Robert Finn's translation of Turkish author Nazli Eray's Orphée makes available to the English-language reader a rewriting of the myth from the perspective of Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus. Eray's surrealistic version takes place in a hot resort town in contemporary Turkey. The setting of an archaeological dig gives a connection to the past and literally to the underworld. Found in the dig is a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who proceeds to offer an unusual perspective on modern life and values through mysterious letters carried by a messenger pigeon. Eray also comments on modernity, as the city of Ankara emerges as a character in the novel's fantasy. Set in junta-ruled Turkey of the 1980s, the novel takes its place as a crucial slice of Turkish literary history.
Resonating with haunting references to the film Last Tango in Paris, the novel evolves as a mystery story with a humorous bent. Thus Eray illuminates her insatiable curiosity about other cultures, particularly those of the West. Finally, the style of the translation is simple and clear, with crisp dialogue. Sibel Erol, professor of Turkish literature at New York University, has written an introduction that places this fantastic plot in a literary context, as well as in understandable terms that relate to the reality of today's Turkey.