Author Archives: mcearla10

An Interpretation of Auntie Banu’s Tarot Cards in The Bastard of Istanbul

In The Bastard of Istanbul, Auntie Banu was known for her practices as a soothsayer and her ability to tell the future by the use of tarot cards and coffee cups.  On Asya’s 19th birthday, Auntie Banu turned over the 3 cards, one of which was The High Priestess, the other The Tower, and finally one about an unexpected visitor (pg. 71).  By including this presentation of cards, the author has foreshadowed events to come and given the reader an opportunity to predict the outcome.

The first card, The High Priestess is “the symbol of unconscious awareness – an opening to imagination and hidden talents but also to the unknown” (pg. 71).  This reference could pertain to the knowledge presented to Auntie Banu by her djinni that sits on her shoulder.  Mr. Bitter has unlimited knowledge that he is willing to share with Banu, if she indeed wants the information.  Later in the novel, Banu gives in to Mr. Bitter, and he presents information pertaining to Asya’s father and Armanoush’s past (pg.225).  Upon Armanoush’s arrival, the family is also enlightened about the Armenian genocide from an Armenian perspective and is able to hear about the “injustice” they continued to experience.

The second card, The Tower, is “a symbol of tumultuous changes, emotional eruptions, and sudden downfall” (pg.71).  This description corresponds with the arrival of Armanoush, and continues to include the arrival of her stepfather Mustafa.  After not hearing from Mustafa for about 20 years, the Kazanci family discovered that he married a non-virgin and had a stepdaughter (pg.148).  His stepdaughter, Armanoush developed a close relationship with his “real” daughter, Asya, and they had emotional discussions about their pasts and identities.  Although she was a Turk, Asya was naïve to the genocide situation and played the provoking role in both Café Kundera and in the chat room when invited by Armanoush (pg. 212, 260).

An extreme “emotional eruption” came with the arrival of Mustafa as he was forced to return to Istanbul and face his horrendous past.  Those who knew about Zeliha’s rape were cautious around Mustafa, while those who did not were excited to see him after nearly two decades.  Zeliha was nervous for Asya and her first encounter with her father that she never knew and would not ever know as a parental figure (pg.302).  Mustafa’s arrival was the most emotional for Zeliha and Banu for they both knew of the horrible act he had committed and of his desire to forget his own crime.  Zeliha does not refrain from mentioning Mustafa’s risk of death due to his age, and it is clear that she would not have much sympathy if he did in fact die like the other men in their family (pg.332).  This scene also foreshadows the downfall of Mustafa at the hands of Banu and the poisonous pomegranate.

Lastly, the third card predicts the arrival of a “visitor from beyond the ocean” (pg. 71).  This card could either be pertaining to the arrival of Armanoush or Mustafa for they both came to Istanbul from America and travelled “beyond the ocean”.  Also, these arrivals were significant and led to the emotional outbursts and tragedies predicted in the two previous cards.  In the end, the author used the tarot cards to foreshadow and outline the future events to come.  By including this scene, the author encourages the reader to complete the novel and discover the meaning behind the predictions.

An Evaluation of the Changes in Isaac Amin Throughout His Imprisonment

After the removal of the Pahlavi dynasty, the poor and mistreated citizens revolted against those who had been prospering under the Shah.  They interrogated and imprisoned those they felt guilty of respecting the Shah and opposing the Islamists that were attempting to take power.  Septembers of Shiraz describes this reign of terror as people lived in fear of being arrested, served sometimes-interminable sentences in crowded prisons, and occasionally suffered executions.  People changed as a result of these prisons – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Isaac Amin displays these changes after being jailed and separated from his life for six months, which ultimately gave him time to think and reconsider his previous life choices.

Prior to his imprisonment, Isaac owned a gem shop and worked long hours, which allowed him to support his family and thrive as a “sofa family” opposed to the “floor families” otherwise known as the lower class (pg. 89).   Due to his working schedule, he was unable to spend quality time with his wife or daughter, but even when he wasn’t working, he failed to play an active role in their lives (pg. 5).  His family was one of a minority of Jews in a Muslim nation, which along with their prosperity put a strike against him in the eyes of the Islamist revolutionaries (pg. 156).

Time is a condition that could either hurt or help an individual, and in Isaac’s case, it helped him set his priorities straight and value the family he had left behind.  His sentence consisted of interrogations, tortures, and memories – memories of his wife right after their marriage, of his two children growing up, and of his mistakes as a husband and a father during the past couple years.  He recalled how his wife would read to their children and wondered why he had remained a spectator and not taken part in their routine (pg.196).  He remembered the smell of his wife’s lotion and longed to hold and caress her, as he had not done in years (pg. 209).  In his current world of black, these memories provided color and hope for a safe return.

Time allowed Isaac to reconsider what he valued most in life – money and social class or his family and his desire to see them once more.  Previous to his imprisonment, money was his first priority, his honor, and his life.  It took him the duration of his 6-month term to determine that money was the reason for his imprisonment and would also be his ticket out.  By forfeiting his savings, he displayed his change in character and recognized that in the end, family survives without large sums of money and high honor (pg. 261).

Ironically, these mental and emotional changes did not have a huge impact on his life after his return.  One would expect the homecoming to be joyful and full of emotion, but instead the relationship between the family members continued to be strained.  Issac had changed into a quiet, solemn man and his family was reluctant to question his new behavior and previous treatment in the prison (pg. 259, 269).  Shirin hardly recognized her father due to his physical weakening and changes while in prison and her reaction to his homecoming was not one of excitement, as one would expect (pg. 268).  He slept most of the day and wandered around with a sad, pained expression on his face while he was awake.  Ultimately, it would take time to adjust to the changes after imprisonment and later to the changes after the move to America.