The Assassin from Apricot City

Turkey – a country torn between East and West, Islam and Islamophobia; permeated with both conservatism and post-modernity. As he travels across this fascinating and beautiful country, Szabłowski heads for the most remote villages and towns to meet young women who have run away from honour killings, wives forced by their husbands into prostitution, a family of immigrants from Africa who dream of a better life, and Kurdish journalists and freedom fighters.

A polyphonic portrait of contemporary Turkey, The Assassin from Apricot City masterfully evokes the present-day dreams and hopes of ordinary people, weaving a story from their potent and mesmerising tales.

Praise for The Assassin from Apricot City

World Literature Today’s Notable Translation 2013

Winner English PEN Award 2013

Winner European Parliament Journalism Award 2011

Winner Beata Pawlak Award 2011

Nominated for the 2011 Nike Prize, Poland’s most prestigious literary award

‘A reportage book cannot get much better than this…excellent pieces of journalism…The Assassin from Apricot City is right there in the footsteps of the best tradition of Pol…ehm actually world class reportage. If you want to know something about contemporary Turkey from the pen of a brilliant foreign reporter, this is the book you were looking for.’ Lorenzo Berardi, Book Worm’s Head

‘A bold and bracing look at Turkey’s underbelly.’ Colin Thubron

‘the book is an excellent introduction to Turkey’s debates about almost everything going on in the country—fresh, confident, funny without mockery and spiced with cleverly phrased insights…Szabłowski’s comic-strip theater of the absurd gets to the soul of Turkey and masterfully conjures up a conspiracy-theory approach to politics in which anything is possible.’ Hugh Pope, The Majalla

‘Szabłowski’s Turkey is a land of paradoxes: Kurds who praise family values but kill their daughters and sisters if they’re raped, artists who loath the West but crave its approval, love-struck young men who long to sleep with their girlfriends but know this would make the women unmarriageable…he tells poignant stories about tangible men and women, a broader picture begins to emerge—baffling as the image may be.’ Jacob Daniels, World Literature Today

‘Witold Szablowski strikes an excellent balance between hard-hitting journalism, astute political analysis, and humorous observations. His reportage provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Turkey, its strengths and many contradictions…essential reading, seamlessly translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.’ Lucy Popescu, The Huffington Post

‘This is not a travelogue: Mr Szablowski is a time-traveller, a disenfranchised Pole who hangs out like Gulliver in a land where politics, crime, humour, home economics and family life seem topsy-turvy yet strangely familiar…We need Mr Szablowski at our side as we walk through Istanbul’s covered bazaar, or follow a protest march. He captures the spirit of Turkey in the way that a handful of Turkish writers, such as Aziz Nesin and Emin Colasan, have done.’ The Economist

‘Its epigrammatic chapters brim with colorful characters from across the country’s varied human landscapes, which the Polish journalist has come to know intimately after many years on the beat… part of what makes “The Assassin from Apricot City” a success is the way it complicates supposedly rigid divisions. The people it describes emerge in various shades of grey, which is perhaps one mark of good journalism.’ William Armstrong, Hurriyet Daily News

Excerpt

instead of a preface

The yellow and white ferry wheezes, groans, spits a cloud of smoke into the sky and moves off.

We are sailing from Europe to Asia. The journey takes about a quarter of an hour. Here there are businessmen along with beggars, women in chadors with women in mini-skirts, non-believers with Imams, prostitutes with dervishes, the holy with the unholy – all Turkey on a single ferry.

‘The captains of these giants are the modern-day Charons,’ says Tayfun, a poet friend of mine from Istanbul. ‘Why? Because the journey across the Bosporus is both beautiful and alarming. Like death.’

In fact the Charons are cool professionals. Otherwise their job would be impossible. The Bosporus is very narrow, in some places barely a few hundred metres wide, but there are thousands of boats and ships going past each other here. Manoeuvring on these waters, and finally steering a huge ferry straight, to the last centimetre, into a small berth – here there is no room for Romanticism or Greek mythology.

Well, unless you are a passenger. In which case, be my guest. When dusk falls and thousands of muezzins start to proclaim that Allah is great, the conversations cease and people sink into a melancholy, metaphysical mood. I often take advantage of this to ask a few random Turks: ‘What’s it like living with this strait? Is anybody here interested in the daily journey between continents?’

They shrug their shoulders. They don’t understand what I’m asking. A strait is a strait.

Only Tayfun the poet isn’t in the least surprised by the question.

