Ayse Kulin: Last Train to Istanbul

October 9, 2021

A friend who has been to Turkey and Iran, and who is enamored with these places as much as I am, left this book inserted between the finials of our gate last Monday. “It’s hard to put that book down,” he followed up with a message.

Turkey has always been at the crossroads of history, but this book is a perceptive look into the inner lives of the Turkish people and their nation’s place in the world particularly amid the Second World War.

It calls to mind how, during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, Turkey provided a refuge for the 250,000 Jews banished by Spain in the 1490s and how a whole district in Istanbul was allocated to them. 

The characters echo this magnanimous era by plotting the escape of a handful of Jews via the “Last Train to Istanbul” from Paris. This musician’s heart fell for its musical passages. It is thrilling and touching in many ways, and I was impressed to learn, by the end of the book, that it is based on the experiences related by Turkish diplomats who were posted in Europe during WWII. 

It’s hard to put this down.

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