Madonna in a Fur Coat

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

The day after I got this earc I got the Italian version, my language ,and I loved it so so much it has become one of my fave books of the year!
Was this review helpful?
'It is, perhaps, easier to dismiss a man whose face gives no indication of an inner life. And what a pity that is: a dash of curiosity is all it takes to stumble upon treasures we never expected.'

The story of a young Turkish student who falls in love with a girl in a painting, and begins one of the most beautiful love stories ever written. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and believe that this is the sort of writing that we rarely see anymore as twenty-first century readers, one where the author has taken care of every word they write and thought about the meaning of each syllable. This kind of craftsmanship in literature is a skill that is lacking in that of more recent texts, and it is something that should be adopted by new writers and set as an example of a beautiful piece of reading material. Although slow towards the beginning, it is worth pushing through as you are portrayed with no cliches, but instead two deeply flawed humans who find each other and fall in love. The book is able to show how every person feels when they enter a new relationship, meaning that as the reader we are able to connect with and relate to every thought and feeling that the two main characters experience. The structure of the novel is fascinating , jumping between protagonists and using it's layout to display the cultural differences in lifestyle and landscape, as well as a unorthodox approach to the conclusion of this grand love epic. Altogether a fantastic read and worth anybody's time. Enjoy.
Was this review helpful?
Not really my kind of book, but it was short and mostly interesting. The translation was very easy to read. More interesting once we got into Raif's diary.
Was this review helpful?
Cried for a good while after finishing this.

I felt such despair reading the first 25% of this book that I almost gave up on finishing it. It reeked of ennui and meaningless sadness; but see, what I didn't know then was that it was not meaningless, it was very purposefully made so by the author, because as the story unfolds and especially how it ends, you're sobbing, because now it all makes sense. 

As the blurbs suggest - this is an unforgettable love story. I rooted for the couple and my god, how I cried. What I'm saying is: this story is beautiful. It alludes to stoicism and how it isn't helpful in the long run, and how a deep meaningful connection with someone can be unbelievably glorious, when found during one's life.
Was this review helpful?
A wonderful historical fiction set in the heart of 1920s Berlin. It's one man's story of life and a longing to belong in the German capital between the two wars.
Was this review helpful?
Madonna in a Fur Coat is well written with a kind of quiet intensity underlying the straight forward but meticulously chosen prose which I really liked. But what can I say, I lack a taste for romance like this-full of I always knew, I could never engage with the world again, let me sacrifice all my life's happiness for this one, etc which always feels like a weight of depression than grand romance to me. I'll happily read something else by Ali though, that prose was so good!
Was this review helpful?
“Life is a game that is only played once, and I lost. There is no second chance...”

If I were to review this in just a line I'd say: A platonic re-imagining of Venus in Furs in a typical romantic recipe: a sad character, a bit of unrequited love, a tragic love story, there's no life left after a tragic love. 
I am not fond of the bleak outlook on love of the Romanticism and that should have put me off, but Sabahattin Ali was a clever guy and by the time I've found out what was all about, he tricked me into feeling quite deeply about Raif. He really compelled me into caring very much about his character, about his life and the why behind his behaviour. I wanted to fight Raif's battles for him, I wanted to shelter him and slap his family, if possible. I wanted Raif to be happy, to stand up for himself once and for all! Finding out about his lost love should have made me judges him very harsh, almost hate Raif, but by the end of the book I still wished him some happiness.(PS: I might have even shed a tear or two for him :p) : “For even the most wretched and simple-minded man could be a surprise, even a fool could have a soul whose torments were a constant source of amazement. Why are we so slow to see this, and why do we assume that it is the easiest thing in the world to know and judge another?”
Was this review helpful?
Set in 1920s Berlin, this is the story of a lonely Turkish man who befriends an artist and cabaret artist, Maria Puder.  The two share a passionate but short lived friendship.  The novel is compelling and recommended.
Was this review helpful?
I was quite surprised by this book, as what I thought the book would be like, based on the synopsis, was not at all what it was like. Having said that, I did enjoy it very much. A modernist novella by Turkish author Sabahattin Ali, it focuses on the mysterious and ultimately doomed love affair between Raif, a young man who has come to Berlin to further his family fortunes in the soap business, and his enigmatic Madonna in a Fur Coat. It sums up the decadence and furious sadness of Berlin between the wars in a more melancholy way than Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, but I was constantly reminded of it as I was reading. Sweet, sad and elegiac.
Was this review helpful?
How happy I am that this beautiful story was translated into English after all this time! I often think about the many potentially life-changing books I will never be able to discover or even read because of language barriers, and it's a thought that makes me indescribably sad. But here it is! Taking place in Berlin during the 1920s and in Ankara of the following decades, featuring a shy male protagonist who falls in love with a painting, and the artist who gives new meaning to his life - what more could I ask for? The Turkish classic of my dreams!

