Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi
An Ottoman Novel
Ahmet Midhat Efendi
Translated from the Turkish by Melih Levi and Monica M. Ringer
Afterword by A. Holly Shissler
"A fascinating historical artefact...Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi by Ahmet Midhat Efendi is one of the earliest examples of the Ottoman novel and it is today seen by many as the representative work of its era"—Times Literary Supplement
"Midhat’s narrative is thoroughly and consistently irreverent—it is the kind of novel Czech author Milan Kundera would surely like because of its imperfections, unwavering innovations and hilarious blend of different types of writing."—Daily Sabah
"Almost a century and a half after its publication in Ottoman Turkish, Efendi’s short novel, Felatun Bey and Rakim Efendi, is still an enchanting read....A unique, entertaining and enlightening book."—The Jordan Times
"Ahmet Midhat, among other things, invented the East-West
novel, which later became a genre in Istanbul. This is his most
humorous, strange, and interesting book."—Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize–winning author of My Name Is Red
"Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi is a seminal work by one of the
most prolific first wave Tanzimat writers."—Iclal Vanwesenbeeck, associate professor of renaissance and
Middle Eastern literature, SUNY Fredonia
"One of the first novels written in Turkish. Lots of fun to read. Midhat dominated the literary scene in Istanbul towards the end of the nineteenth century. This is his most symptomatic novel about people caught
between two cultures, east and west."—Nüket Esen, Bogazici University
"Ahmet Midhat was the initiator and the
popularizer of the novel in Turkey. Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi illustrates the
author’s reformist zeal as the guardian of traditional morals and manners at a time of cultural and epistemological transition."—Jale Parla, Istanbul Bilgi University
Podcast: Translating the Ottoman Novel with Melih Levi
Ahmet Midhat Efendi (1844–1912) was a journalist, novelist, playwright, translator, and
social critic who authored more than two hundred original works. He wrote for and edited the
Tercümani Hakikat, the most influential and longest-running Ottoman newspaper.
Melih Levi received his BA from Amherst College, where he studied English literature.
Monica M. Ringer is professor of Middle Eastern history at Amherst College. She is the author
of Pious Citizens: Reforming Zoroastrianism in India and Iran.
Book Description »[Close »]
Ahmet Midhat Efendi’s famous 1875 novel Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi takes
place in late nineteenth-century Istanbul and follows the lives of two young men
who come from radically different backgrounds. Râkım Efendi is an erudite,
self-made man, one who is ambitious and cultivated enough to mingle with a
European crowd. In contrast, Felâtun Bey is a spendthrift who lacks intellectual
curiosity and a strong work ethic. Squandering his wealth and education, he
leads a life of decadence.
The novel traces Râkım and Felâtun’s relationships with multiple characters,
charting their romances and passions, as well as their foibles and amusing
mishaps as they struggle to find and follow their own path through the many
temptations and traps of European culture. The author creates a rich portrait of
stratified Ottoman life through a diverse and colorful cast of characters—from a
French piano teacher and an Arab nanny, to a Circassian slave girl—each deftly
navigating the shifting mores of their social class. Written during the Ottoman
Empire’s uneasy transition to modernity, the novel’s protagonists embody both
the best and worst elements of two worlds, European and Ottoman. The novel
provides readers with an elegant yet powerful appeal for progressive reforms
and individual freedoms. Levi and Ringer’s fluid translation of this Ottoman classic
stands as a landmark in the history of Turkish literature in translation.
View other series books on Middle East Literature in Translation.
6 x 9, 176 pages, notes