“Of the many things hidden from the knowledge of men, nothing is more unintelligible than the human heart.”
Homer, The Odyssey

“Death is a mystery and must always remain such.”
The Epic of Gilgamesh

Stone and Shadow, (330 pages), is Burhan Sönmez’s fifth novel (2021).

It is the story of Avdo, a tombstone craftsman, whose life tells the social history of modern Turkey. His life journey gets involved with many other lives that reflects different cultural backgrounds including Christians, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Turks, Kurds, Armenians. Avdo’s story starts in the city of Mardin as an orphan. He is being protected by an Assyrian man who teaches him the art of sculpting tombstones. He travels from city to city and comes across Elif, the only love of his life, in a small Anatolian village. Avdo’s dreams get shattered there when he has to kill two village men.

The story opens in the 1980’s, during the times of military coup, in Istanbul. The story-line constantly shifts between the past and future. Alongside the contemporary period, the story of different times like Ottoman era, and of different places in the Middle East and Europe eventually creates an encompassing historical map of many different societies. By moving from one scene to another, the story collects all fragments one by one to form a whole picture in the end.

Stone and Shadow has already taken place in the history of the novel as an important work… In the Turkish novel tradition, there is no writer who has done what Burhan Sönmez has done before… He creates his own original canon with his epic-modern narrative works… Burhan Sönmez is moving towards being the same for this country as Gabriel Garcia Marquez is for Colombia, Naguib Mahfouz is for Egypt, Mo Yan is for China.” (T24 news, 7 April 2021)

“Burhan Sönmez presents an original and very successful interpretation of magical realism with a language that captures humanity, friendship and beauty… The real achievement of Stone and Shadow is that its depth opens to multi-layered reading, and invites readers to reflect on universal themes such as life and death, lies and truth, love, friendship, sacrifice, rootlessness and suffering caused by war, violence and migration.” (Hürriyet newspaper, Book&Art supplement, 12 March 2021)

Stone and Shadow is an unofficial history of Turkey by Burhan Sonmez… It is a text with many windows and expanding with different viewpoints where the chronological time is broken and a dynamic structure is reached with zigzags… Although the novel follows an emotional route and proceeds on a romantic outline, Burhan Sönmez lays out the historical realities on the map of the time in the novel.” (Gazete Duvar, Book supplement, 22 March 2021)

“The main purpose of the novel is to try to remind once again all these forgotten and suppressed traumas with the power of literature. I would like to say that the meticulous plot of the novel creates a modern sense of 1001 Nights, or Decameron.” (BirGün newspaper, 1 April 2021)

“Burhan Sönmez wrote of the question of language, identity, and roots in the center of the story of his gravestone master, but he wrote in such a way that he put the burden of history on his pen.” (Oksijen newspaper, 12 March 2021)

“The novel is still fresh, but with its plot, style and carefully chosen, lined up, and enliven language, I think it will be talked about very much and will be up-to-date over many years.” (Yeni Yaşam newspaper, 16 March 2021)

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