Istanbul Istanbul

Istanbul Istanbul

Burhan Sönmez




Paperback with flaps



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Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


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(Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789386050403| 256 pages | August 2016)


‘Istanbul is a city of a million cells, and every cell is an Istanbul unto itself.’

Below the ancient streets of Istanbul, four prisoners—Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber, and Uncle Küheylan—sit, awaiting their turn at the hands of their wardens. When they are not subject to unimaginable violence, the condemned tell one another stories about the city, shaded with love and humor, to pass the time. Quiet laughter is the prisoners’ balm, delivered through parables and riddles. Gradually, the underground narrative turns into a narrative of the above-ground. Initially centered around people, the book comes to focus on the city itself. And we discover there is as much suffering and hope in the Istanbul above ground as there is in the cells underground.

Despite its apparently bleak setting, this novel—translated into seventeen languages—is about creation, compassion, and the ultimate triumph of the imagination.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


‘A wrenching love poem to Istanbul […] An ode to pain in which Dostoevsky meets The Decameron.’
—John Ralston Saul, author of On Equilibrium; former president, PEN International

‘Istanbul Istanbul turns on the tension between the confines of a prison cell and the vastness of the imagination; between the vulnerable borders of the body and the unassailable depths of the mind. This is a harrowing, riveting novel, as unforgettable as it is inescapable.’
—Dale Peck, author of Visions and Revisions

‘Istanbul Istanbul presents one of the best examples of urban philosophy. Burhan Sönmez is an urban story-teller. […] He writes: “Cinderella is asked why she fell in love with the Prince. The tale did not give me another destiny, she says.” But we know that another destiny is possible. And another Istanbul too!’
—Serap Çakır, Varlik Literary Magazine (Turkey)

‘The characters in Istanbul Istanbul are like the flaneurs who turned the streets of Paris into reality by pacing it up and down. As the streets are transformed into passages, as described by Walter Benjamin with the inspiration of Baudelaire, the prisons and the cells are transformed into streets of Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez.’
—Emrah Tuncer, DemokratHaber News (Turkey)

Istanbul Istanbul is billed as an artistic affirmation of the power of the imagination and the force of collective will. […] An imaginative and original book.
Hurriyet Daily News

‘Burhan Sönmez brings the Eastern narrative and the Western form together by adding parables, riddles, and, of course, mysterious stories of Istanbul into his novel. And he never leaves the hope out of reach for the readers like me who completed the ten days of stories in tears.’
—Banu Yıldıran Genç, Agos KitapKirk Literary Magazine (Turkey)

Istanbul Istanbul is creating a space of its own both in urban culture and in philosophical depth with its multilayered structure and multiple meaning like classical works. It will have its unique place in the history of literature as a work of intertextuality, and a novel of new-ages.’
—Hayri K. Yetik, Mesele Literary Magazine (Turkey)

‘Turkish writer Burhan Sonmez’s Istanbul Istanbul is about four prisoners who are held without trial and tortured deep in the bowels of the city’.
—New Indian Express

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About the author

Burhan Sönmez

Burhan Sönmez was born in Central Anatolia in 1965 and grew up speaking Kurdish and Turkish, and later moved to Istanbul where he studied law. The recipient of a number of literary prizes, he was seriously injured following an assault by Turkish police. With the assistance of the Freedom from Torture foundation, he spent five […]

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