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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Many and Many a Year Ago

Selçuk Altun

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To purchase Many and Many a Year Ago

Title: Many and Many a Year Ago
Author: Selçuk Altun
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 270 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: Many and Many a Year Ago - US
Many and Many a Year Ago - UK
Many and Many a Year Ago - Canada
Many and Many a Year Ago - India
  • Turkish title: Senelerce Senelerce Evveldi
  • Translated by Clifford and Selhan Endres

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Our Assessment:

B : meandering, but some appealing twists

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 27/11/2009 Boyd Tonkin
Publishers Weekly . 27/7/2009 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)his cheeky romp, briskly translated by Clifford and Selhan Endres, may appeal most for its atmospheric glimpses of an inexhaustible city." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "Altun's second novel to be made available in the U.S. has a premise almost as intriguing as his first, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, but the execution is less successful." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Many and Many a Year Ago is an oddly meandering tale, narrated by Kemal Kuray. Feeling pressured by his father, he studied at the Turkish Air Force Academy and had a promising future as "the hottest pilot in the Air Force", but after his F-16 went down in a reconnaissance flight he couldn't quite get over it and no longer had the same enthusiasm for flying.
       Kemal got a desk job, and one of those who worked under him was Suat Altan, who "held diplomas in literature and computer science" (and was "the most efficient and mysterious" of the university graduates completing their military service in these positions). A while after Suat finished his military service, Kemal is contacted by his identical twin brother, who comes bearing instructions from Suat -- who has disappeared -- to set up a trust fund for Kemal, paying out $5,000 a month for forty years, as well as transferring ownership of a house in Istanbul to Kemal. Kemal quits his job and takes the house and cash.
       More good fortune -- or at least cash -- comes his way when a New York lawyer shows up on his doorstep offering him good money to find the whereabouts of someone else due a big inheritance. Kemal's curiosity is piqued:

I was curious about what the half-century-old telegram said, more than about where it came from. And even if the whole thing ended up being a fruitless Anatolian goose chase, it might at least be a good opportunity for me to adapt to civilian life.
       So off he goes on this and several goose chases, which take him as far as Argentina.
       Altun's preferred style of presenting his story is to have Kemal meet people, who then relate their life story -- or some significant, mysterious part of it --, beginning with Suat's brother. There are tales of lost (and touchingly reunited) loves here -- and many of great business success too: quite many of the characters are remarkably well-to do.
       There's certainly an air of mystery to much of this, with Edgar Allan Poe (and beloved Annabel Lee ) a guiding (or confounding) spirit, of sorts -- with also, for example, Kemal coming across a long letter penned by Suat and addressed to Poe.
       There are some decent literary games here (culminating (?) in Kemal deciding to enter a first-novel contest, with a book he titles Many and Many a Year Ago ...), and the adventures are, for the most part, fairly entertaining -- but they don't add up to all that much. Too often the mystery does feel forced: "You accomplished more than I thought you would", one character tells befuddled Kemal, and much as Kemal remains in the dark about much as he is being used as a pawn the reader, too, may find it all a bit muddled and confusing.
       A rather stylish curiosity, there's ultimately not quite enough to Many and Many a Year Ago to completely satisfy.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 July 2009

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Many and Many a Year Ago: Reviews: Other books by Selçuk Altun under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Turkish author Selçuk Altun was born in 1950.

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© 2009-2013 the complete review

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