‘The Fugitive of Gezi Park’: An Unsubtle Reflection on the Artworld’s Contradictions

The latest novel by Deniz Goran sets her traumatised characters against a backdrop of art dealers, fairs and VIP collectors with mixed results 

Courtesy Ortac Press

Deniz Goran is the pseudonym of Selin Tamtekin, a Turkish-British novelist and art writer. This, her second novel (the first was 2007’s The Turkish Diplomat’s Daughter), focuses on two tales of alienation and the moment they become intertwined. One concerns a young gallery assistant who has fled Istanbul, running from an upcoming trial and a past life that culminated in her being arrested and abused; the other concerns an art dealer who is so intoxicated by the excessive lifestyle of an artmarket ‘player’ that he’s become addicted to abusing himself and has lost track of the world around him. The traumatised pair cross paths at an art fair; sex follows.

But while the novel is set in the context of the international artworld, it isn’t about that world; here it’s merely a cypher for wealth, privilege and a disassociation from reality, populated by ‘socialites dressed in skimpy, weird designer outfits’, dealers ‘looking out for their next prey’, tedious academic art teachers and plenty of alcoholics. Which, by and large, is a pretty good description of how the artworld (or at least the bit of it that deals with the accumulation of money) operates. Similarly, while it’s about the Gezi Park protests – to which the arrest is connected – in Istanbul (the book is published to coincide with their tenth anniversary), it doesn’t offer any sustained account or examination of them.

The result of all this is mixed. At times, The Fugitive of Gezi Park lacks any kind of subtlety: ‘I considered the subtle tension in the air at the start of the Fair, as VIP collectors competed with each other, discretely negotiating with dealers in a multitude of languages over ludicrously priced artworks, while across the world queues of people were desperately waiting to be led through the barren Turkish–Syrian border’. At other times it’s a sensitive account of how our lives are shaped, on both individual and societal levels, by accident as much as willpower, and by how we deal with the consequent moments of trauma: fight, flight or, most often, neither. At those points, the book is an intriguing exploration of the fugitive condition.

The Fugitive of Gezi Park by Deniz Goran. Ortac Press, £11.99 (softcover)

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