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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Tahsin Yücel

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To purchase Skyscraper

Title: Skyscraper
Author: Tahsin Yücel
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 230 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: Skyscraper - US
Skyscraper - UK
Skyscraper - Canada
Skyscraper - India
Gratte-ciel - France
  • Turkish title: Gökdelen
  • Translated by Ender Gürol

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Our Assessment:

B : parts too simplistic, but decent socio-political satire

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Skyscraper is set in Turkey in 2073, but -- as these things often are -- is as much a critique of present-day Turkey as a futuristic vision. So too the opening scene finds the protagonist, successful lawyer Can Teczan, unmoored, unable to remember what year it is, his mind wandering to significant dates from the past.
       Author Yücel does not put much effort into describing a changed world in 2073: the only major technological advance that appears are spaceshuttles -- cars in the sky, more or less -- and only some environmental changes are mentioned: the only insects left on earth are horseflies, cats are (practically) extinct in Turkey, the idea that one could swim in the polluted sea seen as lunacy. The population has also grown increasingly urbanized, and one of the projects that plays a significant role in the story is Can's client Temel Diker's ambition to try to: "convert Istanbul into another New York", with row after row after row of skyscrapers making for: "an inimitable city of skyscrapers".
       Living and working far above street-level -- both his home and offices are around the 100th-floor-level -- former Marxist Can has lost touch with down-to-earth reality: "you are not in this country", as someone tells him. Among much else, he's unaware of the existence of 'castaways', large tribes of people foraging in the land outside the privatized zones and cities -- and finds it hard to believe they exist when he's told about them.
       Temel enlists Can's help in trying to get even more skyscraper-projects underway (as well as pet projects such as a Turkish Statue of Liberty towering over Istanbul). Among the small irritants in the way -- but one that really bothers Temel -- is one lone holdout who clings to his house and won't sell out, preventing Temel from fulfilling his vision. Can helps Temel out but then also has a grander idea: since everything in Turkey has been privatized, why not also the one final frontier:

What is there to prevent justice from being privatized as well ?
       And so he sets about lobbying for the judicial system to be privatized. Much like the hasty privatization of the post-Soviet states, as well as in Turkey at the end of the twentieth century, so too this harebrained idea is far too quickly made reality. Soon the Turkish Basic Law Partnership Corporation (TBLPC) -- whose major investors are all foreign companies -- has made the winning bid and is set to take over Turkish justice. Can, of course, runs it -- and soon runs into problems the one-/some-time idealist had not foreseen, such as the Prime Minister still wanting to have some say over who gets to dispense justice. (The Prime Minister is a nicely portrayed comic figure, who likes to remind people of who he is, repeatedly noting: "My name is Melvut Doğan", as if that alone were enough to end any argument.)
       Corruption is endemic, of course, and the powers that be have all the power. Can makes a private and secret agreement with the Prime Minister but finds that even here the Prime Minister has an upper hand that Can can never compete with.
       It all makes for an odd mix of a critique of globalization, privatization, and contemporary Turkish politics, allegory, and novel of both personal and larger social struggles. In making all the major characters, including Can, Temel, and even the Prime Minister, flawed but also at least in part sympathetic Yücel does manage to avoid making the novel simply preachy. The story is a bit thin -- or rather over-stretched, given how much happens -- and much is too simplistic, but that also helps keep the novel from bogging down in detail. Skyscraper does manage to be quite entertaining, and while it isn't entirely convincing in its criticism it at least lands a good number of small punches.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 March 2014

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Skyscraper: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Turkish author Tahsin Yücel was born in 1933.

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© 2014 the complete review

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