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Encounters in Old Istanbul
Throughout the 1960s, John Freely explored the alleys, hidden corners and monuments of Istanbul, in between teaching, to create a legendary guidebook with Hilary Sumner-Boyd. But all the passages that were too personal, too capricious, too idiosyncratic, too indulgent of eccentric personalities, too wrapped up in the love of mid-afternoon banter, too indulgent of musicians, dancers, gypsies, dervishes, drunks, beggars, fishermen, poets, fortune-tellers, folk healers, mimics and prostitutes, were cut from their scholarly guide. Stamboul Sketches is fashioned from these off-cuts, a chronicle of chance encounters inspired by Evliya Çelebi, the Pepys of seventeenth-century Istanbul. It is a beautiful, quirky portrait of a city which, Freely says, ‘grabs you by the heart and never lets you go’.
Written when Orhan Pamuk was just a pup and when John Freely was in his prime. Freely had explored every inch of the city for Strolling Through Istanbul but that was a book about the history behind the facades - this is a picture of the city that he loved. Andrew Finkel
John Freely has made me laugh harder than any man I know. Jason Goodwin
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