2 Girls, by Perihan Magden (trans by Brendan Freely)

Brilliance of Turkish teen-angst murder tale recalls Salinger
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The Independent Culture

Her life is transformed when she falls in love with Handan, who embodies all the fluffy, fragrant, feminine virtues she does not. Behiye leaves home to live with Handan and her mother, the icily beautiful Leman, who depends on the erratic kindness of strange men, turning tricks to finance her daughter's studies.

Behiye's love for Handan takes on sinister undertones as she realises that she must compete with Leman for her daughter's affection. The story of Behiye's mounting obsession is interspersed with the discovery of a series of gruesomely murdered corpses, all affluent, young and male. The novel shifts from Behiye's hot, febrile point of view to forensic descriptions of the bodies.

Whether or not Behiye plays any part in these murders is for the reader to decide. Magden invites us to infer guilt and to question our suspicions. Just who is culpable: Behiye, corrosive consumerism, browbeaten conservatism, the complacent reader?

Magden's use of language pushes Turkish beyond its conventional literary patterns of long, mellifluous sentences. The effect of her ripped syntax and punctuation is arrestingly violent and beautiful, and articulates the cadences of a new identity. Although the novelty of her style is lost in translation, the urgency and energy of her writing is commendably communicated by Brendan Freely.

Magden's portrait of contemporary Turkey transcends the tired clichés around the conflict of oriental and occidental values. Many of the teenage girls' references, from Robbie Williams to Blink-182, will be familiar to the British reader. Behiye is not caught in clash of cultures. Rather, she is overwhelmed by the disturbing spectacle of their union; of mindless global consumerism coupled with passive Turkish conservatism. Magden's unsparing portrait of modern Turkey is gripping and entertaining, in a novel of ideas that speaks to the (global) generation it portrays.

The writer's 'Venus Infers' is published by NE Publications

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