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A Mind at Peace

Overview

A Mind at Peace, originally published in 1949, is a magnum opus, a Turkish Ulysses and a lyrical homage to Istanbul. With an innate awareness of how dueling cultural mentalities can lead to the distress of divided selves, Tanpinar gauges this moment in history by masterfully portraying its register on the layered psyches of his Istanbulite characters. Set on the eve of World War II in the “city of two continents,” this literary feat is a narrative of duality: a historical novel and a love story (of the senses and...

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A Mind at Peace

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Overview

A Mind at Peace, originally published in 1949, is a magnum opus, a Turkish Ulysses and a lyrical homage to Istanbul. With an innate awareness of how dueling cultural mentalities can lead to the distress of divided selves, Tanpinar gauges this moment in history by masterfully portraying its register on the layered psyches of his Istanbulite characters. Set on the eve of World War II in the “city of two continents,” this literary feat is a narrative of duality: a historical novel and a love story (of the senses and the mind), language and music, tradition and modernity, East and West—and of the vital juncture where one young man must attempt to bridge all of these worlds at once.

Surviving the childhood trauma of his parents’ untimely deaths in the early skirmishes of World War I, Mümtaz is raised and mentored in Istanbul by his cousin Ihsan and his cosmopolitan family of intellectuals. Having lived through the tumultuous cultural revolutions following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the early Turkish Republic, each is challenged by the difficulties brought about by such rapid social change.

The promise of modernization and progress has given way to crippling anxiety rather than hope for the future. Fragmentation and destabilization seem the only certainties within the new world where they now find themselves. Mümtaz takes refuge in the fading past, immersing himself in literature and music, but when he falls in love with Nuran, a complex woman with demanding relatives, he is forced to confront the challenges of the World at large. Can their love save them from the turbulent times and protect them from disaster, or will inner obsessions, along with powerful social forces seemingly set against them, tear the couple apart?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Tanpinar (1901-62) was a formative figure in modern Turkish letters, although 50 years after his death, his career in English is just getting off the ground. His monumental A Mind at Peace (1949), which Orhan Pamuk has called “the greatest novel ever written about Istanbul,” found its way into English in 2008 (Archipelago). Set just before World War II, it conjures on a vast scale the world of Istanbul during the early Turkish Republic, a time when modern Western values were abruptly imposed upon a people and a culture unprepared for them. The ramshackle modernity that resulted, in which Ottoman history and tradition were largely written over, became Tanpinar’s lasting subject: the “void,” as he once described it, of a people “suspended between two lives.” New York Times Book Review

[A] masterpiece. . .[A] honeyed, searching, and melancholy epic. . .The novel is as much about its setting and colors as about the stories and wonderfully eccentric and varied panoply of characters. . .One of the 20th century's notable literary love stories and cultural watersheds. — The Los Angeles Times

The greatest novel ever written about Istanbul. — Orhan Pamuk

Tanpinar′s sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of The flesh…His lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel. — Publishers Weekly

Every page is full of sharp insights into human nature, delivered with a linguistic confidence that cracks like a whip and warms one from the inside with a glow of recognition—the recognition that no matter how far away we think we might be from one another in time and space, we are all distilled from the very same mixture of passion and compassion, intelligence and foolishness. — Ugur Akinci

A beautifully melodic picture of Istanbul and the Bosphorus during a crossroad of Turkish and world history. We shouldn’t have had to wait this long for such an important work. — Literary Fiction Review

Written by the man who almost single-handedly defined the modern Turkish novel, A Mind At Peace follows a group of westernized, urban intellectuals in 1930s Istanbul as they drift through the city in a permanent state of ennui, seemingly caught between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, the East and the West. — Reza Aslan

His great novel combines the emotional storminess of Dostoevsky with the refined artificiality and cruel psychological analysis of Marcel Proust. — Ha'aretz

Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1949, Tanpinar's sweeping literary masterpiece is a love story of his native Turkey and of the flesh. As Turkish culture shifts from its traditional roots to a more modernized society in the 1930s, protagonist Mümtaz seeks to preserve the past. After his parents' untimely death, he becomes a devotee of Turkish literature under the tutelage of his cousin and mentor, Ihsan. Mümtaz is "like a figure in a novel, confronted by tragedy at a young age, ensuring that its effects would always afflict him" and perhaps that is why he chooses to focus on a disappearing past. He soon falls in love with Nuran, an unattainable woman with a complicated background. Mümtaz believes that his love for Nuran will be enough to save them both from the changing times and protect them from disaster. Tanpinar's lyricism and resonant plot will leave U.S. readers wondering why they've had to wait so long to read this exquisite novel. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780982624630
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2011
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 451
  • Sales rank: 728,553
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ahmet Hamdi Tanipar (1901-1962) was a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, literary historian, member of the Turkish parliament, and professor at Istanbul University. Deeply influenced by Valéry and Bergson, he created a cultural universe in his work, bringing together a European literary voice and the sensibilities of Istanbul cosmopolitanism. His work, notable for its aesthetic complexity and its vivid descriptions of a lost Ottoman world, was rediscovered a decade after his death. He is considered one of the most significant Turkish novelists of the 20th century and is credited as an influence on many Turkish writers, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages.

Translator: Erdag Göknar is an assistant professor of Turkish Studies at Duke University. He is the translator of Orhan Pamuk's historical novel, My Name is Red, which received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003. He is also the recipient of an NEA translation grant for A Mind at Peace.

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Read an Excerpt

Mümtaz had not set out on a long walk since his paternal cousin Ihsan, a brother to him, had succumbed to illness. Aside from tasks like summoning the physician, taking prescriptions to the pharmacist, and making calls from the neighbor’s telephone, he’d whiled away the measure of the week at his cousin’s sickbed or in his own room perusing books, reflecting, or attempting to console his niece and nephew. Ihsan had complained of backaches, fever, and fatigue for about two days before pneumonia heralded its onset, sudden and sublime, establishing a sultanate over the household, a psychology of devastation through fear, dread, rue, and endless goodwill scarcely absent from lips or glances.

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