Winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award and a Finalist for the 2020 PEN America Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
A debut story collection of spectacular imaginative range and lyricism from a Pushcart Prize–winning author.
In Ayse Papatya Bucak’s dreamlike narratives, dead girls recount the effects of an earthquake and a chess-playing automaton falls in love. A student stops eating and no one knows whether her act is personal or political. A Turkish wrestler, a hero in the East, is seen as a brute in the West. The anguish of an Armenian refugee is “performed” at an American fund-raiser. An Ottoman ambassador in Paris amasses a tantalizing collection of erotic art. And in the masterful title story, the Greek god Apollo confronts his personal history and bewails his Homeric reputation as he tries to memorialize, and make sense of, generations of war.
A joy and a provocation, Bucak’s stories confront the nature of historical memory with humor and humanity. Surreal and poignant, they examine the tension between myth and history, cultural categories and personal identity, performance and authenticity.
About the Author
Ayse Papatya Bucak’s short fiction has been selected for the O. Henry and Pushcart prizes. She lives in Delray, Florida, where she is an associate professor in the MFA program at Florida Atlantic University.
Bucak's luminous debut taps folklore and real life to flesh out complex characters with an agile, inventive hand.
— O, The Oprah Magazine
A surrealist wunderkammer in which the lines between history and myth, reality and performance, and the cultural and personal are blurred and redrawn.
— The Millions
Ayse Papatya Bucak shares with Jhumpa Lahiri the gift of fusing distinctive subject matter with an unusually restrained and elegant voice. This marvelous debut collection is truly rare in its range and depth, its deft mastery of history and myth, and its fearless storytelling.
— Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel
The author astutely deploys a range of styles and techniques that create a cerebral, multifarious collection. Bucak's remarkable, inventive, and humane debut marks her as a writer to watch.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Bucak’s stories are wide-ranging and capacious, formally playful, and moving. They speak on behalf of women who are subject to fate and the tides of history. They convey history’s full force, but also the individual’s willfulness, cunning, and compassion. These stories are entirely contemporary and unique.
— Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party
Cerebral yet high-spirited.
— Kirkus Reviews
One of the best and most surprising collections I’ve read in a long time. This is a wonder cabinet of stories so singular and marvelous that I spent a long time after each, wanting to linger in the space it had created.
— Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
This is a truly lovely, truly surprising book. Ayse Papatya Bucak’s stories are narratively precise, and they are also beautiful vignettes on human culture, deftly probing the fissures and pressure points of history and bringing up new forms like the sponge divers in one of her stories. This collection absolutely glows with life.
— Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
What a beautiful, wildly imagined book. The Trojan War Museum gives us stories with branching paths, and they resemble fairy tales, historical accounts, news reports, and dreams. This is fiction of great originality and great delight.
— Joan Silber, author of Improvement