Istanbul Was a Fairy Tale tells the stories of three generations of a Jewish family, from the 1920s to the 1980s. Istanbul is their only home, and yet they live in a state of alienation, isolating themselves from the world around them. As witness, observer, and protagonist, the narrator—at once inside and outside his story—records their many tales, as well as those of their friends and neighbors, creating an expansive mosaic of characters, each doing their best to survive the twentieth century. In his unique and lyrical style, Mario Levi captures the city of Istanbul and its storied past with a rare intimacy and humor.
“With its telescoping of time, its complex changeability of voice, its fractured and prismatic storylines, Istanbul Was a Fairy Tale clearly belongs to the extended tradition of modernism” – Tadzio Koelb, Times Literary Supplement
“Levi writes with a reflective melancholy that evokes Isaac Bashevis Singer and Isaak Babel, but he’s also been compared to James Joyce for his ex-pat-like ruminations on his homeland. In an interview on French television two years ago Levi said, “It’s impossible to describe living in Istanbul. One must experience it!” Levi does not try to describe Istanbul. He invites the reader into the lives of 47 characters so the reader can feel the city.” – Historical Novel Society