|A portrait of a Turkish Family|
Portrait of a Turkish Family by
Irfan Orga's Portrait of a Turkish Family (1950) is the intimate account of the unravelling of a bourgeois family living in a mansion on Istanbul's Marmara shore amidst the trauma of World War I and the Ottoman Empire's dissolution. The early chapters detail the rich procession of ceremonies - trips to the hamam, circumcisions, summering in Sarıyer at the north end of the Bosphorus - that marked the stages of early twentieth-century Ottoman life. But with the coming of the war the Orga family fortunes, like those of the country as a whole, go into freefall and Orga describes in harrowing detail the crushing poverty that besets them. For Turkey, World War I was the loss of an empire but the making of a nation. It is a story steeped in melancholy, "an autobiography of tears and goodbyes," but indispensable for a ground's eye view of life in the years surrounding Turkey's rebirth.