Turkey Literature

By | January 15, 2022

According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Orhan Pamuk (b.1952) in 2006, the participation of Turkey as a guest country at the Buchmesse in Frankfurt in 2008 and at the Book Fair in London in 2013 and the start, in 2005, of TEDA, a project of the Turkish government aimed at subsidizing the translation of artistic and literary works, have relaunched and sealed the great vivacity and renewed dynamism of Turkish literature in recent years. It seems to have, at least in part, escaped its marginal condition and the exponential growth of translations reveals, not without some contradictions, the growing interest that the works of Turkish authors are now arousing also abroad.

After about two decades of controversial debates aimed at promoting a more critical approach to Kemalism and early republican history, the tendency to recover, through the literary text, the relationship with the blurred Ottoman heritage and to explore the thorny events of the past has been further consolidated. more recent Turkish, offering new interpretations that intend to reflect the rich identity pluralism of the country. Issues such as political authoritarianism, failure to recognize the human rights of ethnic, religious and gender minorities, conflicts between the secular and Islamic component of the country – represented primarily by the AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Party for Justice and Development), a party that has dominated the political scene since 2002 – the long-standing war between the Turkish army and the Kurdish separatists, the unresolved tension between the center and the periphery and, finally, the sudden transformations and the disruptive gentrification of urban centers – and of İstanbul in particular – with its corollary of hidden poverty, alienation and marginalization, have burst into the plots of the novels. Authors already established in previous decades and new emerging writers observe and narrate this complex sociocultural situation mostly through the prism of intimate and individual stories and using very heterogeneous writing styles.

Among the well-known authors who continue to receive acclaim, İhsan Oktay Anar (b.1960) deserves a special mention, whose fame was consolidated with the publication of the novels Suskunlar (2007, I taciturns) and Yedinci Gün (2012, Il seventh day) in which he blends historical elements, traditional narration and postmodern literary strategies; Ha-san Ali Toptaş (b.1958), who in his latest poignant novel Heba (2013, Perdita) tells of the continuous escape attempts of the protagonist Ziya, analyzing, against the light, also the thorny problem of the Kurdish question and military service compulsory; the hugely popular Elif Şafak (b. 1971), whose latest novel Ustam ve Ben (2013; trans. it. The city on the edge of the sky, 2014) proposes an Ottoman setting; and the writer and journalist Perihan Mağden (b. 1960), who, even in her latest novels, continues to relate contemporary Turkish society in a lashing way, and often through stories of violated childhoods.

Alongside them there is a new generation of writers who offer an equally insightful look at Turkey and its many conflicts. Among others Behçet Çelik (b.1968), Alper Canıgüz (b.1969), Hakan Akdoğan (b.1971), Murat Uyurkulak (b.1972), award-winning Faruk Duman (b.1974), Hakan Günday (b. 1976), whose acclaimed novel Az (2011) was translated into Italian under the title A with Zeta (2015), Kurdish activist exiled to Switzerland Haydar Karataş (b. 1973), who attracted attention with his two novels on the Dersim revolt of 1938, and Burhan Sönmez (b. 1965), who arrived in Italy with his second novel on memory and exile entitled Masumlar (2011; trad. it. The innocents, 2014).

The authors of the so-called Turkish noir deserve a separate mention, of which the prolific writer Ahmet Ümit (b. 1960) is considered the precursor. Other important exponents of this genre are Esmahan Aykol (b.1970), also known in Italy, Mehmet Murat Somer (b.1959), creator of a successful series of novels starring an eccentric transgender detective, of which in Italian they are translated Peygamber Cinayetleri: Bir Hop-Çiki-Yaya Polisiyesi (2003; trans. it. The assassins of the Prophet, 2010) and Buse Cinayeti: Bir Hop-Çiki-Yaya Polisiyesi (2003; trans. it. Scandalous murder in Istanbul, 2009) and, more recently, Emrah Serbes (b. 1981), whose novels set in Ankara feature Behzat Ç., A disenchanted detective. Serbes’ latest novel, Deliduman (2014, Fumopazzo), has also aroused much interest, in which the 2013 Gezi Park uprising is told through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old young man.

Among the most recent female voices that have come to the attention of the public and critics are the award-winning Sibel Kayalı Türker (b.1968), Hatice Meryem (b.1968), who stands out for her witty prose, Nermin Yıldırım, (b. 1980), Çiler İlhan (b. 1972) and Birgül Oğuz (b. 1981), the latter authors respectively of Sürgün (2010; trans. It. Exile, 2014) and Hah (2012, Aha), two collections of fictional short stories that won the European Union prize for literature respectively in 2011 and 2014. All these authors demonstrate how, although female writing has not lost its specificity and a certain inclination for the story short and female characters, it is oriented rather to propose an unprecedented look at the surrounding reality beyond the tight logic of belonging to gender.

