The Girl from the Golden Horn

The Girl from the Golden Horn

by Kurban Said

Ultimately, it is the story of one girls choice between two worlds.Asiadeh Anbara and her father, once members of the Turkish royal court, have fled the collapse of the Ottoman empire to start a new life in Berlin.

Years earlier Asiadeh had been engaged to a Turkish prince, but now, under the spell of the West, the nineteen-year-old Muslim girl falls in love and marries a Viennese doctor, an unbeliever.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.71
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: January 21st 2003 by Anchor
  • Isbn10: 140003082X
  • Isbn13: 9781400030828

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In The Girl from the Golden Horn, Kurban Said (and the Austrian baroness who seems to deserve at least a co-authorship on his books) articulates a beautiful alternative to these reductive, essentializing ideas with a much more nuanced portrayal of what identity and cross-cultural interaction really mean, and what, underneath all the surface complaints, are the real problems of cross-cultural interaction. Achmed Pasha mostly just sits around in a coffee house brooding on his lost life and refusing various job offers and urgings to plead for clemency and return to Turkey, while his daughter Asiadeh studies Turkish languages at a local university. Interestingly, although she studies these languages in order to maintain a connection to her Turkish past, her father finds these languages "barbaric" and hasn't the slightest idea that they are the words of his own distant ancestors. It is a fairly heavy handed symbol that Asiadeh understands, really, what it means to be an Ottoman better than her father, but I let it pass because the use of language here is just beautifully wrought. We do get some of his perspective as well, seeing how his mind works- his mind operates with the same sort of incomphrensible jargon that Asiadeh's focuses on, with each of them talking at each other entirely in words that the other doesn't have much hope of understanding, with little break throughs of connection in between. One or the other of them is usually happy because the other one has given in to the way they would prefer to do things, and the moments where they are both simultaneously happy and think that this is because of love are some of the most comical in the book. For instance, while the two are on their honeymoon in Sarajevo (where Asiadeh insisted that they go so that Hassa could reconnect with his Muslim roots- he is now a vaguely Christian rationalist) they meet a holy dervish, who everyone thinks is about to die. All of these things she finds a way to adapt to, until she finds an important line to her that cannot be crossed- like when one of Hassa's friends tries to make out with her at a party and she scratches him up to fend him off. (She's even more pissed when Hassa not only doesn't kill him, he tells her she's a "savage" for reacting the way she did.) Said shows us that what really matters is our inner hardwiring, the structure of our thinking. Asiadeh has to spend this entire book questioning them and trying to preserve something of the world she grew up in while living in what she would have a few short years ago, considered the world of "unbelievers".