Istanbul Was A Fairy Tale
(İstanbul Bir Masaldı)
Mario Levi

This 804-page novel is a saga of an Istanbul Jewish family ranging over three generations. Like a witness or detective gathering evidence, the narrator walks the narrow streets of Istanbul's old ethnic neighborhoods, collecting 'fairy tales', the stories of its inhabitants, past and present, people who felt less and less at home in their own city, a story of the transformation of Istanbul from the ethnically diverse capital of the Ottoman Empire to the predominantly Turkish business hub of Republican Turkey, the Turkey created by Ataturk and Inonu. His efforts are those of a man attempting to piece together a puzzle into which he also has to insert himself in the end.
He collects numerous scenes and images-"old photographs"-but is never satisfied with the composite he reconstructs from them. As witness, observer and protagonist, he is at once inside and outside the story. Framing the story are a prologue in which the narrator sets out his purpose in narrating these tales, and an epilogue in the form of a letter to an anonymous recipient, in which the narrator , among other things, recounts a chance meeting in a cafe with a Doppelganger, who turns out to be himself as an old man.