Monday, August 04, 2008
Maureen Freely's ENLIGHTENMENT: "Brave, Unflinching Work of Art"
From Jason Goodwin's review in yesterday's Washington Post: "Maureen Freely is best known as the English translator of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, but visitors to Istanbul may well recognize her as the daughter of John Freely, an American academic who has lived in Istanbul since the early 1960s and has written many useful guides to the city and its Ottoman past. That biographical detail is significant because Enlightenment is partly an autobiography. It's also a psychological thriller, a murder story, a rumination on friendship and a political investigation. If that sounds like a lot of weight for a novel to carry, it is; and it's a testament to Freely's ability that the novel does, in large measure, succeed. . . Enlightenment is a fluent, evocative and uncomfortable read, deliberately so. Stories overlap, testimonies conflict, even the time frame is repeatedly broken and re-arranged so that it becomes difficult to know who, if anyone, is telling the truth. . . This is a story almost impossible to summarize but hard to forget. It's remarkable for its descriptions of the city as it was in the 1970s and as it is now, after the break-up of the Soviet Union has released so much energy around the area. Freely is an almost perversely original writer, sharply observing the world she knows so well and upending all one's suppositions and assumptions. One example I found touching: Her grown-up student radicals do not shower their youthful selves with middle-aged reproof; they still crackle with energy and purpose. nlightenment may be too long and, at times, too opaque to win the audience it deserves, but it is a brave, unflinching work of art."