Book Review: Tarik Akan

So this is exciting. I've just finished my first whole book in Turkish; Tarik Akan's "Anne Kafamda Bit Var", or Mother, There's a Flea in Head.

The book tells the real-life story of famous Turkish actor Tarik Akan, after he is arrested during the traumatic 1980 coup d'etat, for his alleged affiliation and support of communist groups in Turkey.

The drama begins with Akan landing at the airport in Istanbul having toured Europe. While there, he is supposed to have given an interview to a journalist in which he stated heretically that "we (the Turkish people) didn't win the first war of independence, but we will win the second one". Akan is summarily picked up by police at the airport and escorted to a detention centre where he is just one of many political detainees, the vast majority being from the left.

I find the book both a riveting read and a useful resource about the period. Akan's thoughts, emotions and fears in a difficult time can be felt universally. One is conscious of times when Akan's fame as an actor gives him extra fortune via a star-struck policeman or a family connection, however Akan is unapologetic about this. For rather than alienating the reader, this just emphasises the desperation of his condition, this is especially due to the fact that for the most part he relies on his people skills, strategic cigarette sharing, and often, the defience which earnt him his incarceration in the first place.

In numerous passages Akan's perhaps secondary reason for writing is made clear. Published a decade later, Anne Kafamda Bit Var clarifies his innocence for the reading public. However, Akan writes with a great amount of humility in the sense that he not once lectures on his personal opinions, ideology or the events happening outside the prison. He refrains from expounding his own misfortune, instead focusing on the unfair arrest and torture of fellow inmates and their families and friends. Akan acts as simply a witness to the brutality of the coup, and the machinations of power on a personal level.

This makes Anne Kafamda Bit Var an must-read for anyone interested in Turkey's most devastating military coup, which many Turks who lived through the time, are not inclined to talk about. It has encouraged me to find ways to open up to people about the time. This will inevitably involve more reading.

The 1980 coup had a profound effect on today's Turkey in many ways; a lack of humanities students in universities put off by their parents, the propondency of nationalism and Islam in political discourse and most importantly considering it's election time: the current business of creating a new constitution to replace the one introduced by the junta.

More book updates soon.

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