Mother Tongue (Passport Books No 3)

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9780889104648: Mother Tongue (Passport Books No 3)
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stories, Turkish, tr from German by Craig Thomas

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Four tales of identity and exile, published for the first time in English, by an award-winning Turkish-German writer. Rather than writing simply of immigrants' political situation in Germany, ™zdamar focuses on the emotional and spiritual reality of their social experiences. Her stories become increasingly impressionistic until, by the third one, the idea of a recognizable plot is abandoned. This makes for challenging, often frustrating reading, but it can at times be unexpectedly fruitful. In the first two stories, ``Mother Tongue'' and ``Grandfather Tongue,'' ™zdamar conveys her ideas about language and loss through the repetition of often bizarre imagery and phraseology; the technique succeeds in estranging readers from their own language, making them struggle to make sense of the text much as ™zdamar's characters must struggle to make sense of their new language, German, while at the same time attempting to recoup what they have lost of their mother tongue. Reflective in nature, these tales are the most accessible to the average reader. The stories that follow, ``Karag”z in Alamania/Blackeye in Germany'' and ``A Charwoman's Career/Memories of Germany,'' are prohibitively eclectic and esoteric, dealing more generally with the Turkish-German immigrant experience and relying too heavily on allusions to both nations' folk tales and on slang that finally makes them inaccessible. An afterword written by Manguel, editor of the Passport Books series of international fiction to which this collection belongs, is helpful in teasing out the significance of some of the preceding work, but it would have served the reader better as a preface. A difficult book that begins well with some intriguing commentary on language and exile but soon becomes alienating. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1965, the author of this extraordinary volume left Turkey for Germany to work as a Gastarbeiter (guest-worker), beginning first as a cleaning lady in a factory, then becoming a stage hand in Berlin, an actress, a playwright, a director and eventually a prize-winning German author. This collection of pieces evokes the hazy hell of a displaced person trying to make it in an unfamiliar, often hostile culture, learning a tongue-twistingly forbidding language. Eventually, all cultural forms and norms--inherited as well as adopted--seem increasingly strange. "Stay behind. Stay crazy." is a sing-song saying on one segment of the book ("Blackeye in Germany"), written originally as a theater piece, in which a Turkish donkey recounts stories of his farmer's adventures as a Gastarbeiter . A fusion of wildly fantastical Scheherazade stories with the nightmarish surrealism of Franz Kafka suggests the book's overall tone. In the original, Ozdamar plays with the German language as with a dangerous weapon, using words like a circus performer juggles knives. Although not much of that wordplay comes through in the translation, it does retain the mesmerizing quality of the original. And that flowing, jarring word stream propels readers into the world of an outsider, forcing them to hear and see with the ears and eyes of a stranger.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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