Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sufism, Kadin-Göbegi & Eau-de-Cologne {Turkey}

The Forty Rules of Love | Elif Shafak 
2.5/5 stars

Portrait of a Turkish Family | Irfan Orga
4/5 stars

Globetrotting with Books #3: Turkey with Elif Shafak's Forty Rules of Love & Irfan Orga's Portrait of a Turkish Family

Elif Shafak has been my favourite author ever since I discovered “The Bastard of Istanbul” in a Fuel Pump Crossword Bookstore 10 years back in Mumbai. Beyond the sensual world of nose rings, aromas & azans were feisty Kazanci women and tumultuous secrets.

Just last month I stumbled into her Book Club discussion on a Podcast and fell in love with Turkey once again. She talked about The Forty Rules & Love and I immediately bought the eBook. (Here is the Podcast Link)

The only taste of sufism I’d gotten was from Bollywood Songs. Lyricists, especially during Bollywood’s nascent stage were mostly Muslim and they brought in a lot of urdu and sufism into songs. Some Urdu words sound so much more poetic and profound compared to Hindi. Love in Hindi is ‘Pyaar', but ‘Mohhabbat’ sounds  more beautiful when you’re professing your love.

Sufism translated in English however, is like glistening jewellery presented after being stripped off its precious gems. 

“The Sharia is like a candle. It provides us with light. But let us not forget that a candle helps us to go from one place to another in the dark. If we forget where we are headed and instead concentrate on the candle, what good is it?” 

Says Shams of Tabriz to a Judge in Baghdad. 

While I’m simply not romantic enough to take a plunge further and read another book on Rumi’s poetry, with every ‘rule of love’, I couldn’t help but wonder how boring they sound in English and how beautiful and profound they would sound in originally Persian. 

Honestly, "Forty Rules of Love" is no "Bastard of Istanbul". If you have a poetic, idealist and romantic side of you, read about Shams of Tabriz and Rumi and how their lives impacted the life of Ella, several centuries later in present day America. 

If you don’t however (have a poetic, idealist, romantic side), you’d probably become tired of Shams’ know it all persona pretty soon. While Shams of Tabriz is annoyingly quick to pontificate and doll out prolific advice (while being just as clueless when it came to his own business of life), Ella's story is too dull to really care about. 

"The Portrait of a Turkish Family" however is a Memoir through which you can *truly* travel to the early 1900s and take a peak into the lives of Irfan Orga's wealthy autocratic family.

Picture the family basking in the summer sun in the countryside of Sariyer, lying drowsily in their ‘chaiseslongues’ after a sumptuous meal of ‘Kadin-Göbegi’, a heavy syrupy doughnut and ‘Dolmas’ made from vine leaves stuffed with savoury rice and currants & nuts & olive oil. And wine of course. And being served turkish coffee under the lime trees.

Picture a wealthy matriarch, fussing with her maids to prepare for her trip to the Hamam. Linen bags of lavender, bought from gaunt looking gypsies, packed between each fold of the bathrobes and lingerie and bottles of eau-de-cologne. 

Irfan Orga describes his childhood experiences some funny ones such as his own circumcision and some sad ones such as how the war in the early 1900s changed their lives as they’d known it. 

More Books Exploring Countries & Cultures:

Globetrotting with Books: The Series & Link Up Dominican Republic |   Bulgaria  |  Pakistan  | Turkey  |  Iran  |  

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Until later! Stay in touch!



  1. I never heard of any of these books! You are a vey cultured woman! I will have to check some out.... #PracticalMondays

    1. my my! What a compliment :) Thanks Cecile!

  2. Turkey has a fascinating history and the Ottoman period is certainly one that's been well written about. I read a book some time ago about a white British woman who'd lived in a harem as the empire and the harem was coming to an end. I can't remember what it was called or if it was a true story? Thanks for giving me some new things to download for the summer :)

  3. Wow I'm sure they are great, I haven't heard of them. But then I only really fell in love with Reding a couple of years ago and can't seem to read anything that isn't romance #fartglitter

  4. Lovely, refreshingly honest review. Haven't heard of the author but will keep an eye out. Thanks!

  5. I have not heard of these books. The Memoir sounds intriguing. I am always on the look out for new authors. Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

  6. I've never heard of these books but they look like an interesting read. xx

  7. These look fab, although I too have never heard of these ones...thanks for sharing with #dreamteam Great to have you back again! xx