Title: The Abode of Bliss — Ten Stories for Adam
Author: Alex Jeffers
Cover artist: n/a
Publisher: Lethe Press
Amazon: Buy Link The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam
Genre: Gay Fiction/Diverse
Length: 282 pages/92000 words
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This unusual book was superbly written and a great reading experience for me, but left me a little less satisfied than I was hoping for, which was completely my own fault
Explaining himself to himself and to the man he loves, Ziya tells Adam the stories of his life:
A bilingual childhood and youth in cosmopolitan Istanbul, city of the world’s desire, and the Aegean resort of Bodrum. A bewildering trip by ship and train and jet across Europe and the Atlantic to college in America, that strange and terrifying country. Friendships, passionate affairs, one-night stands, rape—a richly dissatisfying erotic education. A wedding, a death, an act of inexplicable violence—a meeting.
Intricate as Ottoman miniatures, Ziya’s stories reveal a world unsuspected: the world we live in.
Let me say this first and foremost. I have read a lot of books in my life — good, bad, excellent. This book is probably amongst the greatest books I have ever read, if I were to judge the book only by the level of writing talent which went into it.
First of all, while I have never heard about this author and never read any of his works (something I will definitely rectify soon), I am going to speculate and assume that he is not of Turkish decent. My speculation is based only on the fact that in the foreword he writes that “it is a conceit of this work that its composer is a Turk”. From this sentence I am assuming that the author is not a Turk. My apologies if I am incorrect, but if the author is not a Turk, the amount of research that went into drawing Ziya (the narrator) and delving into his head so deeply must have been humongous. I have absolutely no knowledge of what it means to be a Turk, and maybe persons of Turkish decent will not consider the portrayal of Ziya to be authentic enough, but to me it was amazing. The fact that author tells us in the beginning of the book about pronunciation of some letters in the Turkish alphabet, because some words will be used in the book; the explanations of some facts that he fictionalized for the purposes of the story; and the knowledge of how those facts really are — all of this leads me to believe that at the very least he made a very good faith effort to draw a realistic and multilayered character. Also, Turkey is portrayed so vividly that I felt that I visited it in my imagination. Every secondary character is full of life and very memorable.
The book, as the blurb tells us, are the stories which Ziya tells his lover Adam about his life. The stories are done chronologically, and while some of them were initially published separately, the book indeed reads like a novel, an account of Ziya’s life. We learn what shaped him to be the man he is now. The book asks questions about national identity, about what it means to accept religion and at the same time not to be a very religious man. It asks so many subtle questions that after two rereads I am still pretty sure I missed some of them. Are you still a person of your own identity, something that your history and religion wanted you to be when you sometimes dream in English because English had been your second language since you were very little? This book definitely made me think, and when Ziya travels across countries and continents to study in Harward, his homesickness felt so relatable to me. I mean, I had to stop and reread the passages over and over again because I was worried I missed stuff.
On one hand, it was an amazing reading experience, on another — and please believe me, when I say it (I feel really guilty saying it!) — at some point, it became just a little bit too much work for me when I stopped quite a few times to reread some pages and lessened my enjoinment of the book just a little bit. That was most likely my own limitation as an ESL speaker that made me freak out that I would miss something important about this book and should not influence your decision whether to read it or not. I guess I stressed myself out and probably unnecessary.
The only warning I want to issue is that the book is not romance. I did not go into the book expecting one, and want to make sure you will not either. There is a love story and we learn a little bit about Ziya’s beloved closer to the end of the book, but it is first and foremost the story of Ziya’s life, his relationship with his country, his family, his religion, his relationships with America and English language.