‘I have a sort of strait inside me too,’ he says, throwing a large piece of pretzel towards the seagulls chasing the ferry. ‘Every Turk hovers between tradition and modernity a thousand times a day – the hat or the charshaf [veil]; the mosque or the disco; the European Union or dislike of the European Union.’

He has hit the nail on the head. The whole of Turkey is torn in half by an invisible strait. In the morning my female friends drink espressos with their boyfriends, eat croissants and talk about world literature. Then in the afternoon they put on their headscarves and go to their grandmothers’ houses for Turkish coffee.

My male friends will grab a beer and have fun at the disco. But as they drink, they sing songs from two hundred years ago. They act like tough guys who aren’t afraid of Allah or Mohammed, but at Ramadan they dutifully fast, and when their sons grow up a bit, they rush off to have them circumcised.

In the conservative east of the country I myself have seen imams who fly the European Union flag outside their mosques, and shops with clothes for conservative Turkish women will have sexy underwear on sale. ‘If a woman covers her face the entire day,’ the salesmen explain, ‘they’re all the more keen to please their husbands at night.’

Being on the border has its advantages. The Turks are creative and quick to learn languages, instantly able to win over people from a wide geographical latitude. Although they are in the worst position imaginable – sharing a border with restless Syria, Iran and Iraq, they are simultaneously part of the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans – they are able to get on well with almost everyone.

But this life on the border has its price. The West regards them as fanatics, and the East as lackeys of the West. Al-Qaida carries out terrorist attacks in Turkey, and for half a century the European Union has refused to accept the country as a member, because it is too big and too culturally alien.

Our ferry has reached the middle of the strait. In the distance we can see the two bridges which straddle the shores of the Bosporus. Tayfun the poet gazes first at the European side, then at the Asian. Finally he sighs and says: ‘Every Turk is a bridge like that.’
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EVENT: Book launch – Martin Llewellyn’s House of the Missing, 3 October, London

Event is free with lots of wine. Spaces are limited so please email us at editor@storkpress.co.uk to book your place.

House of the Missing

A girl wakes in a forest—her clothes are scorched, her mind blank. Who is she, how did she get there, and who are the monsters lurking among the trees?

Finding a house buried in the woods, the girl is taken in by the family who reside there, and slowly begins to heal. But, as she returns to life, it becomes clear that to find the answers she seeks, the mysteries of the forest must be unlocked.

A macabre and breathtaking feat of the imagination, House of the Missing will transport you into a surreal, nightmarish world where nothing is certain and violence is never far away…

 

Martin Llewellyn is a graduate of King’s College, London, where he obtained his PhD in French Literature, writing on Georges Bataille. He was born in London and has lived in Brussels, Paris, Prague, Montreal and Toronto; he currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. House of the Missing is his first novel.

(Photo: author’s archive)…

Joanna Jodełka on BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 19 November

Poland (Post-Communism) – Zygmunt Miłoszewski and Joanna Jodełka reflect on how Polish crime fiction has reflected the country’s occupation by both Nazis and Communists, the transition to democracy through the Solidarity movement and lingering accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.

About the author:

Joanna Jodełka was the first woman to win the High Calibre Award for the Best Polish Crime Novel, taking the prize in 2010 for her debut Polychrome (Polichromia, 2009). Her second crime novel, Grzechotka (‘The Rattle’), was published in 2011, followed by her third in 2012.

Polychrome is Jodełka’s first novel translated into English.

(Photo: Magda Adamczewska)

About the book:

Everybody’s life is riddled with secrets…

Maciej Bartol, police detective, casts a large shadow over those around him, although in truth his mother always seems to have the last word. Bartol has been called to investigate two very different death scenes – an art restorer in the most prominent part of Poznań, and a man who runs a homeless shelter. Are the killings linked? What is the meaning of the strange clues left by the killer? Soon the desperate Bartol finds himself asking for help from specialist on Christian symbolism, a woman who isn’t too happy to waste her time on a police investigation…

Buy the paperback or Kindle edition.

A.M. Bakalar on BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 17 December

The world is on the move. More than 200 million people live today in a different country to their birthplace.

Britain is a major crossroads of this seething human migration. Among developed nations more Britons live abroad (4 million) than any other nationality. Inward migration to Britain has been massive. Today more than 13% of the UK population is foreign born.

A panel of New Britons from all points of the compass debate questions raised by making a new home abroad. Questions like: How far do you assimilate? What is it like to leave one culture behind when the new one doesn’t accept you with open arms? How do you raise your children, born in Britain, when you do not fully feel a member of British society yourself? What effect does religion have on people’s ability to integrate into their new homeland?

