What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

CHICAGO: A fantastical novel that took the Turkish literary world by storm, Kemal Varol’s “Wuf” is a love story narrated by a canine. Translated into English by Dayla Rogers, the novel takes place in the 1990s amid a war between the southerners and northerners. Mikasa, the main character and a young street pup, learns about life and how to survive between the big city and the mountain town where he attempts to find shelter, food, friends and love. His journey will transform him into a legend and an enigma.

With a politically charged backdrop of the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the state, Varol layers his surrealist novel with humor, tragedy, friendship and the horrors of war that befall places, people, animals and the natural landscape. He keeps a politically realistic and emotional novel accessible to everyone, according to Rogers in the translator’s statement, as she points out that Varol “manages to capture multiple perspectives in the conflict thanks to myriad characters who straddle social divides.” Varol creates his main character as a bridge to opposing worlds, and in doing so allows for the story to reach eyes, ears and hearts on all sides of the conflict.

Readers first meet Mikasa at a shelter along a mountain road. He arrives half alive, wounded and bloody, and sleeps for seven days as his fellow kennel-mates speculate about who he is. They are in the middle of a war, as is evident by the army trucks and soldiers that pass on the road day and night. There are rumors among the dogs about what is going on in a world that they are kept from, but Mikasa fills in the gaps as he recalls his life, the war, the destruction and hardship, and Melsa, his love.

Varol’s novel references real political events that inundated the country in the 1990s. In Mikasa, a dog who has been forced to survive his entire life without his family and as a minesweeper during the conflict, Varol captures the devastation of war and the comradery between creatures when fighting for life. Through the eyes of his canines, Varol writes about life that surrounds war, those who want to fight, those who do not want to fight, and those who are caught in the middle.

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