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A fictional memoir set in Istanbul and Geneva

17th August 2022

Farewell Fountain Street by Selçuk Altun – a fictional memoir set in Istanbul and Geneva. Translated by Mel Kenne and Nilgün Dungan.

A fictional memoir set in Istanbul and Geneva

Farewell Fountain Street is billed as a thriller. It isn’t. It is the story of the lives of two men. Ziya Bay is an aging Ottoman aristocrat. He has been an academic in Geneva for many years but has now returned to Istanbul to die. He has cancer and has been given six months to live. Artvin, a disillusioned professor with a troubled past, is hired as his companion for the last days of his life. They reminisce and swap tales of their lives. Tales of Ziya’s life and loves in Istanbul and Geneva, tales of Arvin’s experiences. Artvin had been a talented young saxophone player whose career had been terminated prematurely and cruelly when, as a gangster’s revenge for dating a girl the gangster thought was his, Artvin had been bundled into a car and then shot through the hand. An incident that resulted in the amputation of two of his fingers and the end of his saxophone playing. As they talk over their pasts, the two men form a close bond.

Artvin is relieved of his duties a little while before Ziya’s death, and becomes somewhat lost and finds himself floundering. Purpose has gone from his life, until he manages to track down the person who actually had fired the shots into his hand. The book ends in a dramatic and then somewhat bizarre (but positive) way. This, I guess, explains the billing of the book as a thriller. But for me it is so much more.

A fictional memoir set in Istanbul and GenevaFarewell Fountain Street is a really good and absorbing read. It is beautifully and gently written (and beautifully translated). It is set in pretty much the present day, but looks back over the decades in both Istanbul and Geneva. Both cities are clearly recognisable and offer contextual background to the plot.

Very much recommended.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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