Asian studies in Lithuania
Original language: Turkish
Translated from: English
Authors: Shafak, Elif
Translated by: Žalytė-Steiblienė, Danguolė
ISBN: 9786094662140
Published in: Vilnius
Published on: 2017
Publisher: Tyto alba

Elif Shafak is titled as one of the most famous and prominent writers in Turkey. The author of the book “The Architect’s apprentice” explicitly and vividly describes various places, scents and people of Turkey and India. The book also mentions life experiences and hardships of the main characters. All of this helps to delve into the ages of 16th century’s Ottoman Empire. According to the author, the idea of ​​the book started developing quite spontaneously: whilst driving through Istanbul, and seeing an old Mulu Chelebi mosque built by the famous Turkish architect Mimar Sinan. Although the book is based on historical facts, some of the details have been slightly altered to fit the writer’s story.

The writing style of the novel is a little bit disrupted because the flow of the narrative is inconsistent. The story begins when a young Indian guy Jahan, being led by curiosity, falls into a brutal conspiracy happening in the Istanbul’s sultanate. Then, in the middle of the plot the story jumps to another place, leaving a so-called cliffhanger. The story transfers onto the architect Sinan, of whom Jahan was one of the four apprentices’. Once the man arrived at the exact same place, where the frightened boy was hiding, he immediately was dragged in the epicenter of the conspiracy. After meeting each other, the story shifts and moves to the past so that the reasons behind Jahan’s and his pet elephant’s arrival to Turkey could be clarified. The story goes on, when Jahan gets fascinated with the sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. After these feelings emerge, the guy has an opportunity to contribute not only to the creation of the Mihrimah’s Mosque but also many other majestic buildings. Sadly, the story did not escalate that well all the time. There were certain times when war and natural disasters struck the main characters world. The book is packed with a variety of adventures, but the main theme mentioned and described until the very is the story of the forbidden love between the architect’s apprentice and daughter of the sultan.

The book describes and mentions many different characters, but the most memorable were the protagonists: apprentice Jahan and architect Sinan.

Jahan is a caring, smart and brave guy. Though, his endless curiosity and desire to understand the surrounding world has gotten him into some trouble and caused various inconveniences. Jahan had one and only true friend. It was a white elephant by the name Chiota. Their friendship dated all the way back to Jahan’s childhood. The boy had to pretend as an animal tamer before coming to Turkey. The story reveals the protagonists desire to help protect his pet elephant from illness, war and murder attempts. Even though, Chota was not very influential in the sstoryline, close ties and friendship with Jahan managed to brighten the story with more colors.

The old architect Sinan is described as a wise, industrious, modest and full-fledged man. The architect is not afraid to say goodbye to the works he already created, because he could always come up with something new instead. However, the works of Sinan caused controversial feelings for sultans because they believed that some buildings were incompatible with the god Allah.

The book has many other minor character: the animal tamers with whom Jahan was living with, sultans, captains, traders, fellow apprentices yet none of which had a major significance to the stories of plot. Nevertheless, Balaban, a gypsy group leader, stood out. He was answering various Jahan’s philosophical questions and, if necessary, turned his helping hand. Although, the character was not mentioned often, meetings with him were quite memorable.

There are many untranslated terms used in this book from respectful ways of addressing to others to the glorification of God all of which give the narrative more authenticity.

The book also highlights today’s problems, such as social inequality, human exploitation, lack of empathy.

The author had to alter some historical facts so that the mentioned characters and their lives would align with the imagined plot. I think this book is worth reading because of the interesting plot, unusual characters and a wonderful storyline. The book contains large amounts of exquisite descriptions which help to create an indelible image of 16th century’s Istanbul. ” The Architects apprentice” will surely be interesting for people who are keen about the history of ancient civilizations and middle east.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU