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Ali and Ramazan by Perihan Magden
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Ali and Ramazan (2010)

by Perihan Magden

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Ramazan has known no other life than that as an orphan living in an orphanage in Istanbul. He is a confident, charismatic and beautiful boy, looked up to by his peers among whom he has his favourites, but he soon moves on. That is until Ali arrives at the orphanage - there is something about this big, good looking country boy that captivates Ramazan, and instead of tiring of him after a few months as he would with other boys he realises he is in love with Ali, and feeling that is reciprocated. From then on they are inseparable, that is until it is time at the age of eighteen for them to leave the orphanage. With a year between them they do not leave together, nor are they conscripted into the army at the same time, yet they endure the separation and get together again as soon as they have both served their country. But they are unprepared for life, and while their love never diminishes the difficulties of living as growing men takes its toll and will ultimately lead to tragedy.

The novel is based on a true story, and I was expecting great things of it, yet I felt let down. The two boys are likeable yet I felt I never really got to know or understand them, it all seemed to be very much on the surface. Neither did the writing engage me, how much of this is down to the translation I cannot say, but it seemed very clipped, a great many short or very short sentences that hindered any fluent reading. As for the story I found myself at times losing patience, again due mainly to the way it is related, and it all became very depressing. But much as I liked the two protagonists I was never moved by any of the misfortunes that befell them, and this surely indicates that the writer (or translator) failed to make them live.

One thing did touch me though, and I encountered the same issue recently in another book, and that is the injustice of releasing boys from an orphanage as soon as they reach the age of eighteen totally unprepared for the world and without any support whatsoever. It is clearly a recipe or disaster, and if such things continue today hopefully this novel will help draw attention to the issue, and for this point alone I have given it an otherwise too generous three stars. ( )
  presto | May 8, 2012 |
Ali and Ramazan is a love story between two orphans in contemporary Istanbul. Ali is an Arab boy who is placed in a state-run orphanage at a young age after the violent deaths of his parents. Ali is depressed and has a lasting memory and desire to be back living with his deceased mother. Ramazan was abandoned by his familily as an infant, and no one knows the names of his parents or their background. Ali is large and timid while Ramazan is average in size but large in personality and charisma. Ramazan takes on a role of rough guide for the bewildered and psychologically damaged Ali. He gives the trusting Ali a seemingly hard time and the large boy calls him "boss." This uneasy relationsip reminded me of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

The story unfolds in the orphanage in filthy conditions and with limited provisions. This is largely the fault of the administrator who lives as a tyrant with his family. "Master" is an abusive husband and a pedophile, but Ramazan has learned to use his attractiveness to gain favors from the administrator. He hates himself for it but has sex with and manipulates the alcoholic man. Ali is comforted by Ramazan's leadership over himself and the other boys in the orphanage, but is jealous of his sexual relations with the Master.

Over time, Ali and Ramazan become lovers at the initiative of the smaller boy. Both seem to increase in beauty as they develop, and the other boys leave them alone due to Ali's growing physical strength and Ramazan's dominant personality. Time goes by slowly in the orphanage but the turning point approaches when both boys reach the age of 18 and are turned out into the mean streets of Istanbul. Ramazan is a year older and is turned out first. He has developed skills that he uses for male prostitution because of his relationship with Master who has remained drunkenly obsessed with the charismatic boy.

Ramazan has a break from grubbing a mean and self-loathing existence in the streets when he is drafted for a year of service in the Turkish Army. He uses is superficial charm to get a cushy job in the military as a waiter and gets employment as a waiter after discharge. This is not exciting or lucrative enough for Ramazan and he becomes a full time prostitute. Ali is turned out of the orphanage at 18 and enters the Army as a grunt because of his size and willingness to follow all orders.

The more difficult part of the story continues after Ali is discharged when he and Ramazan and another ex-orphan adult live in a hovel of a room in Istanbul. Ali's depression has never left him and he seeks solace in inhalants and alcohol. Ramazan becomes even more prolific in his sexual behavior for money. The love between the two men is challenged by their independent self-destructive actions, but it persists in a beautiful and lasting separate peace to the end of the story.

Based on a true story appearing in a newspaper article,Perihan Magden has written a lyrical account of dire circumstances given meaning by unshakable mutually dependent love of one man for another. This is a very good novel, and I recommend it to all readers even though the subject matter is often disturbing. The gritty survival in orphanage and streets is counterbalanced by an indestructible love and mutual dependence. ( )
  GarySeverance | Apr 3, 2012 |
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"Ali und Ramazan wachsen zusammen in einem Waisenhaus in Istanbul auf. Aus der spontanen Zuneigung entwickelt sich eine Liebe ebenso zärtlich wie grausam. Als sie mit 18 Jahren in eine ungewisse Zukunft entlassen werden, gibt ihnen nur diese Liebe Kraft. Doch der Traum vom Glück zu zweit währt nicht lang. Ramazan, der für beider Unterhalt sorgt, gleitet ab in die Welt der Stricher, während Ali seine Eifersucht mit Drogen und dem Schnüffeln von Lösungsmitteln betäubt. Eine Katastrophe bahnt sich an … Der neue Roman der türkischen Bestseller-Autorin: eine dramatische schwule Liebesgeschichte aus dem modernen Istanbul, beruhend auf einer wahren Begebenheit. Erschütternd, ergreifend und packend." --Buchumschlag
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Two young boys who grew up in a Turkish orphanage must rely on each other in order to survive the mean streets of Istanbul.

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