‘Ökkeş and Jengaver’ by Murathan Mungan, translated from Turkish by Aron Aji and David Gramling

“Was custom testing this friendship too? But hadn’t they already tested it themselves with their hearts together over these years? But now they weren’t testing it, just losing it. Losing it fragrantly. […] ‘Customs are like spells,’ his mother had said. ‘You don’t reason with them, you follow their reason.’”

The limits of love and friendship are tried in this heart-wrenching story about two fifteen-year-old boys. Ökkeşand Jengaver are set against each other in a two-day trial, as part of a longstanding village ‘custom’ to prove their manhood. Told from his viewpoint, Ökkeş is torn between tradition, his mother’s expectations and his deep feelings for Jengaver and his own of sense justice. In those two days, the dilemmas brought on with each new challenge are rendered with emotional complexity, and the Eastern Mediterranean landscape, as spring gives way to summer, with lyrical finesse.

Published in Valor Stories, Northwestern University Press, 2022