Motherland Hotel – Yusuf Atilgan, (Translated from the Turkish by Fred Stark)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“She was in the painting on the wall…It had gotten stiff again and he ran his fingers through the short hairs at the root. “Almost as big as the rest of you.” at tall woman, under him so tall. Could I kiss your breasts Sure if you want and your neck too Go ahead sure but his lips barely reached if he was slow ever slow in coming she had a practiced grind an up and down up and down a rocking like the attic cradle rocking…”

This is in the mind of Zeberjet, a hotel owner, as he goes insane. But let me back up a little.

As a youngster, Zeberjet helped his father run the Motherland Hotel in a small Turkish town near a railroad station. When his father died, he became the sole owner. He never refused a room to anyone unless they were outright drunk or disorderly. So the hotel was frequented by prostitutes and male couples in addition to elite guests. He just didn’t care; that is, until he became obsessed with one of the female guests. When she left—though nothing happened between them—he kept awaiting her return and would not rent out the room that she was in. Always a loner and an introvert, he became more withdrawn. Eventually he stopped accepting guests altogether, and went progressively insane which led to murder.

As we learn of Zeberjet’s downward spiral, the author goes back and forth providing us a history of his family’s wealthy Ottoman history and well as its struggle with mental illness. The supporting characters, including the other guests and townspeople have issues of their own, which give the story more depth.

Though there are only a few instances of stream of consciousness writing as exhibited above, the novel’s sentence structure can be confusing. Sometimes  I wasn’t sure if the POV was from Zeberjet or from the narrator.  However when it can be determined, it  lends to the story’s  uniqueness.

Make sure you read all notes and the translator’s introduction before beginning the story. There are no spoilers but it will explain some Turkish idioms and terms and give historical significance. A brief description of the major characters and significant inanimate objects follows .

“Motherland Hotel was hailed as the novel of the year in Turkey when it was published in 1973, astonishing critics with its experimental style, its intense psychological depth and its audacious description of sexual obsession.”

In fact, it was required reading for psychiatry students at the Ankara University.



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