Istanbul is a city of a million cells and every cell is an Istanbul unto itself. Below the ancient streets of the city, four prisoners sit, awaiting their turn at the hands of their wardens. When they are not subject to unimaginable violence, the condemned tell one another stories, shaded with love and humour, about the city to pass the time. Quiet laughter is the prisoners’ balm, delivered through parables and riddles.
Gradually, the underground narrative turns into a narrative of the above-ground. Initially centered around people, the book comes to focus on the city itself. And we discover there is as much suffering and hope in the Istanbul—indeed, in all the world— above ground as there is in the cells underground. Despite its apparently bleak setting, this novel is about creation, compassion and the ultimate triumph of the imagination.