Title: The City in Crimson Cloak
Author: Asli Erdogan
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Source: Read from the original Turkish
Özgür is poor, hungry, and on the verge of a mental breakdown, with only one weapon against Rio: to write the city that has robbed her of everything. Reading the bits and pieces of Özgür's unfinished eponymous novel, with its autobiographical protagonist named Ö, Özgür's story begins to emerge. Meanwhile, the narrator limns a single day of Özgür's life, which is in fact her last. As Özgür follows Ö through the shanty towns, Condomble rituals, and the violence and sexuality of the streets to her own death, the narrator searches for a way to make peace with life, a route to catharsis. The two concentric novels, the borderline between the two Rio's — Özgür's Rio as a metaphor for death and Rio as life — begin to blur. Asli Erdogan’s brilliantly evocative, experimental second novel was a major hit in Turkey and Europe. Now available in translation, the book does for Rio what Joyce did for Dublin.
Turkish author Asli Erdogan's City in Crimson Cloak is Rio. It's a city that can disgust you while you read; you'll definitely feel the dirt and the heat. You'll get tensed feeling the tension in the city, you'll want to lock your doors and keep checking the locks as the gun sounds echo in your ears. If you let yourself under the spell of The City in Crimson Cloak, you might get scared next time you go to the grocery store and see a group of people standing in the corner...
As you can see, Rio is the main character of the book. In addition, there's Özgür, who's run away to Rio to try and write her book while she's trying to put together money for food and cigarettes. She doesn't like the city's asphyxiating heat, how it makes her shirt cling onto her chest, how her breath gets stuck to her throat. She doesn't like the sound of rifles that has become the regular soundtrack of her days. She doesn't like that she has to protect her money and her life with every step. Even though this may be the case, Özgür is also caught up in this crazy city's magic... We see a darker, suffocating and dangerous Rio in The City in Crimson Cloak; not the one we're used to seeing on TV with its colorful dances.
The darkness of The City in Crimson Cloak is also reflected in the darkness of the human race. Through Özgür, we see what might make a person run so many miles away, what makes them write, why they might be attracted to the danger that comes with the unknown, why we can't change the situations we're in even though we may not like them...