The Kapali Carsi

The Grand Bu-da-peşkeş Hotel

I had very high expectations from “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, the latest Wes Anderson movie which was nominated for nine Oscars on Jan. 15, four days after winning the best musical or comedy at the Golden Globes on Jan. 11.

Not only because I am big Anderson fan, but also because the movie is inspired by the life and writings of one of my favorite writers in the German language. While it is not based on any specific work of Austrian Stefan Zweig, it tries to reflect the author’s disillusionment at seeing his country and the whole Europe melt down with the rise of the Nazis.

Anderson did not disappoint. With another of his quirky plots, set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, he is able to capture the gloom felt in Zweig’s writings. He alludes to the Nazi assault on the rule of law with subtle touches such as the Jeff Goldblum’s Deputy Kovacs. As Anderson has explained, “the character of the lawyer Kovacs in the film maintains the awareness of law and justice.” It is therefore telling how he meets his end.

This is unpleasantly familiar. As I often note, Turkey has become a country where discretion rules supreme over the rule of law; where thieves and murderers walk free. Whose discretion? President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s of course, who is ruling over all economic (and other) matters of the realm with an iron grip. He forced the supposedly independent Central Bank to cut its policy rate on Jan. 20, destroying whatever little credibility they still had- and yet still slammed them for not having cut enough.

No wonder that Selin Sayek Böke, opposition Republican People’s Party’s own economy czarina, sees Erdoğan as an economic risk. She recently told the Economist that “the greatest threat to the economy is the erosion of the rule of law”, which would then make Erdoğan the largest risk to the economy. Even though I have written about many Turkish economic risks, from bad (and unequal) education to the middle-income trap, I have to agree with her.

The indifference of concierge Monsieur Gustave H.’s guests to the approaching evil is another delicate touch. Are they ignorant? Maybe some, especially the old ladies who did not have much to hang on to in the world other than M. Gustave’s “affections”. But maybe, they are also indifferent because they were actually benefiting from, or at least not being harmed by, it.

A similar scene is playing in Turkey: I am sure that the emerging markets sales head of a major investment bank who claims that the lira has been one of the best-performing currencies for the past year should know better. How about the chief economist of one of the largest domestic banks, who recently told state-owned Anatolian Agency that the government should be commended on sacrificing current growth for future prospects? Are these repayments for lucrative handouts?- as we would say “bu da peşkeş” in Turkish.

Why did you need to read all this at the Hürriyet Daily News EconoMonitor? You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as Turkey. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, f*** it.

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