BN.com Gift Guide

The Time Regulation Institute

Overview

A literary discovery: an uproarious tragicomedy of modernization, in its first-ever English translation
 
Perhaps the greatest Turkish novel of the twentieth century, being discovered around the world only now, more than fifty years after its first publication, The Time Regulation Institute is an antic, freewheeling send-up of the modern bureaucratic state.
 
At its...

See more details below
Paperback
$11.98
BN.com price
(Save 33%)$18.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (19) from $7.74   
  • New (13) from $10.00   
  • Used (6) from $7.74   
The Time Regulation Institute

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

A literary discovery: an uproarious tragicomedy of modernization, in its first-ever English translation
 
Perhaps the greatest Turkish novel of the twentieth century, being discovered around the world only now, more than fifty years after its first publication, The Time Regulation Institute is an antic, freewheeling send-up of the modern bureaucratic state.
 
At its center is Hayri Irdal, an infectiously charming antihero who becomes entangled with an eccentric cast of characters—a television mystic, a pharmacist who dabbles in alchemy, a dignitary from the lost Ottoman Empire, a “clock whisperer”—at the Time Regulation Institute, a vast organization that employs a hilariously intricate system of fines for the purpose of changing all the clocks in Turkey to Western time. Recounted in sessions with his psychoanalyst, the story of Hayri Irdal’s absurdist misadventures plays out as a brilliant allegory of the collision of tradition and modernity, of East and West, infused with a poignant blend of hope for the promise of the future and nostalgia for a simpler time.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Martin Riker
For all its historical and cultural specificity, The Time Regulation Institute is before all else a first-rate comic novel, one with a fairly large foot in the Western literary tradition called Menippean satire. Works within the orbit of this genre stretch across the centuries…What such otherwise dissimilar books have in common is a delight in exposing the limits of human reason, with particular scorn for any intellectual system that attempts to comprehensively explain the world. Throughout history, whenever a theory arises that seeks to encapsulate human experience—politically, philosophically, economically, whatever—a Menippean satire emerges to make fun of it. So too with The Time Regulation Institute, in which Tanpinar creates an allegorical premise at once specific and broad enough to effectively satirize the entire 20th century, a century of systems if ever there was.
Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Reviewed By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. Two of the greatest fears of any author are obscurity and irrelevance—in that order—and there’s not much one can do about either. The former is generally in the hands of the publisher, and the latter in the hands of the reader. This is the gamble all writers take as they commence to pour heart, soul, and years into their work. “Seventeen copies sold,” Samuel Beckett wrote in Krapp’s Last Tape, “of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas,” adding acerbically, “Getting known.” Turkish author, critic, poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, who died in 1962, is overcoming the first of these writerly ailments, traversing the seas by way of an English-language translation of his 1954 novel, The Time Regulation Institute. Too strong a claim of discovery, however, may unwittingly reveal our orientalist perspective: Tanpinar, virtually unknown in the West, has long been revered in his country. “I shall leave behind a work,” protagonist Hayri Irdal assures us early in the book, “that I believe will more or less secure me a place in the annals of history.” Time and its subsequent passage are ostensibly the great preoccupations of this novel. Irdal, put upon and impoverished for much of his life, discovers that happiness lies in his skill for repairing timepieces. We are on the precipice of allegorical territory where the reader may catch glimpses of the bewildered citizens of Franz Kafka and the cracked community of Gabriel García Márquez, and where the Time Regulation Institute itself will be built, founded with the Sisyphean goal of syncing all the clocks of Turkey, thereby ushering the nation into the modern age. But this is not really what the novel is about. In fact, it’s difficult to say what the novel is really about. Some of its confounding nature is due to the Western reader’s inability to discern, for instance, the historical significance of a character who skips Arabic and Persian words while reading. Most of the confusion, though, is Tanpinar’s responsibility; he has assembled a compendium of past events but hasn’t dramatized them. After one character commits suicide (off page), another, who happens to be a novelist, decides to incorporate this event into her book. “Wouldn’t any author have done the same?” Irdal asks. No, not if it doesn’t pertain to the story. But the story is subsumed by the “memoir” that Irdal is writing, a problematic framing device for any author, as it can allow for egregious digressions. Meanwhile, the reader waits for the narrative to begin. In An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser opened with a maddening 400-page preamble before arriving at the story proper—one that, 90 years later, still packs a punch. In that case, the wait was worth it. In this case, the wait is in vain. Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, is the author, most recently, of the story collection Brief Encounters with the Enemy and the memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free. His stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review and Granta.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-05
A Turkish novel published more than 50 years ago is now translated into English for the first time. Tanpinar's style hearkens back to the great 18th-century English writers Laurence Sterne and Jonathan Swift, for he seamlessly combines personal wit with political satire. The narrator, Hayri Irdal, presents his life story in the guise of a memoir about his (along with others') creation of the Time Regulation Institute, charged with changing the clocks of Turkey to Western time. The institute is given the freedom to use an elaborate series of fines for those who fail to comply, and Irdal delights in the--dare one say Byzantine?--system of synchronization. Along the way, we meet a bizarre and eccentric cast of characters. Among the most memorable are his analyst, Dr. Ramiz, denizen of coffee houses and founder of the Society for Psychoanalysis (Ramiz has the modern attitude that Irdal is ill, "the fate we all share since the birth of psychoanalysis"); Halit Ayarci, who according to Irdal served as a "dear benefactor and beloved friend who plucked me from poverty and despair and made me the person I am today"; Irdal's imperious and controlling father-in-law, Abdüsselam Bey; and Irdal's wives, children and co-workers. At the center of the novel is Turkey's Westernization and modernization, a task undertaken with vigor in the early 20th century and one that Tanpinar examines with great irony from the befuddled stance of Irdal. Like all great satire, this book will make readers laugh and cringe in equal measure.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Prepare to enjoy a voice you did not know existed. A splendid new English translation of the satiric novel The Time Regulation Institute, by the Turkish writer Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, will be the first introduction many American readers have to this beguiling twentieth-century writer, born in Istanbul in 1901, who wrote in the expansive, unhurried tempo of an earlier era — a little like Russia's Ivan Goncharov, author of Oblomov, but with more energy, art, and invention. Tanpinar's countryman Orhan Pamuk has deemed him "the most remarkable author in modern Turkish literature" — calling this particular novel, published in 1962, the year of Tanpinar's death, an "allegorical masterpiece." The luxuriant language and sensibility will envelop you as irresistibly as Oblomov's soft, richly hued Persian dressing gown — "so capacious that he could wrap it round him twice." And the translators, Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, have worked in tandem to do justice to Tanpinar's multi-timbred prose, so readers can hear "the Turkish music coming through."