Presenter/ Michael Goldfarb, Producer/ Anthony Denselow for a Certain Height production

About the author:

A.M. Bakalar was born and raised in Poland. She lived in Germany, France, Sicily and Canada before she moved to the UK in 2004. Madame Mephisto is her first novel and was among readers recommendations to the Guardian First Book Award. She is the first Polish woman to publish a novel in English since Poland joined EU in 2004.

Her writing has appeared in The GuardianThe International New York Times, Wasafiri, B O D Y and Litro Magazine. She was the editor of Litro Magazine Polish Issue and her short story ‘Whatever Makes You Sleep at Night’ was published in Wasafiri.

A.M. Bakalar lives with her partner, a drum and bass musician, in London. She is currently at work on her second novel.

(Photo: Mariusz Smiejek)

About the book:

What would you talk about if you were stuck in a room with a drug dealer for five days?

Meet Magda – hardcore drug-dealing queen, or guardian angel? She is one of the new wave of Polish immigrants to the UK, a woman who will stop at nothing to expand her drug dealing business, and will even make the ultimate sacrifice of the people who love and trust her.

Already established as a major drug importer to the UK, Magda has to return to Poland to attend a funeral of a family member. She only has five days, before she goes back to London, to convince her mysterious listener to come back with her and help her build up her empire.

Magda begins to tell the unexpected story of her life – the cover jobs in London, the strained relationship with her family who know nothing about who Magda really is, and her development as a cannabis dealer. Can you really trust somebody who is two people, how do you know when to believe a professional liar? … Menacing, fast-paced, with a unique and intense voice, A.M. Bakalar’s first novel reveals unexpected truths about the lies we all tell and the people we really are.

 

 

Buy the paperback or Kindle edition.

Review of Szabłowski’s The Assassin from Apricot City on Book Worm’s Head

‘A reportage book cannot get much better than this…excellent pieces of journalism…The Assassin from Apricot City is right there in the footsteps of the best tradition of Pol…ehm actually world class reportage. If you want to know something about contemporary Turkey from the pen of a brilliant foreign reporter, this is the book you were looking for.’ Lorenzo Berardi, Book Worm’s Head

Praise for The Assassin from Apricot City: 

World Literature Today’s Notable Translation 2013

Winner English PEN Award 2013

Winner European Parliament Journalism Award 2011

Winner Beata Pawlak Award 2011

Nominated for the 2011 Nike Prize, Poland’s most prestigious literary award

‘Its epigrammatic chapters brim with colorful characters from across the country’s varied human landscapes, which the Polish journalist has come to know intimately after many years on the beat… part of what makes “The Assassin from Apricot City” a success is the way it complicates supposedly rigid divisions. The people it describes emerge in various shades of grey, which is perhaps one mark of good journalism.’ William Armstrong, Hurriyet Daily News

‘Szabłowski’s Turkey is a land of paradoxes: Kurds who praise family values but kill their daughters and sisters if they’re raped, artists who loath the West but crave its approval, love-struck young men who long to sleep with their girlfriends but know this would make the women unmarriageable…he tells poignant stories about tangible men and women, a broader picture begins to emerge—baffling as the image may be.’Jacob Daniels, World Literature Today

‘A bold and bracing look at Turkey’s underbelly.’ Colin Thubron

‘the book is an excellent introduction to Turkey’s debates about almost everything going on in the country—fresh, confident, funny without mockery and spiced with cleverly phrased insights…Szabłowski’s comic-strip theater of the absurd gets to the soul of Turkey and masterfully conjures up a conspiracy-theory approach to politics in which anything is possible.’ Hugh Pope, The Majalla

‘Witold Szablowski strikes an excellent balance between hard-hitting journalism, astute political analysis, and humorous observations. His reportage provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Turkey, its strengths and many contradictions…essential reading, seamlessly translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.’ Lucy Popescu, The Huffington Post 

‘This is not a travelogue: Mr Szablowski is a time-traveller, a disenfranchised Pole who hangs out like Gulliver in a land where politics, crime, humour, home economics and family life seem topsy-turvy yet strangely familiar…We need Mr Szablowski at our side as we walk through Istanbul’s covered bazaar, or follow a protest march. He captures the spirit of Turkey in the way that a handful of Turkish writers, such as Aziz Nesin and Emin Colasan, have done.’ The Economist

Buy the paperback or Kindle edition.

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