I could hardly summarize the plot without giving away all of it, as to be honest there is little plot to begin with, but in any case it's that profoundly romantic philosophy that pushed me on through the pages. All the while, every strange train of thought made sense, and I felt deeply attached to the characters, perhaps because of my own migration background and my personal nostalgia for the jazz age that reaches beyond the known Western image of its glamour.

Despite it being a story inside a story - a literary device that I'm getting increasingly sick of in historical fiction - I enjoyed Madonna in a Fur Coat as I have enjoyed only few novels from the early 20th century. In fact, I marvelled at the progressive ideas Sabahattin Ali managed to put into beautiful, beautiful words, and at the many feminist notions that left me pleasantly surprised.

There are so many precious quotes that the author left us in this work alone and that are surely going to keep me awake tonight. I'm afraid that for the first time in my life I'll have to pick up a neon pen and mark the most beautiful passages in a physical book copy to return to on bleak Sunday afternoons. I hope with all my heart that this beautiful novel is going to be a success with its newly-found audience!
Was this review helpful?
Although it's written as a modern classic, Madonna in a Fur Coat reads as quick as anything. I found myself so rapt by the story of Raif Enferli and his relationship with Maria Puder. The way this book steadily focuses on a blossoming relationship is beautifully constructed and very intriguing. I found the switch between Raif dying and his past very interesting but slightly disjointed when it didn't return or switch back again. I enjoyed Raif's innocent perspective but found him overshadowed by the huge character of Maria Puder. Though Raif was the main character, he was clearly the eyes and ears of Maria and I found it hard to fully engage with Raif. At the end of the novel, I found myself grieving for Maria and Raif and their child. I believe this novel is not for everyone but I certainly loved it.
Was this review helpful?
This is a magical novel about a Turkish man who falls in love with a portrait of a lady, set in 1920s Berlin. Whilst brilliantly evocative of the time and the people who lived in it, this novel as a whole failed to enrapture my attention and capture my emotions. The slow start may have put me in a disposition to disallow this novel to fully appeal to me, as it did improve in pace from the beginning portion but I was still no more inclined to this novel once it had done so.
Was this review helpful?
Originally published in Turkey in 1943, Sabahattin Ali's Madonna in a Fur Coat is still a national bestseller.  Ali was 'one of the most influential Turkish authors of the twentieth century', and his most famous novel, Madonna in a Fur Coat, which is a 'classic of love and longing in a changing world', is now available for the first time in English.

Madonna in a Fur Coat takes as its focus a young Turkish man, who moves to Berlin in the 1920s in order to learn a trade.  A chance meeting with a woman in the city 'will haunt him for the rest of his life'.  Its blurb calls it 'emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric and touchingly profound'.  Madonna in a Fur Coat opens in a manner which both coolly beguiles and intrigues: 'Of all the people I have chanced upon in life, there is no one who has left a greater impression.  Months have passed but still Raif Efendi haunts my thoughts.  As I sit here alone, I can see his honest face, gazing off into the distance, but ready, nonetheless, to greet all who cross his path with a smile.  Yet he was hardly an extraordinary man'.  The narrator then recounts Raif's story, which is given to him in the form of a rather sensual diary beginning in 1933, when Raif lays upon his deathbed.

