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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ali and Ramazan

Perihan Magden

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To purchase Ali and Ramazan

Title: Ali and Ramazan
Author: Perihan Magden
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 141 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: Ali and Ramazan - US
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  • Turkish title: Ali ile Ramazan
  • Translated by Ruth Whitehouse

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Our Assessment:

B- : presentation just too rough and tumble (even as that is arguably an appropriate approach)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Radikal . 12/2/2010 Asuman Kafaoğlu-Büke

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ramazan ve Ali dışında kalan karakterlerin hiç birini tanıyor hissine kapılmıyoruz. Karakterler kısa çözümler için görünüp yok oluyorlar. Bu da kurgunun sağlam bir iskeleti olmadığı hissini veriyor. (...) Mağden'in okurlara itici gelecek özensiz dil kullanımı, bu romanda rahatsız etmiyor. Romandaki kadın karakterlerde de gelişmiş bir portre görmüyoruz." - Asuman Kafaoğlu-Büke, Radikal

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:

       The title-characters of Ali and Ramazan are two orphans who become devoted to each other but ultimately can't find a secure enough foothold in the world at large once they are adults.
       They grow up in a poorly kept orphanage:

no more than a children's jail or children's poorhouse that had been converted out of an old madrasa in the corner of a mosque courtyard, where seventy to eighty boys were just about kept alive.
       It is run by the 'Master', who is the one who has really let things get out of hand; he is also the one who is responsible for Ramazan being there -- besotted by him, he also takes advantage of the boy, sexually abusing him. The appearance of Ali changes things slightly; here now was: "someone to make him feel clean, to cleanse his soul with love", and the docile Ali and more enterprising Ramazan soon form a close and then intimate pair. "Ramazan knew exactly what people wanted, but they were insatiable" -- and Ali, who makes few demands, is the perfect mate for him.
       Eventually, of course, they're too old for the orphanage. Compulsory military service tides them over for a while (they don't serve at the same time), but outside the orphanage they are: "tossed about and left to stumble through life, only to pick themselves up and stumble again". Adrift, Ali takes up sniffing glue (well: "Ali started taking solvents. And in no half measures !"), losing himself in that, to Ramazan's frustration. Ramazan's self-loathing rent-boy lifestyle also proves self-destructive -- and he finds: "dreaming about Ali was the only thing he had to hold onto in his life as a gigolo".
       Ramazan is much lusted-after, but just as when it was the Master slobbering over the young boy he doesn't feel comfortable in this role -- despite the good money it brings in. Nevertheless, the money is so good and easy -- and the offers keep coming, regardless of what Ramazan is doing -- that he can't seem to break out of this vicious circle of selling himself. (Among the amusing scenes in the book is one where a drunken girl corners him and makes him do unspeakable things, despite his best efforts to avoid them; at the end of it he still asks for his usual fee.)
       Meanwhile, Ali remains too pure to manage in this sordid world -- he can't even get a job because:
There was not a hint of dishonesty or deceit about Ali. His face glowed with sincerity, decency, and goodness, but these were not sought-after qualities in the marketplace.
       There are bursts of violence here, too -- and when Ramazan starts carrying around a knife he quickly resorts to using it, almost despite himself, and practically without knowing what he is doing. Naturally, all ends in bloody tragedy.
       Ali and Ramazan is an odd sort of love story; Ali and Ramazan are devoted to one another, but Magden steers clear of describing most of their intimacy; they are a couple, of sorts, but the sex seems entirely incidental -- a striking contrast to Ramazan's other activities, which basically consist of having sex with all and sundry.
       A note at the beginning of the book announces it is: "Based on a true story" -- and the dedication notes: "There was nobody to care for these two children". With this novel, Magden clearly means to expose a side of Turkish life readers may be unaware of, or otherwise choose to ignore. The fact that it is based on real events is meant to lend the story added weight -- to remind readers that this isn't just a novelist's fantasy -- but it doesn't work that well -- for one, because only Ramazan is anywhere near to being a fully-formed (i.e. 'real') character, and also because of the haphazard presentation of what they go through.
       Magden's story is rushed and messy, as rough and tumble as the lives of her two protagonists; in part that's certainly on purpose: they aren't living neat, comfortably orderered lives, and if there's constant uncertainty in their lives, why shouldn't there be the same in their story ? Still, it doesn't make the book any more effective (and it doesn't help that the writing is very rough, too -- it is presumably unpolished on purpose, but it's a coarseness that is also wearing).
       It's unclear how closely based on the lives of these two orphans the novel as a whole is, but Magden doesn't delve deeply enough into most of the characters. Again, this may be true to life -- a character like Master will only be known to the orphans in the sketchy way he is presented here -- but Ali and Ramazan could certainly be fleshed out somewhat better. Often, too, with all the twists and turns Magden packs in, specific actions or consequences are barely delved into (which again may be true to life, where regardless what the characters do, their lives remain much the same, their fates inescapable).
       There's certainly some power to the narrative, but on the whole both story and characters feel underdeveloped. Much here is moving and troubling, but too much also feels entirely arbitrary, as Magden tosses in yet another event or twist (and then too conveniently just ties the whole mess up in predictable fashion -- surely no one is surprised by what becomes of the two protagonists).

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 May 2012

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Ali and Ramazan: Reviews: Other books by Perihan Mağden under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Turkish author Perihan Mağden was born in 1960.

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© 2012-2013 the complete review

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