Meeting with Marcelina Szumer-Brysz author of books “Reading Coffee Grounds. Reportages from Turkey” and “Izmir”

Where: Atlantic Cinema
Date: 16.04.2023

Marcelina Szumer-Brysz (born 1981) – a journalist and reporter collaborating with “Tygodnik Powszechny” and the foreign section of “Gazeta Wyborcza”. She used to publish in “Przekrój” as well. She studied at the University of Warsaw and the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. After spending three years in Turkey, today she splits her time between Izmir and Warsaw. She’s an author of the non-fiction books “Reading coffee grounds. Reportages from Turkey” and “Izmir. City of giaours”. She’s a laureate of the Identities 2020 Special Award and a recipient of the Crystal Leaf of Polish Reportage Audience Award for “Izmir”.

Reading coffee grounds. Reportages from Turkey
Torn since time immemorial: between Europe and Asia, Islam and secularity, tradition and modernity, today Turkey is at the crossroads again.  The legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of the nation reigning Turkish hearts until recently, is being taken over by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He’s compared by many to a bad father-in-law who wastes his predecessors’ achievements by ruthlessly fighting his political opponents. Or, as others believe, he brings back the wonderful Osman tradition and the essence of the Turkish spirit which would be empty without religion and family.
But Turkey isn’t only about politics. It’s also a producer of TV shows that gained popularity all over the world; a home to thousands of Syrian refugees; a place where LGBT community can proudly raise their flag; a favorite place to seek for the sun and love; and perhaps even a new tycoon of religious tourism. After all, this is where Christianity germinated, and saints, the Apostles, and even Virgin Mary lived.
Following in the author’s footsteps, we should reject stereotypes and look at the face of real Turkey that still both attracts and repels, upsets and fascinates.


Izmir, formerly known as Smyrna, is considered one of the most egalitarian and free cities in Turkey, although some of the residents still find it difficult to abandon traditional values. In this “city of heathens” well-stocked sex shops are as prosperous as religious bookshops. However, zealous Muslims should only frequent the sex shops marked as halal because they don’t give access to “unclean” things like alcohol-based perfumes. Despite actively fighting for their rights, women still face ostracism after divorce, while mystic shows of whirling dervishes are organized in shopping centers.
Having lived in the city, Marcelina Szumer-Brysz is a wonderful guide through this lively place. Roaming Izmir streets, she talks to a professor teaching young people maths in an exceptional village near the city, a Turkish girl playing in a local football club, and fortune-tellers reading coffee grounds and not minding that this is considered a sin. The author tells us also about Izmir’s rich history which is proudly presented in popular TV shows and which is crucial to understanding the present day in Izmir – the city that still attracts and hypnotizes with its multitude of colors.


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