cover image Labyrinth


Burhan Sönmez, trans. from the Turkish by Ümit Hussein. Other, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-59051-098-8

Sönmez’s latest, following Istanbul, Istanbul, is a cerebral philosophical meditation on memory and what it means to live without it. Boratin Bey is a 28-year-old blues singer living in Istanbul, or at least that is what he has been told. After jumping from the Bosphorus Bridge in an apparent suicide attempt, the musician has experienced complete amnesia: “He raises his eyes and looks at his face. The face he met a week ago. It’s that new. Hello stranger, he says.” His friend and bandmate Bek helps him relearn who he is, or was, answering basic questions such as “what sort of person was I, what did I look like?” Boratin wanders unfamiliar streets, kisses a woman he is told he knows, and attends the funeral of someone who he is told was a friend, Zafir—who, as Boratin describes it, “got left behind in the past and disappeared there.” Indeed, the central question of the novel is if the loss of one’s past is a loss of selfhood or a liberation. As another patient says to him, “Maybe you are unfortunate to still be alive and fortunate to have lost your memory.” Both poetic and an existential novel of ideas, Sönmez’s prose, in Hussein’s translation, is accessible and profound, bringing to mind Albert Camus and Patrick Modiano. While Boratin must learn to find fulfilment with “a blank memory,” this is a book that will undoubtedly linger in a reader’s mind. (Nov.)