New Prose Fiction from Turkey
Portrait of a Woman - © Nurdan Hatipoğlu
By idil Aydoğan and Amy Spangler

When Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, the literary world turned its eyes to Turkey, where it hoped to discover more such literary jewels. And indeed, Turkey is a veritable treasure trove for lovers of literature. It is the home of literary legend Yaşar Kemal, a masterful storyteller who was the first writer from his country to establish himself in the ranks of world literature, and rightly so, and from it hails the likes of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, a writer of the mid-twentieth century whose works have only begun to be appreciated by readers around the world, thanks to the recent proliferation in translation of his works. It is also Turkey which has given us some of the most innovative, exciting literature of the last twenty years, such as the works of Latife Tekin, Aslı Erdoğan, Elif Shafak, and Hasan Ali Toptaş, all names now familiar to readers around the world. However, it goes without saying that Turkey still has much to offer world literature, both in terms of modern classics and contemporary literature. It is our hope that this literature becomes available to an ever growing readership thanks to the efforts of translators toiling at their momentous and, dare we say, sacred task, and the support of publishers, the gatekeepers of world literature, seeking to discover for themselves and share with readers eye-opening topographies—the fascinating terrain of the world as they do not (yet) know it.

As the cliché goes, Turkey is caught between East and West, divided yet enriched by both. One might take this cliché one step further, to say that the same holds true within the country itself: It is a country of distinct regions with distinct cultures and languages, which indeed both divide and enrich it. In putting together this issue of Transcript, we have done our best to present voices from various parts of the country, not only those who write in and about metropolitan Istanbul, which is undeniably the hub of the Turkish literary scene, but also those who are from and set their stories in other smaller cities. The works included in this issue also cover a range of different styles, giving a taste of the many and varied trends in the contemporary literature of Turkey today.

Our necessarily limited list consists of writers like the very postmodern, witty, sarcastic Ersan Üldes; the minimalists Barış Bıçakçı and Ahmet Büke, who incisively cut right to the bone; Hatice Meryem who fashions her tales with an exotically rich local language; and the satirical and humorous writer Alper Canigüz, who could perhaps be compared to none other than Kingsley Amis;. We also bring you Behçet Çelik, who in this case veers from his typical minimalist style to give us a thick description of a man in existential crisis; Murat Özyaşar, who gives us a short, poignant glimpse into the heart of Turkey’s war in the southeast; and Sibel K. Türker with a gut-twisting, timeless story of raw cruelty and passion. You will read a short story by Feryal Tilmaç, about a young woman teetering on the tightrope between youth and adulthood; Emrah Serbes, who brings us a touching, humorous tale of love between a boy and his grandmother; and Murat Gülsoy, who breathes life into a cast of colorful characters at the ends of their tethers.

Frankly, putting together this issue has been at once gruelling work and great fun. And painful, too, as we necessarily had to limit ourselves to just eleven authors and thus omit authors who we otherwise would have readily included. In other words, given the time and space, the number of authors and works selected could easily have been multiplied several times over—we had plenty of talent to cull from.

Now with no further ado, welcome to Transcript 32! We hope you like what you read, and that after you’ve read, you’ll want to read more. There’s plenty more where this came from...

We would like to thank professor Saliha Paker for being the extraordinary woman she is, and for making this issue possible by getting us all together at the Cunda International Workshop for Translator’s of Turkish Literature (CWTTL). We would like to thank Alexandra Büchler, director of Literature Across Frontiers, who we met at the 4th Cunda Workshop, June 2009, for the opportunity she gave us as guest editors of T32. And finally we would like to thank the participants of the Cunda Workshops for their input on some of these pieces, and for allowing us to publish their translations here.

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