“Labyrinth” by Burhan Sönmez

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Labyrinth” by Burhan Sönmez will drag us to Istanbul in the mind of Boratin, a young man without memory in search of himself

Labyrinth

One day Boratin, a blues musician who lives in Istanbul, wakes up in the hospital having completely lost his memory: he no longer knows who he is, where he comes from, what his past is and what the direction of his present is, he no longer remembers his affections. dear ones or closest friendships, and above all he writhes around an obsessive and unanswered question: why did he attempt suicide by jumping already from the Bosphorus Bridge? Around this constellation of questions he tries to live again, regaining familiarity with faces, voices, spaces, stories, mirrors, and first of all with himself … Flâneur of the labyrinths of the mind and of the city, travels thoughts and streets in a desperate search for a consistency, face to face with the tabula rasa of memory, from which disjointed details emerge that he does not know how to place in time: in front of a statue of the Pietà, he wonders if Jesus and Mary lived years before or millennia ago, and exchanges the he image of the head of state with that of a sultan who lived a century earlier. With a fast-paced rhythm and crystalline analysis, Burhan Sönmez’s novel gives us back Boratin’s wanderings into the mysteries of identity, up to the extreme question: is it more liberating for a man – and for a society – to know one’s past or forget it?

In search of himself in the streets of Istanbul

While using the attempted suicide as a pretext, the novel will move very quickly on the questions around the meaning of “being” and on the concept of “identity”, exploiting Boratin’s amnesia to make the thoughts and the reader travel even more. The total lack of memories will release the protagonist from any bond due to his memory and habits, thus allowing him to fully free his moods and the perplexities that most grip the human being.

Labyrinth
“A voice inside me says that at night I have to prefer the main streets. Even if I get lost, in a main street I will always be able to find my way home. This becomes even clearer to me when I arrive in Beyoğlu.

The illuminated crowd takes me, carries me from wave to wave, drags me into the side streets, then takes me back to drop me off in the main street. All the alleys have the flavor of the main street. People also look alike. Hunters eyes peer around. Everyone has the same desire, they are ready to track down their prey or be prey.

They live as if night were day. They get drunk on light. Even if they crouch in dark corners to make love, their sweat contains bits of light. ”

In the background of all this, an Istanbul more alive and pulsating than ever, an unobtrusive co-protagonist of the entire story. While bringing dilemmas common to the entire human race, the whole novel is completely imbued with the soul of Istanbul and this for the soul of the inhabitants as well as that of the city. Boratin is in fact the perfect representative of that generation that took to the streets in 2013 to demonstrate against the government and in general throughout the book we will be able to breathe deeply the air of neighborhoods such as Galata, Beşiktaş and Fatih, places well known for their monuments, but whose soul is always tasted too little.

Stream of thoughts

The book, even more than a novel with a precise and well-defined plot, is a real immersion in the flow of Boratin’s thoughts, which, if on the one hand frees the wings of the mind even more, on the other it makes it less clear than others from a mere narrative point of view. Very often, in fact, the words of the characters will join the thoughts of the protagonist, transforming the speech into an extremely particular unicum that is not always immediately understandable.

Labyrinth

Personally I am not a fan of this type of narration because, in my opinion, “what happens on stage” becomes less important and the whole text becomes dependent on the quality and quantity of the author’s reflections, risking so much more than others with a more standard and clear plot and development. “Labyrinth”, however, brilliantly overcomes this obstacle, offering the reader many stimuli for reflection and making him experience a less celebrated but truer soul than contemporary Istanbul, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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