by Özgür Uyanik
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Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 15 Jul 2020
Enter Anonymous, a middle-ranking artist rolling between minor shows in New York, London and Istanbul. With his career sliding into obscurity, shamefully forced to consider advertising work to make ends meet, he knows he must break new ground if he is to survive.
With his mother's encouragement, he decides upon his next work of art: an act of self-violation so outrageous, so horrific, the art world will be forced to take notice. But will it be enough to raise him to the ranks of the elite?
Conception is the journey of a sociopath who will do whatever it takes to get ahead; a dark comedy exploring who and what determines the value of art.
A Note From the Publisher
***Warning*** This work contains scenes of rape which may be upsetting for some readers.
‘…a searingly witty and perceptive novel, offering a cutting vision of the contemporary art world.’ — Dr Kate North, Author and Reader in Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
‘Özgür Uyanık’s debut novel sizzles with subversive humour and macabre energy.’ — Richard Gwyn, Poet and novelist.
‘Uyanık will have you grinding your teeth, reaching for your dictionary, wincing and laughing.’ — Dr Dan Anthony, Author, scriptwriter and lecturer in Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University
Average rating from 13 members
Conception was a very different and interesting read. I thought the idea worked well, and the story kept me guessing at every turn as I wondered exactly how things would pan out for the narrator and his eccentric venture. The story flowed nicely and the prose was quick and easy reading, despite the subject matter. This is probably not a story for the fainthearted; it certainly won't appeal to everyone. But I found it deeply engaging, probably because I like characters who are a darker and stranger and less the matinee-hero type. It's certainly a thought-provoking work, so I recommend it to readers who like their humour on the blacker side.
Rating - 4.25 out of 5 stars
Conception by Özgür Uyanık is a story about an average but an ambitious artist who is trying to make a name for himself in the world of art but his passion for art is affecting his career financially. He is considering working in advertising to survive but with his mother’s constant encouragement to not fall into the trap of the conventional world, he decides to do something unimaginably outrageous to shake the art world.
Narrated by an unnamed and unreliable protagonist, conception is a story about what art is and how differently it is perceived by everyone. Our narrator is a narcissist and a sociopath, and he has told this story with minute observations and dark humor in a way that I was surprised at how someone could be so self-absorbed and pretentious that he fails to see the truth. He just wants recognition, no matter the price.
I think his constant struggle with finding his identity, personally and professionally, his fathers’ avoidance and his mothers’ obsession had a lot to do with his personality and it was riveting to read the story with his perspective. We also get to see how difficult it is to make a name for yourself in the art world and to get your art out to the world.
I don’t want to spoil it for you but I was shocked when our protagonist revealed his next groundbreaking work of art. I mean the details thereafter were so visual and gruesome, to begin with, that I had to take a minute to contemplate what was happening and I never ever thought that I would read something like it. The book definitely has a gripping storyline with beautiful writing, I had to use the dictionary in almost every other page but it was an absolutely engaging and thought-provoking piece of work.
Trigger Warnings - Gore, Self-harm, and abuse
Should he follow his calling or do something that pays the rent? Our main character doesn’t waver and fully pursues art to the pleasure of his mom who tells him to be hugely ambitious and the displeasure of his dad who tells him not to bother because he’ll never make it.
Conception deals with the question of what art is and what it means to be a person – artist – that pursues art. Where does ethics come in? With the main character, we explore Istanbul and London. He is stuck between two worlds and doesn’t fully belong to either east or west because he was taken from his place of birth (Turkey) and dropped in a foreign country (England) at a young age. He has a very sarcastic worldview that is not necessarily unrealistic.
You get to know the main character very well – both his strengths and flaws, despite not knowing his name. I like the train of thought leading to the moment of conception of his next artwork (the evil milk!). His thoughts are hilarious at times (in a morbid way), especially the analogies he comes up with, even though they are often quite offensive.
Özgür Uyanık uses a flowery language: if it can be said in many words, why use short sentences? The main character’s thoughts show his self-mockery and criticism, his sadism but also his ambition and spirit. At times it feels like a rant because nearly every single sentence contains a judgment of himself, other people, or historical events.
The writing style is not for everyone; the sentences are often long and demand your full attention if you want to follow the train of thought and understand the references. It is energy consuming, but also more rewarding as the fun is in the connections the main character makes in his mind.
Conception is a thought-provoking and interesting read. All along I was curious about the steps the main character would take next to realize his ambitions. I felt supportive of him, in a slightly disapproving way. He challenges society – both ethics and cultural norms – and shows great resilience and drive to bring his conception to life.
As for your thoughts on the book, to quote the main character: “Your mind will submit to the spectacle of my utter conviction that what I have produced demands nothing less than your unflinching gaze of admiration or, failing that, repulsion.”
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