Book review: Celasin's politcal novel a dark and poetic experience

In Izzet Celasin's Black Sky, Black Sea, a Turkish student dreams of an apolitical utopia in which he is free to express his views through poetry.

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Black Sky, Black Sea
Izzet Celasin

A winner of the Glydendal Best Political Novel Award, Black Sky, Black Sea owes its conception to its author's past as a left-wing radical in his homeland of Turkey in the 1970s. While Izzet Celasin's political roots form the novel's backbone, it is the romance of his once pure idealistic aspirations, left unrealised, that form its heart.

Celasin's protagonist, nicknamed "Oak" because of his upright, unyielding nature, is on the cusp of adulthood. A final-year student at school, his dreams consist solely of an apolitical utopia in which he is free to express his views through all the poetry he desires, as well as marry his sweetheart Ayfer. The uprisings of 1977 soon put an end to both, with the appearance of Zuhal, an enigmatic older woman whose independent spirit and sharp tongue have a profound effect on Oak, setting off the restlessness that will eventually cloak his long search for truth and peace. Despite its period settings, Black Sky, Black Sea is a story that exudes a rare timeless quality. Dark and almost poetic, Celasin's strength in characterisation ensures a memorable reading experience.

* Noori Passela