Tanpinar came of age during the progress-drunk 1920s and 1930s, as Mustafa Kemal Atatü:rk, the first president of the secular Republic of Turkey, wrenched his country from its Ottoman past and forcibly imposed Western ideas of modernity. Atatü:rk's reforms extended even to the words Tanpinar had grown up speaking and reading: in 1932, he launched a "Language Revolution," cutting the Ottoman Turkish vocabulary in half by excising the Persian and Arabic words that had formerly enriched it and changing the written alphabet from Arabic to Latin. Tanpinar's resistance to the compression of his habitual expression made some of his contemporaries call him old-fashioned. In The Time Regulation Institute, he exacts his revenge, sending up the top-down imposition of social change through the misadventures of a benighted Everyman named Hayri Irdal, an amiable loafer who has spent "the better part of his life on wooden benches in coffeehouses" chatting with a ragtag bunch of garrulous idlers like himself. "Hayri" means "auspicious" in Turkish, but solid evidence of anything but bad luck is hard to spot in his first half century. The great-grandson, grandson, and son of bungling, impecunious men who had failed, one after another, to accomplish their sworn vow of building a mosque, Hayri grows up dogged by this collective flop and haunted by a family heirloom that was supposed to stand inside the unbuilt mosque: an erratic grandfather clock that his parents revere and fear, calling it alternately "the Blessed One" and "the Calamity."

Understandably, time — "the spirit of my childhood" — comes to obsess Hayri, and as a boy he learns his lone marketable skill, mending watches and clocks, from an "esteemed religious time setter" known as Nuri Efendi and a poor clockmaker called Asim Efendi. (Lest you think all the characters are related to one another, "efendi" is a formal Turkish term of address, like "sir" or "madam," and is often tacked on to "Bey" — Mr. — or Hanim — Mrs. or Miss. These titles follow the given name, not the surname; e.g., Hayri Beyefendi; Selma Hanim.) Useful as the knowledge of the repair of timepieces can be, it does little to help the adult Hayri support his sprawling family — his second wife, her unmarried sisters, and his children from a first marriage. Nonetheless, one day in an Istanbul coffeehouse, after fifty years of poverty and misery, Hayri at last meets a well-connected rainmaker named Halit Ayarci, who dramatically improves his fortunes.

Upon discovering Hayri's unusual skill at fixing watches, Halit Ayarci instantly conceives a scheme to exploit the country's mania for progress. He dreams up an absurd company (the Time Regulation Institute of the title) that will employ a vast bureaucracy to ensure that all watches and clocks in Istanbul tell the correct time, assisted by publicity and publishing arms that will churn out exhortatory slogans and propagandistic treatises to spread the news of the importance of timeliness. Government honchos, impressed both by the efficient ring of Halit Ayarci's plan and by his utter conviction in it, enthusiastically fund the Institute, allowing Ayarci to hire hundreds of staffers (all of them selected through nepotism and patronage) to accomplish the "vital task" of bringing Turkey up to the minute.

