• Friday, February 25th, 2022

Ayse Kulin was born in Istanbul in 1942. Her Bosnian father, Muhittin Kulin, was a civil engineer who helped found and build the State Hydraulic Works in Istanbul and became the first director of that organisation. Her Circassian mother, Sitare Hanim, was the descendant of the first Ottoman Minister of Economic affairs.

Ayse Kulin grew up in Ankara and spent her summer holidays in Istanbul with her mother’s conservative family, who were still attached to traditional Ottoman ethics. All these circumstances inspired her for the stories in her novel.

Kulin studied literature and graduated from the American College For Girls in Arnavutköy in Istanbul. In 1980 she worked as an editor and reporter for various Turkish newspapers and magazines, also as a screenwriter, cinematographer and producer for television series, cinema and commercials. Kulin has won several prizes and awards for her works which have been translated into several languages. Love In Exile was published in 2016. Kulin has been married, twice divorced and has four sons. She presently lives in Istanbul.

The story of Love In Exile takes place in Turkey at the dusk of the Ottoman empire and the political and social turmoil in preparation for the new Turkish republic. The novel begins in nineteen twenty-eight and ends with the second world war and the author’s birth in nineteen forty-one. The author uses her family background as the subject of her novel. It is the story of the Behice family and the Kulin family, and she even uses their real names.

Sabahat, the youngest of the three sisters among the several characters portrayed in the novel, is a beautiful, free-spirited and ambitious girl. Her father admires her for her intellect, will and persistence to continue her studies instead of the established rule at the time of getting married and having a traditional family like her two elder sisters, Leman and Suat. Unbeknown to Sabahat, she will fall madly in love with the handsome Armenian student, Aram, and will want to marry him during her scholastic years.

It was unthinkable for a Turkish, Muslim, bourgeois girl from a conservative family to marry a humble Christian Armenian student in the nineteen twenties. Consequently, both families opposed the wedlock, but Sabahat and Aram, who passionately love each other and have the same determination, principles and beliefs, decide to brave their families’ old-fashioned, well-established practices and promise one another to persevere against all odds and wait for the right time to unite as husband and wife.

Love In Exile is a compelling family saga. The story mixes facts, fiction and biography. It gives a good insight into Turkish traditions and culture as well as providing details of culinary dishes and the lifestyle in Turkey during the problematic transitional years of the early twentieth century among various communities, Muslims, Bosnians and Armenians.

The story follows the development of the country and the life of its citizens throughout the years. It also focuses on the problem of mixed marriages between different religions and ethnicities, which persist in some societies today. However, having so many characters, two family trees and peripheral characters, makes it confusing for the reader to follow the story.

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• Friday, January 14th, 2022

Milan Kundera was born in 1929 in Brno, the Czech Republic, to a middle-class family. His father, Ludvik Kundera, was a musicologist who taught him to play the piano, which Milan took further by studying musicology and musical composition.

Milan Kundera finished secondary school in 1948. He then studied literature and aesthetics for two terms at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague before transferring to the Film Academy to learn film direction and scriptwriting. He graduated in 1952 and worked as a lecturer in world literature at the Film Academy.

He joined the communist party in 1948 like several intellectual Czechoslovaks of the time. He was expelled from the party two years later for having “unorthodox inclinations”. However, he rejoined the party in 1956 and was discharged in the seventies. Kundera’s works were banned, and he was dismissed from his teaching job by the Czechoslovak communist regime after taking part in the short-lived liberalisation movement of 1967-1968.

In 1975 Milan Kundera and his wife Vera left Czechoslovakia for France, where he was appointed guest professor at the University of Rennes. He was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979 and lived in exile in France, becoming a French citizen in 1981. Presently he lives with his wife in Paris.

Milan Kundera has written novels, a short story collection, a poetry collection, essays and drama. In 1985 he received the Jerusalem Prize, and in 1987 he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. In 2000 he was awarded the international Herder Prize, and in 2007 he won the Czech State Literature Prize. He was made an honorary citizen of his home town, Brno, in 2010 and received the Ovid Prize in 2011.

In his first French written novel, Slowness, published in 1995, Milan Kundera revives the metaphysical, meditative novels that prevailed earlier in France with the celebrated Montesquieu, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and which became neglected after the end of the French age of enlightenment.

The novel’s various events, pivoting from the twentieth to the eighteenth-century, are set in the same place, an eighteenth-century château converted into a hotel. The novel’s subject – slowness – is hinted at from the beginning of the novel when Vera and Milan, the married couple, driving out of Paris to spend the evening and night in a château, observe a fast driver behind them who is impatient to overtake.

From this happening commences the author’s lyrical apologia of slowness against fastness, establishing how the first is suitable for absorbing pleasant memories and leads to bright meditative thoughts. Contrarily, the latter is designed for escapism connected to the aspiration to evade unpleasant thoughts.

The author goes further in his contemplation by juxtaposing the art of slowness in the eighteenth century with Madame de T. and the Chevalier, in the short libertine novel published in 1777, “Point de lendemain” (No Tomorrow) written by the French writer Vivant Denon, compared to the exhilarating speed of our modern time portrayed by the entomologist Vincent.

Madame de T. used the art of slow seduction, striving to reach the pinnacle of desire before the pleasurable delight of consummation. Her invited Chevalier has to follow by playing the game. Nothing is hurried, a walk in the château’s vast grounds, few words are said, some insinuations, whispers, their bodies approach one another, in an attempt to ignite further the long-awaited climax.

Vincent is the archetype of his generation, rushing to everything, from one place to another and from one sexual relationship to another. Without savouring any moment of it, which induces him to want to forget and erase the failure of his horrid disastrous encounters by speeding. The only one desire he has is to forget his aborted adventure fast, “his whole disastrous night, erase it, wipe it out – and at this moment, he feels an unquenchable thirst for speed. His step firm, he hastens towards his motorcycle, he desires his motorcycle…on which he will forget everything, on which he will forget himself”.

Kundera also mentions another of his favourite eighteenth-century novels, “Les liaisons dangereuses” by Pierre Chaderlos de Laclos, considered one of the significant eighteenth-century literary accomplishments. The story of another libertine couple, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont who had no concern for sentiments because what only counts for them is the enjoyable pleasure ensuing their conquests.

The author goes further in his approach by elucidating his theories opposing sensuality, scientific knowledge, forethought and tact against self-display and theatrics. These theories are embodied by the fame-seeking Berck, whose boastful attitude leads Kundera to refer to him as “the dancer”.

The interwoven plot lines, fiction, reality, themes and characters come together at the end of the novel when the hasty entomologist, Vincent, meets the decelerated Chevalier. The twentieth- century confronts the eighteenth face to face. Eighteenth-century procedure meets twentieth- century improvisation.

The short, dense novel, taking place over one night, gives the reader food for thought, as intended by the writer who stirred few subjects like the present-day hustle and desire to maximise everything taking away the pleasurable things of life that need to be savoured slowly to be appreciated.