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”The City in Crimson Cloak ”, Ash Erdogan’s major work and arguably her masterpiece, has established her as a unique writer and a modem classic both in her country and abroad.

Generally referred as a ’poem— novel’, ’poetry of the twilight zone’, ’verses of poetry saturated with bitter juice of life and existential suffering’, the novel in fact follows the tradition of 19th century city novel; however, it uses the modern techniques of intertwined novels. Since its publication in Turkey in 1998, the book has made more than a dozen editions and been translated into several languages. In 2003, it was accepted into MARG (”Marg” means ”spinal column” as well as ”margin” in Norwegian) series of Gyldendal along with writers as Helene Cixous, W. G. Sebald, Nathan Englander etc. and received great reviews, comparing the author to Joyce and Kafka. The same year, it was also published by Actes Sud in France, and based on that single book, Asli Erdogan was chosen amongst the 㨂 Writers of Future”, by the French magazine Lire. However, the biggest success of the book was in Germany.

Wonderfully translated into German by A. Gillitz Acar and A. Hoch and published by sverlag in 2008 in ”Turkish Library”( a ion of classical and contemporary Turkish literature), the book received enormous attention from the press and the readers, selling over eleven thousand copies, as well as literary circles. Over forty reviews have appeared in newspapers and literary magazines such as Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, Freitag, Die Presse, Neue Ziircher Zeitung, Die Berliner Literaturkritik written by prominent writers as Ingo Arend, Ruth Kluger, Barbara Frischmuth etc. The novel was chosen as the ”best translation into German from Turkish” following year. In the last decade, ”The City in Crimson Cloak” has been published in USA by Soft Skull (which received the ”Best Independent Publisher Prize” the same year), in Sweden(published by Ramus and also made the paperback edition), in Arabic (by Cadmus), in Bosnian (BUYBOOK), in Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian and Bulgarian. Currently the book is being translated into Danish, Italian, Persian and Kurdish.

” The originality of this book lays in the constant clash of inner and outer world, which blurs our concept of reality. What the author in fact never lost is her capability to depict a dangerous fall, a complete ruin, which so far in literature only man could live till end. A truly feminine sensibility, with no mixing up of gender roles voices itself. Not only Orpheus, but also Persephone, the queen and the prisoner of the underworld talks to us through these pages.” (Ruth KlOger, Die Welt)

” In the same way that Dublin and Joyce belong together, or Praha and Kafka, for me from now on Rio will be inextricably bound together with the name Asli Erdogan. With this volume, she writes herself into a dominating tradition linked to last century’s novels: The novel of the city.”
(Aftenposten, Norway)

” There are these rare literary works who grab you and conquer your mind because they tell you about an existence totally deprived of security nets, on the border to death. Asli Erdogan has managed to a novel about a young woman lost in her desperate will to experience her limits and art the same time about a writer who lives her novel. In this Brazilian mirror game, Ash Erdogan occurs not only a true master but a magic narrator but as a unique female voice in a male dominated genre.” (Eugene Schoulgin, writer)

”The author’s name is whispered in the same breath with Malcolm Lowry and Antonin Artaud.”(Libre Belgique)

”Ash Erdogan is an exceptionally perceptive and sensitive writer who always produces perfect literary texts.” (Orhan Pamuk)

Brief description

”The City in Crimson Cloak” is the title of two novels, the novel published and the name of the lost, incomplete novel its protagonist is trying to write. We read both.
In fact, the main protagonist of both novels is a city: Rio de Janeiro. The city in crimson cloak, woven fiber by fiber of human blood and suffering, concealing its Janus faces behind various masks. Chaos, jungle, violence and the anarchy of the body are its main axis. A city heaven coexists with hell, hunger with pleasure, death with life.

The name of the heroine who is trying to write her own, devastating experience as a foreign, lonely woman in this notorious city, an experience of war, a fatal chess match or a dangerous, deceiving game of mirrors, is Ozgiir. {” Ozgiir” means ”free” in Turkish and is a name that can be used by both sexes, significant facts that open up the underlying themes of the book as freedom vs destiny, catharsis vs captivity.) Ozgiir, alienated from her past and at the edge of a mental breakdown, knows that she is now a captive of Rio and has a single defense against the violence of the city: Writing. As we read parts and pieces of Ozgiir’s unfinished novel, with a protagonist of its own, for the time being named only as her initial’O’, we begin to put Ozgur’s story together, a story of destruction, fail and ruin, combined with a great will to defeat violence and make peace with life. Meanwhile, the narrator tells us of a single day, in fact the very last day of Ozgur’s life. The two levels of reality sometimes compliment, sometimes contradict each other as we read the story of a novel being written.

