Friday, 16 September 2016

The King Of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes

The King of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes
First published as Deliduman in Turkish in Turkey by Iletisim Yayincilik in 2014. English translation by Mark David Wyers published by AmazonCrossing in January 2016.
One of my WorldReads from Turkey

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Seventeen-year-old Çağlar is just another apathetic teenager—except when it comes to his sister, Çiğdem, who he believes is the world’s most beautiful and brilliant nine-year-old. Determined to display her genius, Çağlar grooms Çiğdem’s talent into a perfect Michael Jackson impersonation and pursues a sure route to fame: YouTube.
Tragically, Çağlar’s efforts are sabotaged by a little incident internationally known as the Taksim riots. Now it seems that everyone’s too busy watching the people’s uprising unfold to click on Çiğdem’s video. That leaves Çağlar only one recourse: he will have to use the riots to his advantage. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch a child doing the moonwalk against the backdrop of political unrest? But as Çağlar strives to showcase his sister, he finds himself pulled into the heart of the uprising and discovers that he may just have talent of his own.
From bestselling author Emrah Serbes comes a hilarious, poignant story of a teen’s struggle to find his place and launch his sister’s star amid Turkey’s real-life fight for freedom.'

While reading The King Of Taksim Square, Serbes' protagonist, seventeen-year-old Caglar, reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield because of the style of his direct narration and its stream of consciousness energy. Interestingly I struggled to finish Catcher In The Rye but enjoyed this book far more. Caglar is a bigshot in his small town, mainly because his Uncle is the corrupt Mayor. Caglar expects his name alone to open doors and gain favours, but this world view begins to be challenged when his beloved younger sister, Cigdem, enters a talent competition dancing as Michael Jackson. Cigdem is everything to Caglar and he cannot believe that the TV company fails to see how amazing she is. Attempting to promote Cigdem by social media channels instead, Caglar posts her dance on YouTube where it has modest success until an Istanbul protest steals her thunder.

It did take me a while to get into this book and I have since read of other reviewers abandoning it early on. The initial meandering style does tighten up and, as we learn who everyone is, there are fewer diversions into back stories. However Caglar's short attention span remains and I enjoyed his focus changes, especially once he gets to Istanbul and the epicentre of its protest and riots. The King Of Taksim Square has a strong nostalgic thread running throughout which is nicely contrasted with modern technological and social elements. Caglar is constantly hankering for the past sometimes specifically to his experience - such as the now-vanished site of his first kiss - or as a more general longing for the way Turkey used to be. He wants the latest iPhone, but insists on referring to shops and cafes with the names of businesses that preceded them.

The scenes of the protest themselves are exciting but baffling, much as they must have really been to many people there at the time, and Caglar sees most of the action in relation to himself, not as part of the wider picture. This is in keeping with his character although I did have to read up about the politics of it all after finishing the novel. I thought The King Of Taksim Square was an engaging read that gave an unusual insight into Turkish life.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Emrah Serbes / Humour and satire / Books from Turkey

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