Burhan Sönmez translated from the Turkish by Ümit Hussein

Labyrinth

A Novel


Publication Date: Nov 19, 2019

208 pp

Ebook

List Price US $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-100-8

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.99
Trim Size (H x W): 5.25 x 8
ISBN: 978-1-59051-098-8


NAMED A LIT HUB MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR

From a prize-winning Turkish novelist, a heady, political tale of one man’s search for identity and meaning in Istanbul after the loss of his memory.

A blues singer, Boratin, attempts suicide by jumping off the Bosphorus Bridge, but opens his eyes in the hospital. He has lost his memory, and can’t recall why he wished to end his life. He remembers only things that are unrelated to himself, but confuses their timing. He knows that the Ottoman Empire fell, and that the last sultan died, but has no idea when. His mind falters when remembering civilizations, while life, like a labyrinth, leads him down different paths.

From the confusion of his social and individual memory, he is faced with two questions. Does physical recognition provide a sense of identity? Which is more liberating for a man, or a society: knowing the past, or forgetting it?

Embroidered with Borgesian micro-stories, Labyrinth flows smoothly on the surface while traversing sharp bends beneath the current.



Excerpt from Labyrinth

I’m incapable of walking in the street. I want to go home, lock the door, and be by myself. I’m afraid of myself. What if I am not me… While I was in the hospital I watched a news report on television about someone who had escaped from prison. It was about a man who locked people in an underground chamber beneath his house in Istanbul, tied their hands and feet behind them with rope, tortured them, buried their bodies in the soil, then went up one floor and lived an ordinary life with his wife and children. I wasn’t amazed by how the man could have done all those things, but by how others could have lived with such a person, how they could have sat at the same table as him and slept in the same bed. After the man was captured he showed no remorse and said he had done it all in the name of God. Fifteen years. In prison terms, that’s a long time. Perhaps the years taught him remorse. Then he escaped from prison. He thought the false ID in his pocket would allow him to escape from his past too. The outside world seemed foreign to him. It wasn’t his old world. He woke up in the middle of the night, in a taxi stuck halfway across a bridge, with the urge to kill himself. He climbed up to the bridge’s railings and held out his arms. He leapt up like a bird, his wings carried him down, to a sea beyond everyone’s reach. Wasn’t there a song about that? In my sick bed I thought, what if I’m that man. Your words and the reporter’s words were the same distance away, Doctor. Everything was the same distance from my body. It was later on that I got to know the crowds in the city. I’m trying to get used to the noise. I have trouble getting words out. When I repeat a word too many times it loses its meaning. When I say I should sleep, the word “sleep” melts away. When I say my childhood, the word “child” crumbles, letter by letter.


“As this book opens, a blues singer attempts to take his life by jumping five hundred feet off a bridge into the Bosphorus. He survives but his memory is shattered—he knows the last Sultan has died, but the rest is a maze. This short, elliptical novel by the author of Istanbul, Istanbul follows him into its pathways, conjuring the ineluctable entanglement of place and person.” —John Freeman, Literary Hub

Praise for Istanbul, Istanbul:

“A writer of passion, memory and heart, Sönmez revives not only the stories of a land but also its bruised conscience.” —Elif Shafak, author of The Bastard of Istanbul

Istanbul, Istanbul turns on the tension between the confines of a prison cell and the vastness of the imagination; between the vulnerable borders of the body and the unassailable depths of the mind. This is a harrowing, riveting novel, as unforgettable as it is inescapable.” —Dale Peck, author of Visions and Revisions

“A wrenching love poem to Istanbul told between torture sessions by four prisoners in their cell beneath the city. An ode to pain in which Dostoevsky meets The Decameron.” —John Ralston Saul, author of On Equilibrium; former president, PEN International