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In the Magazine: Love and Friendship in Turkey

Posted on October 20, 2017

"Cutting last period was my idea." So begins Yalçin Tosun's short story, "Muzaffer and Bananas," which was translated from Turkish by the former associate editor of WWB Campus, Abby Comstock-Gay, and appears in this month's issue of the magazine Words Without Borders

The introduction to the story explains, Yalçin Tosun's chubby, despairing Turkish teenagers find solace in visits to the zoo. But an unexpected change to their routine abruptly alters their lives and their relationship. Students will probably be able to identify with the boys' goofy humor and speculations about first kisses, as well as with the uncertainty that underlies their banter, perfectly rendered in lines such as: "I wasn’t sure if he really knew more about women than me or not, but he liked it to look that way, so I believed him."

Contextual resources

To learn about Turkish culture, students might visit the Culturetalk page of the Five College Alliance, featuring video interviews with Turkish speakers on a number of topics, including kissing.

And, for a photo gallery of a famous zoo in Istanbul, possibly similar to the one the boys visit, they can visit its page on Trip Advisor, where they'll also see a negative review mentioning balding primates (like the story's Muzaffer.)

Potential Discussions and assignments

After reading the story, students could talk or write about what might happen after the surprising ending.

  • What might the boys say to each other when they next meet?
  • How will their friendship change?

They might also look back at the story to look for clues to the narrator's feelings. You might ask them: Do you think he surprised himself, too?

As a culminating assignment, students might compare this story to a different one about an evolving friendship, such as Ryu Murakami's "The Last Picture Show," or the novel A Separate Peace. Or, students might write their own stories of a friendship that suddenly changes.