Stacey Lewis interviews Aron Aji

Stacey Lewis and Pen Translation Finalist Aron Aji discussed A Long Day’s Evening (City Lights Books) by Bilge Karasu on December 11, 2012. 

When Leo III, Emperor of Byzantium outlaws all religious paintings and icons, Constantinople is thrown into crisis. A palace official overseeing the destruction of an image of Christ is murdered by a band of irate women, and an atmosphere of danger grips the city’s monasteries, strongholds of icon veneration. Living amidst unacknowledged stirrings of resistance, watching for cues from the other monks, Andronikos is deeply confused about his own beliefs, and fears the consequences of exposing himself. One night he decides to escape, leaving behind his beloved Ioakim, who must confront his own crisis of faith and choose where to place his allegiance. Against a backdrop of religious and political upheaval, the two experience their love as the absence that each becomes for the other. In language that builds to an operatic intensity, the dualities of dogma and faith, custom and law, truth and lies, individual and society, East and West, Byzantium and Rome, are embodied in a story of prohibited love and devotion to the Unseen.

“From 8th century Constantinople to Istanbul in 1960, Karasu’s words travel the temporal distance like a flock of storks, flying to a horizon where history intersects with faith, religious and political, and where memory looks and finds meaning. Only a master can choreograph such a difficult journey . . . and Karasu is one. This is a fascinating novel and a pleasure to read.” — Sinan Antoon, author of I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody

“It might seem odd to find such crafted postmodernist writing coming out of Turkey. [Karasu] is a rare find indeed. Fascinating … an illuminating transitional work between the work of Turkey’s romantic realist Yashar Kemal and contemporary postmodernist Orhan Pamuk. More please.” — Kirkus Reviews

“One of Turkey’s most interesting modern writers.” — Booklist

Bilge Karasu (1930-1995) was born in Istanbul. Often referred to as “the sage of Turkish literature,” during his lifetime he published collections of stories, novels, and two books of essay.