Month: May 2014

Book Review: “Istanbul: Memories and the City” by Orhan Pamuk

This book is a real cabinet of curiosities. It resembles in part the İstanbul Ansiklopedisi by Reşat Ekrem Koçu, an unfinished work which so influenced Pamuk that he has devoted an entire chapter to it. Our author has lived in Istanbul all is life and is intimately acquainted with its streets, its people and its moods. The book goes back and forth between personal memoir and a memoir of the city  Pamuk describes Hüzüna collective melancholy that pervades Istanbul, “a cultural concept conveying worldly failure, listlessness and spiritual suffering.”  Istanbul is one of those cities, I feel everyone should visit in their lifetime along with Jerusalem and Rome. The 50 year old Pamuk reflects on his own childhood, capturing a sense of the Istanbul of memory and tradition and juxtaposing it with the Istanbul as seen by outsiders, especially the literary lights that visited Istanbul over the years, Pamuk creates a rich texture for his story of the memories and the city. Pamuk is disappointed that so few of his fellow Turkish writers were inspired to write about the city.

"Istanbul" by Orhan Pamuk

“Istanbul” by Orhan Pamuk

Before he was a writer, Pamuk, as a teenager was a painter heavily influenced by Utrillo. We encounter comments and thoughts from writers as diverse as Levi-Strauss, Ruskin, Flaubert, Gide and Gerard de Nerval. But there are also the insights of local writers like the novelist Tanpinar (who, according to Pamuk wrote the best novel of Istanbul “Peace“).  The book is filled with black and white illustrations but these are without captions, some information about the photos is included in a short afterword. Pamuk’s views of the city are also in black and white in keeping with the melancholy, bittersweet air of the memoir. Istanbul is a city torn between East and West. Straddling the Bosphorus, one part in Europe one part in Asia. Pamuk, too, from a westernised family is torn between East and West, a tension that comes through in his novels like “Snow.” His interest in painting ended when his “Black Rose” (the name he gives to his first love) leaves for Switzerland.

I loved this book, I think it is best sipped slowly like Turkish coffee.

My rating 5 out of 5

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-second Story

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-second Story

This taxi driver was rather irate. The temperature was over 30 C (around 100 F). Indicating to turn left into a parking space, a driver coming from the opposite direction sneaked into the chosen space. Our taxi driver was left fuming, waiting for the sneaky driver to emerge from his car to get an earful of the taxi-driver vernacular.

Split-Second Story

six years ago

Six years ago on 28 May 2008, I arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia for the first time.

top right my entry stamp into Georgia 28 05 2008...I have had many entry and exit stamps from Georgia in my passport since

top right my entry stamp into Georgia 28 05 2008…I have had many entry and exit stamps from Georgia in my passport since


I had come for three days as part of a week’s holiday combining Istanbul and Tbilisi. At the time, I was intent on ticking off the countries of Europe one by one, hoping to visit them all by the time I hit 50. I hit 50, later this year and the idea of visiting all the countries of Europe kind of came to an end when I visited Georgia (since Georgia;  Azerbaijan is the only new country ticked off). So what happened? What happened is I was invited to a Georgian wedding, at this wedding I met Khato, an English teacher, put with me to interpret the proceedings.

Khato and me the day we met... May 2008

Khato and me the day we met… May 2008


We got on well, we drank (before then I’d been teetotal), we danced a lot and the following day Khato showed me around her city. When I returned to England we kept in touch by e-mail, then in 2009, I moved to Georgia to teach English. The next Georgian wedding I attended was my own, mine and Khato’s. I blame the wine….and the bride’s sisters, who knowing us both, acted as unofficial matchmakers. No!  Sorry – I thank the wine and the matchmakers…as I found my wonderful Georgian wife 🙂

Khato and me on our wedding day.

Khato and me on our wedding day.

პირველად როცა ღვინო დავლიე, მე შევხვდი ხათოს.

ჩვენ ბევრი ვიცეკვეთ.

ვაბრალებ ღვინოს და გამოუცდელ მაჭანკლებს.

არა, მე მადლობელი ვარ ღვინოსი და მაჭანკლების, მე ვიპოვე ხათო, ჩემი გასაოცარი ცოლი 🙂




Reading in Georgian: ჯინი ბოთლში The Genie in the Bottle

ჯინი ბ ბოთლში

ჯინი ბოთლში

I have stepped up now to level 2 of the Usborne First readers translated into Georgian. This is a retelling of the classic “Genie in a Bottle” story.

A fisherman is not having much luck fishing apart from catching some seaweed, some colourful shells and an old sock (ფუუუ!)…but then he finds an old bottle in his net.


მეთევზემ ბოტლს თავსახური მოხსნა და შიგ ჩაიხედა.
The fisherman removed the cap and looked inside the bottle.

At first it seems there is nothing in the bottle, that it is empty (ცარიელია!) and he throws it away. But then there is a cloud of smoke and an angry genie appears.


=^_^= “მიაუ !”

The genie has been trapped inside the bottle for 1000 years, he is very hungry and wants to eat the fisherman, but the fisherman has an idea….

Level 2 readers have a vocabulary range of 250 words (level one was 150 words). I got through the book laboriously by copying out the Georgian then making a translation in English. For this I am helped by a dictionary, my Georgian wife and Google Translate (which isn’t too slick on Georgian!).

Later I may read the book in Georgian to one of my grand daughters.

Some useful Georgian vocabulary from the book:

მერე   then

ძველი   old

უცებ   suddenly

მაგრამ   but

Not useful Georgian vocabulary:

ჯინი   genie (not a word I will need every day….sorry, Christina Aguilera)

აურუყრუყდა this is the sound the genie’s stomach (მუცელი) makes when he is hungry


ქართულს სწავლობ ნელ-ნელა