and tolerance.