...for every one Seferis or Nazım Hikmet out there, there are many more writers who are celebrated in their own language who never make it into English.
The recent anniversary of the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, has reminded me that I’ve been back in the United States for almost a year. My friends and I from my “Istanbul years” now divide our lives into before and after the coup attempt, and while my constant comparisons of New York and Istanbul have faded, the indelible imprint of my life in “the City” has not left the way I view the US’s literary center.
Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer uncover the real side of Turkish cuisine in the late 2000s with their cult blog, Istanbul Eats.
Ezgi Aksoy can’t remember when she first knew she wanted to be a writer for Leman, one of Turkey’s most popular satire magazines. But that feeling, she says, grew throughout her high school years.
Dr. Aron Aji is a highly accomplished translator with a range of work under his belt, from Turkish writers that include Elif Shafak, Murathan Mungan, Bilge Karasu, and Latife Tekin. His translations of Karasu’s works in particular have earned him the 2004 National Translation Award and an NEA Literature Fellowship. He was short-listed for the 2013 PEN Translation Prize, is the president of The American Literary Translators Association, and is the director of the University of Iowa MFA in Literary Translation.
Sabahattin Ali's Madonna in a Fur Coat (Kürk Mantolu Madonna) has been touted by a number of reviewers as a reemerging popular novel in Turkey, a love story that speaks to young Turks after the Gezi Park protests that took over central Istanbul in June 2013. The book has solidly held its place on bestseller lists in Turkey from as early as 2011, suggesting that there has been a longing for a novel like this one, 57 years after its initial publication. As Ralph Hubbell writes in the Tin House blog, a certain nostalgia scents the air, one for a time when Turkey's economy was on the rise, and indeed before the even deeper polarization of the 2017 presidential referendum.
On April 12, Ahmet Şık, a Turkish journalist, was acquitted in the OdaTV trial, which began six years ago, but the courts will not let him leave prison. This last trial in the Ergenekon case was the final one in a series of court battles that began in 2007, resulting in the detention of 275 military officers and civilians. Though the Ergenekon case was ultimately dismissed in April 2016, due to a lack of evidence that the Ergenekon network existed, acquittals for the Oda TV trial were not issued for a full year.
Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence as seen through his homonymous novel shows us where Turkey has been and where it is now with a heavy dose of nostalgia.
Sır Ceramics by Sadullah Çekmece, is one of Istanbul's best kept secrets for Ottoman-inspired ceramics in Galata.
For aficionados of the Beat writers, an obscenity trial in Turkey is a throwback to half a century ago, when Naked Lunch was banned in Boston.
The Turkish publisher and translator of William S. Burroughs' The Soft Machine are facing prison terms of six months to three years for allegedly violating a Turkish law against the publication and writing of pornography. Their trial, which opened in Istanbul on July 6, is the first in Turkey to target the work of a Beat Generation writer.
Lady Faith’s designer Nazlı Soylu isn't in it for the money, and her T-shirts, dresses, and athletic outfits with colorful digital prints give off a distinctly soulful vibe.
I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Mutlu Konuk Blasing and Randy Blasing, the formidable translators of Nazım Hikmet. The Blasings have translated six books of Hikmet’s poetry together, and on their own they have a long record of contributions to scholarship and poetry. Dr. Blasing is also the author of the Hikmet biography, Nazım Hikmet: The Life and Times of Turkey’s World Poet. We chatted about the challenges of translating the leftist poet and contemporary American poetry’s turn away from realism.
Maria Eliades, Antoine Remise, and Julius Motal discover the real spirit of Istanbul's legendary Grand Bazaar in its larger-than-life merchants, including "Lord of the Leaves" Nick Merdenyan; jewelry craftsman, designer,
and visionary Sevan Bıçakçı, and former chemistry teacher turned vintage textile master, Hoca Mustafa Yılmaz.
In continuing to write about translating Turkish texts, I spoke with Dr. Erdağ Göknar, an award-winning scholar, poet, and translator best known for his work on Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red, which propelled the author to win the Nobel Prize in 2006, and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s A Mind at Peace. Göknar, an associate professor at Duke University, recently released his first poetry collection, Nomadologies. We discussed how Göknar’s diaspora background contributes to his work, his approach to translation as a creative act, and the limiting factor of editorial expectations in publishing Turkish texts in translation.
Polls on the Turkish presidential referendum suggest a close race. ORC, a polling company loyal to the government, has placed the yes vote at 55.4%, while Gezici, a company associated with the opposition, has predicted that 51 to 53% of eligible voters will cast their ballot for the initiative. Neither poll suggests that the ruling AKP party will achieve the 60% yes vote that it has predicted. The AKP, together with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is proposing changes to the constitution, which would introduce a presidential system of government that could keep Erdogan in office until 2029.
With such slim margins, Erdogan is turning to the Kurds to rally support for the referendum. There are 15 million Kurds in Turkey, making up 19% of the population.