Ayarci carves out an especially comfortable position for Hayri, making him assistant general manager and granting him a lavish salary. This windfall terrifies the humble watch repairman, who regards the entire enterprise as preposterous and believes his sudden luck will evaporate at any second. "It had the logic of a fairytale," he thinks. "Could such a job really exist? What was its purpose? And why?" Such details do not concern Halit Ayarci. "Work is a matter of mastering one's time, knowing how to use it," he explains. "We shall declare that man is first and foremost a creature who works, and that work itself is time. Is this not a constructive thing to do?" When Hayri moans that the Institute's brief is unrealistic, Halit scolds him, "Being a realist does not mean seeing the truth for what it is. It is a question of determining our relationship with the truth in the way that is most beneficial for us." He adds defiantly, "What do you achieve by accepting reality as it is?" As Halit's plan comes to fruition, stylishly uniformed Institute enforcers fan out across Istanbul's streets, levying tiny fines on Turks whose watches are incorrectly synchronized — a punishment the townspeople find hilarious. Tanpinar writes, "When an inspector notified a citizen of his fine, the offender would initially express surprise, but upon apprehending the firm logic behind the system, a smile would spread across his face until, at last understanding this was a serious matter, he would succumb to uproarious laughter."

Nonetheless, from the novel's opening pages, the reader knows that Hayri's misgivings are justified; the story he relates is told in retrospect. After flourishing for a decade, the Time Regulation Institute had been exposed for the fraud it was and abruptly shut down, prompting Hayri to write his voluminous memoirs. (As the Institute collapsed, Ayarci had cannily saved Hayri and the other staffers from ruin by having it converted into a fully staffed committee for its own perpetual liquidation.) The trajectory of Hayri's biography gives the novel its shape and plot, but it is not Tanpinar's true subject. His true subject is the theatrical cast of sages, seers, psychoanalysts, drunkards, delusional women, conniving relations, and capricious bosses who demonstrate the power and endurance of personality in an age that celebrates conformity. Like Joseph Heller's Catch-22 or Jaroslav Hasek's unfinished dark comedy, The Good Soldier Svejk, The Time Regulation Institute defends the individual spirit — faulty and inconsistent as it may be — against the state that seeks to submerge it in burdensome, soulless duty — warfare in the case of Heller and Hasek, work in the case of Tanpinar. "In the life of one individual, there are more imperfections than any imagination could ever concoct," Hayri concedes. "Over an individual's lifetime these flaws congeal to define his character." In The Time Regulation Institute, Tanpinar triumphantly asserts the superiority of this mottled, imperfect character over a bland, sanded ideal.

Today, fifty years after the publication of this novel, Atat?rk's modern Turkey and Tanpinar's patchwork Ottoman culture continue to coexist in the coffeehouses of Istanbul. Raconteurs still hold forth, idlers still idle, and those who heel to the brisk contemporary pace duck in for a quick coffee before checking their cellphones and hurrying off. Tanpinar knew it would be so: "Look how the past carries on in the present and how the serious and the absurd are held fast," he wrote, savoring Hayri's coffeehouse and its eccentric regulars: "They each live in entirely separate, imaginary worlds. Yet they dream as a collective society."

Liesl Schillinger is a New York–based writer and translator. Her Penguin Classics translation of The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas Fils, appeared in the summer of 2013. In the fall, her illustrated book of neologisms, Wordbirds, was published by Simon & Schuster.

Reviewer: Liesl Schillinger

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143106739
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 256,503
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar (1901-1962) is considered one of the most significant Turkish novelists of the twentieth century. Also a poet, short-story writer, essayist, literary historian, and professor, he created a unique cultural universe in his work, combining a European literary voice with the Ottoman sensibilities of the Near East.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2013 by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe

For ten years, I acted as assistant head manager of one of the most innovative and beneficial organizations in the world. I helped not only my own immediate family but also my close and distant relatives and my friends, even those who had once betrayed me, by providing them with employment and a sense and source of well-being. In this regard I suppose it would suffice to highlight our contribution to urban development through the construction of a new district near Suadiye, as well as the services our institute provided to its workers, most of whom were in fact relatives of either myself or Halit ayarci. For as soon as the institute was established, Halit made the very important decision—from which we never strayed—that half the management positions and other important posts would be filled by members of our families and the other half by those who had the recommendation of a notable personage.

