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A Fez of the Heart: Mini Review

0156003937.jpgSeveral weeks ago, at a local rummage sale, I came across the book A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal. It took a few moments to realize this paperback was one I'd purchased in 1994, lent to a friend, and never got back. So, I drove a hard bargain, and bought the book for 50 cents, happy to have a second chance at a reading it for the first time.

Jeremy Seal's account is a travelogue of his time spent in Turkey, searching for the origins and present day occurrences of a hat — the Fez. His interest in the fez brought him to Istanbul to begin a journey around Turkey, seeking actual wearers and historical information related to the country, the culture and its hats.

While I'm not an expert on Turkey, I enjoyed his description of the country and its history, particularly the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. I learned a bit more about Turkey's history and the sometimes unusual blend of East and West, and of course quite a bit about Turkish headgear.

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me came at the 3/4 mark. Jeremy is given a hand-made Fez by an elderly hat maker and feels compelled to wear it on the street. As the Fez is technically "illegal" in Turkey and has cultural significance for Turks, this was a larger challenge than it might appear. Seal becomes quite self-conscious in his be-fezzed state, and receives added notice and scrutiny all the way back to his hotel — before removing and hiding his fez.

While Jeremy's travelogue-style account isn't what I'd consider a historical reference, it did increase me curiosity about Turkey's history. Several of the book's Amazon reviewers challenge Seal's history and information, so I do plan on exploring books like Turkish Reflections : A Biography of a Place by Mary lee Settle for more historical detail.

Still, historical accuracy and personal opinions of Seal aside, I looked forward to reading this book each night before bed, and passed the 100 page mark quickly. I found it an interesting perspective on Turkey, Turkish cultures and the Turkish people themselves.

As the book ended, I found myself drawn to learning more about the Turks and their country. I don't know if I'll have the honor of visiting Turkey, but I feel this book put the spark in my mind and heart to consider it, should the opportunity arise.

Reader Comments (8)

It took my parents three tries to finally visit Turkey (they had to cancel twice due to mideast violence flareups & safety concerns) but they had a fantastic time when they finally went.
June 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterfiat lux
Rachel, great to hear! It's always good to hear of people exploring other countries and cultures.

I would really love visiting I think, having read a little bit in this book and others about the country and people. Maybe one day... :-)
June 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I been there several times, I was living for a sort period of time working in Turkcell the mobile company.

It's estrange the way they live, been an European Country and you found things as people serving as public ashtray for her boss, literally. I was in a Meeting with the CEO of a big Bank there and he use one of his servant as an ashtray.

I remember working for IBM, that as the service is too cheap, you have people walking around with coffee ready to serve you one. Or you pick your phone and dial 1 and ask for a coffee immediately someone come with a full variety to offer you.

The don't follow traffic rules, and drive in the most crazy way, the use the pedestrian areas to go our of traffics jumps, and many other examples.

The good is that the meal is closed to the Spanish one, very very similar, only change the name of. Could be the 900 years of muslin occupancy in Spain?
June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto Cruz
I've always wanted to see Cappadocia! It's one of my 13 places to see before I die. :) Sounds like a really interesting book!!!
June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Glad to see you put Cory's book on the site today. If you interested in further readings about Turkey my wife highly recommends, Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin. Enjoy!

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterlarrybrew
Roberto: Sounds like a wild place!. Interesting that you noticed the similarities between Turkey and Spain. I do imagine the histories of both countries has played a part in that similarity.

Mary: Good to hear you have interest in Turkey as well! SO, my question is, how did you arrive at a number like 13? What happened to a good ol' top 10 or top 20? ;-)

Larry, thanks for the suggestion on Turkey reference books. I will make a note of that one and check it out at the library!
June 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I bought a Fez in a medina located in the the Moroccan city of Fez. That was a wild place.
July 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNarayan
Narayan, Jeremy actually visits the town of Fez in Morocco and even there they dispute the name. He said it was a wild place even in '93.
July 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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