From one of our greatest, a panoramic new novel, his first since Museum of Innocence, bringing us into Istanbul’s underground through the eyes of a struggling street vendor.
It is the 1990s in Istanbul, and although there were once thousands of boza vendors walking the frozen streets of the city, Mevlut now cuts a lonely figure on snowy winter nights. Falling deeply into debt, and desperate to marry off his incompetent son and satisfy his mistress, Mevlut turns to his old friend Ferhat, who collects payments on electric bills. The partners traverse the back streets of middle class neighbourhoods and shantytowns, venture into flats, shops and restaurants of the poor, relishing their power to punish cheaters and collect bribes. The dangers of Istanbul’s underbelly eventually catch up with Mevlut, and he is attacked by a pack of dogs, hospitalized, robbed by bandits, and beaten and threatened at every turn. Istanbul is exposed as a city with a rich and dynamic underground culture which seeps into its secular business centres and mainstream society. Mevlut serves as a flighty guide, occasionally attuned to the city’s nuances, but with a wild imagination and instincts tainted by desperation.