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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Bilgé Karasu

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To purchase Night

Title: Night
Author: Bilgé Karasu
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 1994)
Length: 142 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: Night - US
Night - UK
Night - Canada
La nuit - France
Die Nacht - Deutschland
  • Turkish title: Gece
  • Translated by Güneli Gün, with the author
  • Awarded the Pegasus Prize for Literature, 1991

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Our Assessment:

B : often effective, but ultimately too multi-layered

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 22/5/1994 Fernanda Eberstadt
The Village Voice . 13/9/1994 Sally Eckhoff
World Lit. Today . Winter/1995 Keith Hitchins

  From the Reviews:
  • "Night, a haunting allegory of the totalitarian state, exemplifies the Turkish taste for political fable. (...) At the novel's moral center lies the opposition between the administrator, with his philosophy of the superman to whom everything is permitted, and the writer, who, defeated and submissive, maddens his former schoolmate by a quietism so extreme that he seems "to live in a continuous state of nullification." (...) But Mr. Karasu's post-modern tricks at times diminish the power of his tale. In the end, for all his subtlety and skill, the narrative mystifications of Night threaten to overshadow its moral plea, and the reader may wind up more confused than scared." - Fernanda Eberstadt, The New York Times Book Review

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:

       Night is a dark and pointedly Kafkaesque tale, right down to its Ministry of Trials and a cockroach-story. The world it describes is both un- and surreal, full of mystery even to the writer(s ?). It begins sinisterly enough, with the coming of night, and then the explanations of what that means, that this is a world where there are so-called nightworkers. The first description of their activities sounds almost benign:

     Their job is to get night ready: by digging holes, for example, where night may easily collect when it comes.
       But they also do considerably more, and as the narrative -- presented in short chapters (110 of them in a book of only 142 pages) -- progresses this creepy, deadly force, which can stand for many things, becomes a terrifying unknown.
       However, the nightworkers are just one force in the book. With its unfathomable bureaucracy, this is yet another of these bleak, paranoid states where no one is above suspicion and the tables can turn at any moment and: "everybody is an enemy" -- if not now, then soon. Here:
We must mortar the foundations of our lives with doubt and suspicion; we must make these our daily bread and water.
       Night is also about the writing of Night, with footnotes by the author, often questioning what he has done. He reveals what he'd like the account to be -- though some of this comes as small comfort to the reader:
I must confuse the reader; he must be confused and scared.
       There certainly is a good deal of confusion, especially as the perspectives shift and storylines change. The playfulness can get out of hand, as the author acknowledges in another footnote:
That which had been my book appears to be riddled with so many holes that anyone can sneak into it anywhere. We'll soon find out where this will lead. Who in the world is this character who fills up my notebooks ? I'm puzzled -- or act as if I am. What for ? I don't even know that, it seems.
       Which can all get to be a bit trying for the reader. Indeed, Karasu gets carried away with his dark and opaque world, and if he's very effective bit by bit, and even in the recognisable storylines (of which there are a few, at least brief ones), the whole is hard to get much of a grip on. The book doesn't fall apart, but it doesn't come together either. Indeed, where the individual chapters and sections and sentences and ideas often impress, the whole is little more than a frustrating clump of these. It is a book of some interest, but only a partially satisfying one.

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Night: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Turkish author Bilge Karasu lived 1930 to 1995.

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© 2008 the complete review

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