21.12.14

Witold Szabłowski - The Assassin from Apricot City (Zabójca z miasta moreli)

Rating 8.5

A reportage book cannot get much better than this.

Believe me when I say that I'm actually lobbying for Witold Szabłowski to get translated into Italian as soon as possible. And I'd like all of my English reading friends to give The Assassin from Apricot City a well deserved chance. They might listen to me. Go and tell them if you happen to stand this review!

Mr Szabłowski himself, a Pole who got interested in Turkey and speaks flawless Turkish, is only 34 years old and I think that Zabójca z miasta moreli is his very first book. But I bet you won't notice that.

Now, you might not be familiar at all with Polish reportage and I won't annoy you here with its main authors and chief characteristics. Still, if you like well-written journalistic accounts on interesting aspects of foreign countries (think about your better than average New Yorker text), young Szabłowski is your man.

So, what do we know about Turkey?
Well, I guess the answer to this question depends on your whereabouts.

As a born and bred Italian who had the chance to travel and to live abroad for a number of years, I learnt something on this topic; first hand accounts, if you like. In fact, I met, befriended, worked with and even interviewed many a Turkish person in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. They were all cool (and pretty fashion conscious too) people who mostly disliked Mr Erdogan's doings, admired Mr Ataturk and knew a lot about basketball.
And yet, to be honest with you, I still don't know much about their fascinating and everchanging homecountry. I didn't have the chance to visit Turkey so far and - when I'll do that - I suppose I stick to Istanbul as there's quite enough to see and to grasp there.

Witold Szabłowski writes about Istanbul and does it beautifully. If you followed or heard what happened down there between Taksim Square and Gezi Park on 2013, this book will refresh your memories by taking you right on the spot. The author interviews plenty of the 'rioters' who are against Mr Erdogan's government, but gives voice to conservative and pro-Erdogan people too. Szabłowski  talks with students and clerks, journalists and shopkeepers, politicians and drag queens and this pot-pourri makes his Istanbul modern, dynamic (if troubled) and believable. There are a few hints here and there proving that the author of this book is all but a fan of Orhan Pamuk, the wordy bard of old Constantinople, and I get his point.  

What's more, Szabłowski travels around Turkey and, in doing so, he delivers excellent pieces of journalism. Whereas he writes about awful honour-induced women-slaughtering in remote provinces or he tells the poignant and dramatic stories of migrants trying to reach Greece and then Europe by sea, the author always does a great job. Even when Mr Szabłowski recounts the story of Ali Agca - the Turkish guy who attempted to kill the former Pope John Paul II -, a subject that has been covered for thirty years, he sounds refreshing in its observations.

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.

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