I am not sure if I need to mention the criticisms much aired in the papers long before it was decided to liquidate the institute or the ever more violent attacks that followed the institute’s dissolution. Life can be so strange. Ten years ago the very same papers delighted in everything we did, showering us with praise and holding us aloft as a model to the world. Though they attended our every press conference and never missed an official cocktail party, these dear friends of mine now do nothing but hurl abuse.

First they condemned the organization for its unwieldy size and inefficiency. Overlooking the fact that we created jobs for so many in a country where unemployment is rampant, they railed against our excesses: three management offices, eleven management branches, forty-seven typists, and two hundred seventy control bureaus. Then they ridiculed the names of our various branches, overlooking the fact that a watch or clock is indeed made up of hands for minutes and hours, a spring, a pendulum, and a pin, as if the thing we all know as time were not in fact divided into hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. Later the papers called into question the training, expertise, and intellectual underpinnings of our licensed employees—who had garnered over ten years’ experience with us—before mercilessly denouncing my early book, The Life and Works of Ahmet the Timely, which had once delighted them.

After tearing to pieces The Life and Works of Ahmet the Timely, they went on to attack all our other studies. For days on end, we would open the papers to find reproductions of our book covers under preposterous headlines that implied the works were somehow subversive or only worthy of derision: The Effect of the North Wind upon the Regulation of Cosmic Time, penned with such painstaking attention to detail by the head of our Millisecond Branch (also husband to our family’s youngest sister-in-law); or Time and Psychoanalysis and The Irdal Method of Time Characterology, both by my dear friend Dr. Ramiz; or Halit Ayarci’s Social Monism and Time and The Second and Society.

As if that was not enough, they went on to accuse us outright of being frauds and charlatans, homing in on our accumulative fining system, with its proportional reductions and the bonus discounts that had once so amused and entertained our fellow citizens while also allowing the institute to pursue its varied social and scientific activities. But how warmly these same people had once applauded this system of fines, which I myself invented, just to pass the time, while watching my wife, Pakize, and Halit Ayarci play endless games of backgammon for petty cash during their gambling soirees.

One of our esteemed financiers publicly declared this system of fines a most remarkable innovation in the history of accounting and took every opportunity to remind me that he would never hesitate to put me in the same company as the illustrious financiers Doctor Turgot, Necker, and Schacht.

And he was right. For in matters of finance—whereby money turns people into good taxpayers—unhappiness has forever been the rule. And in the matter of fines in particular, people inevitably feel a certain discomfort. But our system was not at all like that. When an inspector notified a citizen of his fine, the offender would initially express surprise, but upon apprehending the firm logic behind the system, a smile would spread across his face until, at last understanding this was a serious matter, he would succumb to uproarious laughter. I cannot count the number of people—especially in the early days— who would extend a business card to our inspectors, saying, “Oh please, you absolutely must come over to our house sometime. My wife really must see this. Here’s my address,” and offer to cover the inspector’s taxi fare.

Our system of fines specified the collection of five kurus for every clock or watch not synchronized with any other clock in view, particularly those public clocks belonging to the municipality. However, the offender’s fine would be doubled if his timepiece differed from that of any other in the vicinity. Thus the fine might rise proportionally when there were several timepieces nearby. Since the perfect regulation of time is impossible—because of the personal freedom afforded by watches and clocks, something I was naturally in no position at the time to explain—a single inspection, especially in one of the busier parts of town, made it possible to collect a not insignificant sum.

The last calculation required by this confusing system concerned the difference between watches or clocks that were either fast or slow. Everyone knows that a watch or clock is either fast or slow. For timepieces, there is no third state. It is an accepted axiom very much akin to the impossibility of exact regulation; that is, of course, assuming the watch or clock has not stopped altogether. But here matters become more personal. My own view is this: since man was created ruler of the universe, objects can be expected to reflect the tenor of his rule. For example, during my childhood, under the reign of Abdülhamid II, our entire society was moribund. Our dissatisfaction stemmed from the sultan’s long face, but it radiated out and infected even physical objects. Everyone my age will recall the mournful cries of the ferryboats of that era, with their piercing foghorns. But with the favorable unfolding of events thereafter, we find our days so full of delight that we now hear joy in a ferryboat’s horn and in the clang of a trolley’s bell.

The same can be said for watches and clocks. They inevitably fall in step with an owner’s natural disposition, be it ponderous or ebullient, and in the same way they reflect his conjugal patterns and political persuasions. Certainly in a society like ours that has been swept along by one revolution after another in its relentless march toward progress, leaving behind diverse communities and entire generations, it is all too understandable that our political persuasions would find expression in this way. Political creeds remain secret for one reason or another. With so many sanctions hanging over us, no one is about to stand up in a public place and proclaim, “Now, this is what I think!” or even to say such a thing aloud, for that matter. Thus it is our watches and clocks that hold our secrets, as well as the beliefs and habits that set us apart from others.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)