Winner of the inaugural EBRD Literature Prize 2018
Istanbul is a city of a million cells, and every cell is an Istanbul unto itself.
Below the ancient streets of Istanbul, four prisoners – Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber and Uncle Küheylan – sit, awaiting their turn at the hands of their wardens. When they are not subject to unimaginable violence, the condemned tell one another stories about the city, shaded with love and humour, to pass the time. Quiet laughter is their balm, delivered through parables and riddles. Gradually, the prisoners’ underground narrative turns into a narrative of Istanbul itself, and we discover there is as much suffering and hope in the city above-ground as there is in the cells below.
Translated into more than twenty languages, this is a profoundly moving novel about the transformative power of words in times of desperation.