The best known and most appreciated Turkish writer remains Pamuk who continues to receive numerous international awards including the Sonning prize and the Légion d’honneur in 2012 and, in Italy, an honorary degree from the University of Florence in 2009. Besides to the books Babamın Bavulu (2007; trad. it. My father’s suitcase, 2007), from the title of the speech given in Stockholm on the occasion of the Nobel Prize, Saf ve Düşünceli Romancı (2011; trad. it. Naive and sentimental novelists, 2012), which collects the series of lectures on the art of the novel held at Harvard University in 2009, to the collection of essays and interviews Manzaradan Parçalar: hayat, Sokaklar, Edebiyat (2010, Fragments of landscape: life, roads, literature) and Ben Bir Ağacım (2013, I am a tree), containing a selection of his writings on childhood and school aimed at younger readers, has published two novels. In 2008 Masumiyet Müzesi (trad. It. The museum of innocence, 2009), set in İstanbul in the seventies, tells of the poignant passion of Kemal, scion of a rich family, for Füsun, a distant cousin of his, who will bring him, after her tragic death, to obsessively collect all the objects that remind him of her. In 2014 Kafamda Bir Tuhaflık (2014, A strangeness in the head), centered on a love story and on the city of İstanbul through four decades, from 1969 to 2012, in which the protagonist, Mevlut, a street vendor of boza, a traditional Turkish drink, wanders around the streets of the city, observes the continuous changes in the daily life of its old and new residents.

On 19 July 2013, Leylâ Erbil (v.), A pioneer of women’s literature, died, and on 28 February 2015 also Yaşar Kemal (b.1923) passed away. people of Anatolia, as well as among the most influential and combative exponents of contemporary Turkish literature. His latest novel Çıplak Deniz Çıplak Ada (Mare Nude Naked Island) appeared in 2012, to close the tetralogy Bir Ada Hikayesi (An Island Story), which is configured as a melancholy elegy with several voices on the crumbling of Anatolian multi-ethnicity after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of various nationalisms in conflict with each other. In 2013, the unpublished novel Tek Kanatlı Kuş was also published (Bird with one wing), originally written in 1969, in which Kemal investigates fear as a collective and contagious feeling.

How articulate and lively is the panorama of contemporary Turkish poetry, which continues to maintain its position of centrality, with a proliferation of festivals dedicated to it – two international reviews in İstanbul alone -, numerous prizes and awards and a multitude of publishing houses. and specialized magazines of various orientations often conceived and directed by the poets themselves. The production of the new generations appears to be somewhat polarized. A large group of very dynamic poets such as Furkan Çalışkan (b.1983), İsmail Kılıçarslan (b.1976), Ercan Yılmaz (b.1977) and lepoetesse Fatma Şengil Süzer (b.1970) and Emel Özkan (b.1979), mostly gathered around the monthly magazine «İtibar» founded in 2011 and directed by İbrahim Tenekeci (b. 1970), it advocates a vision of reality linked to more conservative or openly Islamic values. Other poets, such as Gökçenur Ç. (b.1971), Onur Behramoğlu (b.1975), Devrim Dirlikyapan (b.1974), Cenk Gündoğdu (b.1976), have a more political imprint and were very active during the Gezi Park protests. Pervaded by a refined lyricism are the verses of the poetesses Zeynep Köylü (b.1978) and Gonca Özmen (b.1982) and the award-winning Selahattin Yolgiden (b.1977), for which political commitment does not become a distinctive mark of writing.

Even the theater, in recent years, seems to have welcomed and relaunched the individual and collective instances of reflection and change that pervade Turkish society, seeking, through various theatrical writings and the use of new techniques and stage sets, answers to the present political situation and socio-cultural. In this general climate of renewal, the number of private theatrical spaces and companies engaged in new forms of experimentation such as the Altıdan sonra and Studio 4 Istanbul groups multiplied. The Uluslararası İstanbul Tiyatro Festivali (International Theater Festival of İstanbul) also plays a central role, a biennial event which, in addition to acting as a sounding board for the productions and adaptations of the most important Turkish and foreign plays, it promotes workshops and international collaborations, also showing a particular attention to the new emerging dramaturgy. The bond of poets and writers with the theater remains close, as evidenced by the many adaptations of classical and contemporary literary texts, among which we remember the acclaimed2013 play Ali Ile Ramazan based on the novel of the same name by Perihan Mağden (2010, Ali and Ramazan), and the many writers who continue to write texts for the theater such as, for example, Murathan Mungan (b.1955) whose latest work Mutfak (2013, Cucina) tells of the encounter between various women with very different backgrounds, who, while cooking, tell each other stories of disappointment, violence and betrayal, and, more recently, the appreciated novel and short story writer Sema Kaygusuz (b. 1972) who made his debut with the play Sultan ve Şair (2013, The sultan and the poet), the story of an encounter between two unusual fishermen on the Galata bridge.

Turkey Literature