The Seagulls’ Wedding

Author: Merih Günay
Language: English

This short novel is set in the Istanbul of the 2000’s, a world where the lives of ordinary law-abiding people are turned upside down by terrorism, earthquakes, wars and macro-economic financial crises. It is a world where people have forgotten to act like human beings and only look after themselves.

In the words of the hero himself, in the space of one month he has “lost his father, gone bankrupt, had his goods and chattels taken away from him, lost his home, been treated like a pervert, almost died of hunger and been abandoned by his family”.

Our hero has opened a gift shop in the historic part of Istanbul, after years of hard, soul-destroying labor in hotels where he has been at the beck and call of unscrupulous, penny-pinching employers. The father he loses has spent most of his miserable life working long hours in similarly appalling conditions and the situation of the distant relative who pays him an unexpected visit and sees his abandoned, bankrupt state is little different.

Alienation and lovelessness are other underlying themes of this short novel. In it we see close family members who scarcely speak to each other, wives deserting their husbands and husbands deserting their wives and a funeral attended by a mere handful of people. There is ingratitude, too, in the actions of the hero as he pursues the beautiful Natalie, turning his back emotionally on her kindhearted but plain sister.

Among the constantly recurring themes in “The Seagulls’ Wedding” are the effects of privatisation and government cuts on the lives of working men with families to support and the terrible guilt they feel when they cannot bring home enough money to pay the bills, a guilt which in some cases drives them to become vagrants. Children are forced to drop out of school and take up menial work just so that families can make ends meet.

Although the main character is somewhat unlikeable, this is an engaging story of his Don Quixote-like approach to life.

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