Raif is the German translator who is employed by the same company as the narrator in Ankara; the pair share an office.  He soon becomes fascinated by Raif and his disinterest; he keeps himself to himself, and evades questions about his personal life.  This very mystery acts as something akin to a magnet.  The narrator goes to visit him when he is absent from work due to illness, and finds that his home life, spent in an overcrowded and cramped house, is far from pleasant and desirable: 'Though it was Raif Efendi who bore the cost of all this, it made no difference to him if he was present or absent.  Everyone in the family, from the oldest to the youngest, regarded him as irrelevant.  They spoke to him about their daily needs and money problems, and nothing else.'  The familial relationship, as well as the tentative friendship which unfolds between both men, are both built well, and are thus rendered believable in consequence.

The translation, which has been carried out in tandem by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, is effective.   Ali's prose is more often than not beautifully wrought, and is sometimes quite profound: 'It is, perhaps, easier to dismiss a man whose face gives no indication of an inner life.  And what a pity that is: a dash of curiosity is all it takes to stumble upon treasures we never expected.'  The narrative voice has such a clarity, and certainly a lot of realism, to it.

One of the most important elements of this novella is the way in which Ali displays both Turkish and German history, politics, and culture, particularly with regard to the ways in which both countries altered following the First World War.  The mystery at the heart of the novel certainly kept me interested.  Madonna in a Fur Coat is really rather touching, and reminded me a little of Stefan Zweig.  There is something about it, however, which makes it entirely its own.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Netgalley I was given the opportunity to read and review this beautiful book, written in Turkey in 1941 and translated now to English.

What can I say about Raif Efendi's story that doesn't sound lame and can actually do justice to the strength of his love and his commitment to the woman he loved for a few months, for the rest of his life? This was a story that resonated deeply inside me, because at many levels I related to this shy and introvert man, full of deep thoughts and a rich inner life that he struggled to reveal to the outer world. 

All of his life people misunderstood him and sold him short, just because he retreated inside his head and was unable to communicate in a strong way. However, he had a rich past, full of hopes and dreams, that he had shared with no one, and that at some point in his life were a promise for a life that could have turned out quite different. 

Beautiful and sad, this book that was written in Turkey in 1941 could actually have been written today, anywhere in the world, and it's a rare gem. 

Recommended to everyone who has ever loved, or will ever love.
Was this review helpful?
Ok, this is another of those books that I requested based on the strength of the cover and the title. I can’t say that I loved Madonna in a Fur Coat but I can appreciate certain things about the story. The whole bait and switch of protagonists was in interesting twist. Along with the mysterious nature of Marie and the unending yearning of Reif made the story romantic and certainly of its period.

Whilst Madonna in a Fur Coat certainly has positives it is not something I would normally read.

Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali is available now.

For more information regarding Penguin Classics (@classicpenguins) please visit www.penguinclassics.co.uk.
Was this review helpful?
Madonna in a Fur Coat is a the story of a love affair between a shy Turkish man and a freedom-loving artist in Berlin in the 1920s. When a man slowly becomes friends with his new colleague Raif Efendi, he doesn’t realise that soon he will read Raif’s notebook and discover how the man knows German and what makes him seem so serious. First published in Turkey in the 1940s, Sabahattin Ali’s novel has now been translated into English so this tale of yearning and belonging can be read by a new audience.

Through a framing narrator who finds a job out of desperation and gets drawn into the story of his new colleague, the novel tells the narrative of Raif Efendi, a Turkish man who leaves his native country to study and discover who he is in Germany in the 1920s. His notebook tells his tale, from his sense of isolation in the world to the chance encounter in an art exhibition that will consume his life. The novel is mostly about inner feelings and the tiny steps of an unconventional love affair with a woman who values her freedom and has no time for the way women are mostly treated at that point. The main characters are eccentric and vivid, forming a concise and enjoyable piece of literary fiction with a meditative core.
Was this review helpful?
This is a very literary novel that tells a bittersweet story of unrequited love set in 1920s Berlin. Our protagonist is a shy young Turkish man who understands life through art, primarily books. He falls in love with a painting then the artist and the story follows the development of this love affair to which the object of his desire can never fully commit herself.

Beneath this romantic  tale is a meditation on loneliness and intimacy, on what it means to open oneself up to other people and the costs and joys of doing so. It also contemplates art as both a means of connection and communication as well as a barrier or substitute for personal interaction.
Was this review helpful?