Why do we keep secrets and why do we confess them? The nine tales in this collection, all told in the first person, are each spun around a well-kept secret, willingly or inadvertently confessed. Sometimes the secrets are at the core of the narrator’s life, other times they appear tangential. Regardless of the magnitude of its burden, the confession finds its way to the reader, through a story told perhaps over a cup of tea, in the pages of a journal or within the intimacy of the narrator’s mind. Would stories mean as much to us if they did not remind us of our own secrets and regrets, our stolen moments, our ecstatic failures and sad joys?
The stories are confessions of intimate events or desires: marital infidelities, betrayal of friendship, crimes including murderous thoughts and actual acts of murder as well as the painful words of those who consider themselves superior directed at those of lesser financial means who perform necessary tasks for them. The narrators are women and men. They all remain active in their own lives dealing with what has been dealt to them.
Most of the stories are set outside of North America, particularly in Turkey, so they have a fresh cultural aspect at the same time as they convey the commonality of human greed, betrayal and heartbreak. The author keeps a dark current running through the stories while at the same time relaying the ordinary, even a matter-of-factness, sometimes with a touch of humour or self-conscious irony. The reader is compelled to find out how a situation is resolved. Sometimes the results are tragic. Other times the events become an undercurrent or a road not taken in what is otherwise a satisfying life.
Loren Edizel was born in Izmir, Turkey and has lived in Canada most of her life. The Ghosts of Smyrna was published in Turkey in 2008 by Senocak Yayinlari (trans. Roza Hakmen) and then published in Canada under the same title in 2013. Her 2011 novel, Adrift, published in 2011, was longlisted for the ReLit Awards in 2012. She lived in Montreal for over 20 years. She currently lives in Toronto.
"Loren Edizel’s writing hums with rich undertones of history, of vanished worlds that live once again through her voice. Alive with a sense of time and place, these poignant tales open our hearts to the painful truth of what it is to be human."
- Carole Giangrande, author of Midsummer and A Gardener on the Moon
I was a teenager the last time I saw Fatma. I had just returned home for my summer vacation after my first year of university and she had come to visit us with her two children. One was a small boy of three or four, the other one still a baby. We sat in the living room of our cottage, facing the bay of Izmir while she changed the baby’s diaper on the sofa. It
was one of those searing July days when the lodos blows down from the mountains, making the air dry and the sea, icy cold. She was wearing a sleeveless lilac dress with ever-growing sweat stains under her armpits and milk leakage over her breasts. It had taken god knows how many dolmus minibuses to finally get to Kalabak from where she lived. I watched her
pick up her baby and place him on her left side, so that he could look around over her shoulder. His head was bobbing as she rocked around the room patting his back to prevent possible wails while at the same time telling her little boy to sit still and behave, which he was already doing. In fact, he spent his time mostly looking at his toes until he was told to run along and play with the sand. At that point, he furtively got up and went to the beach where he gingerly crouched so as not to dirty his immaculate shorts and sandals. Fatma, whom I always called Fatosh, placed her finally sleeping baby on a bed in a room. When she came back, her face was harsh. “Do you have a fiancé?” She asked me, frowning. I smiled and said, “No, but I’m going out with someone.”
“No!” she shouted, alarmed. “No! Don’t ever get married. Listen to me. You’re going to school, you’ll get a job, why marry? Don’t let men near you.” Her eyes were wide open; she looked so exasperated she could hit me.
“You’re not happy, Fatosh?” I asked furtively.
“No. I was stupid. I was so happy here with you all, and I didn’t know it. Now, I’m sorry every single day. Men are awful. All of them. They’re animals. You stay away from them, you hear?”
—from “The Imam’s Daughter”