914: In Turkey I Am Beautiful by Brendan Shanahan

by Gerard


914.961: Shanahan, Brendan. In Turkey I Am Beautiful: Between Chaos and Madness in a Strange Land. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Publishing, 2013. 356 pp. ISBN 978-0-5228-6433-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 914: Geography of and travel in Europe
  • 914.9: Geography of and travel in other parts of Europe
  • 914.96: Balkan Peninsula
  • 914.961: Turkey in Europe

“Istanbul was sad but never grim,” Brendan Shanahan writes in In Turkey I am Beautiful. This is the general sentiment of his travelogue around Turkey. While he spends a lot of his time hanging around with his friends who run a carpet store in Istanbul, he does make it out to the eastern cities. He tours the usual spots—Istanbul, Antioch, Adana—but we also get urban vistas of concrete near the Soviet border, quaint villages in the Turkish countryside, dalliances with lawlessness on the Armenian border, and a serious look at the customs and traditions of the Turkish people. He reports on the struggle within most Turkish people of whether Turkey is a part of Europe or Asia. Geographically (and for the Dewey), it’s in Europe, but many Turks don’t feel European. He writes with the usual cynicism of a well-seasoned, Western travel writer, but his personal relationships with the people he tells us about round out Shanahan’s humanity and the tone of the book.

As a military dependent, our family was stationed in Turkey in the mid-1990’s and this book helped bring back a lot of memories, especially his description of Adana (the nearest big city to the air base). I remember hearing a lot about the Kurdish struggle and the growth of the PKK (a group that protests, sometimes violently, against the current government in order to further Kurdish communist aims). Being a foodie at heart, though, I found his descriptions of local delights as well as the tea to be the most evocative. If you haven’t been to Turkey, this book is a really good place to start learning about the politics and the people. If you have, then this one should work as a pleasant reminder of days past. A poignant and enjoyable book.