Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bliss by O.Z. Livaneli

(Ed.-- That number thing on the left side is broken. This is book #35.)

Not that long ago, I purchased a box full of $1.99 books from the internet, several of which I’ve already written entries about. All told, that shipment was lackluster, filled with books that were worth little more than a shrug and a Frisbee toss back into the box. I wasn’t expecting a trove of Penguin Classics or anything, so I’m not offended by a little light reading. I did get lucky, however, to receive the novel Bliss, by Turkish novelist O.Z. Livaneli. A scant 276 pages, Bliss captures the struggles of a country and populace trying to decide their roles in the world.

Turkey is an odd country, geography-wise. While most of it is considered Asia, bits can theoretically be classified as Europe. Stuck between the secular West and religious East, Turkey is still striving to create a solid identity. The nonreligious government dreams of membership within the European Union, which is hindered by the increasing Islamist factions within the country. It’s a strange world where cultures clash in great waves. Livaneli demonstrates these divisions with his characters: Meryem, a teenage villager who is raped by her uncle; Cemal, her cousin sent to take her to Istanbul for a ritual killing; and Irfan, a professor in a mid-life crisis. The three lives collide on a boat in the middle of the Aegean.

Turkey is at a crossroads in its development. Will it continue to throw itself against the wall of Europe, trying to achieve acceptance in its fairly anti-Muslim clique? Or will it roll over to the continuous tide of Islamist factions and institute a religious-based government, an Asia Minor Iran? Turkey has been in the news lately, but the world should keep an eye on this region. Their choices in the near future may affect us all.

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