The journey through the streets of Rio is a journey into a labyrinth set up on more than two dimensions, both in space and time, the past, the future and the present are woven together. A labyrinth full of dead ends, traps, echoes, uncanny prophecies... As Ozgur traces the paths of her written self, ִ.’, through the shantytowns, Candomble rituals, gunfights and robberies, the violence and eroticism of back streets, Rio is born as a real city and as a metaphor for Death, slowly being transformed into the manifestation of Ozgur’s inner world and her own violence. facing mirrors, the two reflect one another, yet at the same time they are dangerous opponents. As Ozgiir step by step approaches her death, which she had narrated as a finale to her unfinished novel, we encounter street people, masks and African rituals, carnivals and favelas, armed robbers and mad men, hunger, dancing, fireworks, the desire in the kingdom of flesh, the betrayal, the night and the jungle. While we delve deeper into the two concentric novels, the borderline between the two Rio’s, the real and the fictional, starts to blur, as the borderline between Ozgur and her narrated self, the metaphors of Life and Death seem to intermingle in an intangible way.. And at the finale, infinite moment of death, the two novels, the two layers of reality overlap, Rio and Ozgur, the two opponents in this fatal game of mirrors, become unified. life and Death. The transformation of the narrator to her narration, the past into future, the inner world into outer reality is completed. Rio once again emerges as a glorious metaphor for life, while Ozgur is essentially another Orpheus that has opened the doors of Underground with her writing, only to follow her own Eurydike back into the Land of the Dead.

The novel is essentially seven chapters, representing seven gates to death. The texts written by Ozgur are italicized. Her language is dense, poetic, musical, at times a cross fire of metaphors and images. The more distanced, story—telling style of the narrator gradually comes to resemble that of Ozgur, becoming more and more vivid, violent, ruthless and even ’corporal’. In fact, in the finale, at the moment of death, the two novels repeat the same long sentence, a glorifying description of the night starting in Rio, a farewell and an ode to Life.

The first chapter, ”The Fireworks Day”, opens with a gunfight on a scorching Sunday in Rio. Ozgur, in the throes of a nervous breakdown, is in her basement flat, located next to the slopes a local war between favelas is taking place, trying to write the story of her own destruction, smoking, staring at bare walls. Surrounded by the jungle, the interior festering with tropical humidity, the house is an extension of her body. The murderous heat, newspapers filled with violence, a phone call from her mother, the ironic significance of fireworks, references to the film ”Black Orpheus”... The stories of both Rio and Ozgur unfold.

In the second chapter, ”The Madman of Santa Teresa”, Ozgur is now on the outside, wandering through the streets of Santa Teresa, a poor, lively district semi—evacuated because of the war. Watching the city from her ”Istanbul point”, she takes up her pen. Fragments of memory, migration, loneliness, the flight to the realm of fiction... The clash between fiction and reality begins when she almost fights two gangsters, a s scene she had already described in her novel. We meet the two mad men of Santa Teresa, the good—natured outlaw Eduardo and the genius madman, Olieveira, a famous artist of the past. Ozgur directs her essential questions on freedom and death and art to Oliveira, receiving total silence as a response. ”Eli, Eli! Lama sabekhtani?” (Father,father! Why have you forsaken me?) is one of the key sentences of this chapter and the novel.

”Far Away”, is an internal monologue. Exile, entrapment, separation, a quest for meaning in a city of violence... Writing seems to be the only defense against a harsh reality and the only to give meaning back to the world and put together a fragmented identity.

In ”Downhill”, the language becomes more predominant, as we read through flashbacks, Ozgur’s descriptions of the carnival and the favela, characterized as the Land of the Dead. In this chapter, also is ped the first hint that 0 has been killed at the end of the novel, A dialogue with a small girl, who appears and disappears suddenly, a portent of disaster, ends the chapter.
The fifth chapter, ”The New World”, takes place in a foul smelling diner that feels a submarine, between alcoholics and prostitutes. The most crucial passage we read from Ozgur’s notebook: The story of a starving man eating his own vomit... Ozgur tears of that page to replace it with a single sentence: ”I am writing to make myself look bigger than I actually am, because I am... so, so small.”

”The Zero Point”, opens with another quotation from the Bible: ”Let the Dead Bury the Dead”. Ozgur is finally ready to write the zero point of her fall, the very beginning of her collapse. This is her first encounter with a murdered woman, on Palm Sunday. Her first encounter with the corpse she carries within herself... Now she has finally managed to finish her novel, stepped out of her own story.

A menacing dialogue with another mad man, the unlived love affair between Ozgur and Eli, a black, orphaned, homosexual dancer, a lyrical passage that lets the reader face the infinity of the ocean, the first opening of the novel that has been deliberately claustrophobic, followed by a torture scene at the police station... The sixth chapter fully develops Ozgur’s story.

”And the Fireworks Explode”: The night starts with Ozgur in full consciousness of her exile and loneliness. She has written a novel, scored her ”insignificant, insolent, puny victory against death”, put together beautiful, artful lies ”that lick her wounds”. Only to realize that she has never been able to love life for its own sake. Now she is even lonelier than before, all alone in her d universe.
As she tries to avoid Eli, she walks to a dangerous back street, O. had walked before, to find herself in a robbery attempt. A young girl with a broken bottle asks for her bag, which contains her newly finished novel, in fact only a green notebook. Ozgur fights back, and by the time she realizes the girl has an armed accomplice, a gun is put to her head. The final passage of dying, we read from Ozgur’s novel when it looks as if the whole of life has been compressed into a single dimensionless point to expand towards eternity, a glorifying description of the city that has killed her: Rio de Janeiro. ”She died precisely the way she had wanted to die,” is the last sentence of the book.



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