Tag Archives: Turkey

World Affairs – Turkey turns Hagia Sophia back into Mosque; Bad move by Erdogan?

People in Turkey and around world have reacted with mixed feelings after the Turkish government announced its controversial decision to turn Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declaration on Friday came after a Turkish high court stripped the sixth-century Byzantine site’s museum status, paving the way for it to be converted into a mosque. Is it a bad move by Erdogan?

How The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 Explores the Souk of Asia’s Imagination

Book review by Tan Kaiyi


With the rise of the Asian Century, the global community typically shines its spotlight on the economic progress of the region. Much is made of the advancing wealth of nations like India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. But while the economic progress is an easy unifying narrative that could be woven through the different countries, equally important — but much more challenging — is charting the breadth and depth of the Asian literary imagination.

The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 is up to the monumental task. The editor of the anthology, award-winning author Hisham Bustani, highlights the main obstacle to the endeavour when assembling the collection:

“…there is no such thing as a well-defined, self-contained, concrete, unified Asian identity…”

He explains the issue by contrasting it with Europe. While similar to Asia with a geography that contains multiple language and cultures, the region “claims a unique identity and set of ‘European values’ that separate it from others…” This consequently gives a literary landscape in the region a halo of universalism. Whether it is true at heart or not is certainly up for debate, as Bustani rightly points out that some communities like Turkey are isolated from the Eurocentric ideological bloc. Read more

Elif Shafak Faces Flak from Turkey


Elif Shafak,  the award winning Turkish- British writer, who writes in Turkish and English,  is under investigation by prosecutors from Turkey along with other writers, for infringing obscenity laws. Said the writer:

“In the World Economic Forum’s gender gap report, Turkey ranks 130 of 149 countries. Only around 15% of child and adult sexual abuse cases are reported. The number of child brides is alarming. We need to talk about our problems rather than pretending they do not exist. The art of storytelling should dare to talk about difficult subjects.

“In all my novels I have tried to give voice to the voiceless. I have written about outcasts, minorities, the displaced and exiled … I wanted to make their stories heard. So I really find it tragic that instead of changing the laws, building shelters for abused women and children, improving the conditions for the victims, they are attacking fiction writers. That is very sad.” Read more

Turkish garbage collectors open library full of discarded books

Turkish garbage collectors in the country’s capital city of Ankara have opened a public library that is full of books that were originally destined to be put into landfill. The workers began collecting discarded books and opened the new library in the Çankaya district of Ankara. News of the library has spread and now people have begun donating books directly to the library, rather than throwing them away.

As CNN reports, the library was originally created for the use of the employees friends and family but, as it grew in size, the library was officially opened to the public in September of last year. “We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,” said Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen, whose local government spearheaded the opening of the library.

The library now has over 6,000 fiction and non-fiction books and includes a children’s section, an area dedicated to scientific research books, and a number of English and French language books for those who are bilingual.

The Only Dissident Novel for Sale in Turkey

On the lasting impact of Madonna in a Fur Coat

Since the failed coup of July 2016, Turkey’s president has been working overtime to silence his enemies and control what his supporters hear, see, and learn. He has purged the ministries and the military, jailed journalists, academics, writers and social justice activists in the thousands, taken evolution out of the school curriculum, brought in lessons on jihad, railed almost daily against secularism, pontificated just as often on the sacred obligations of mothers and wives, and suppressed every media outlet that has dared to challenge him. He has fired an untold number of civil servants, schoolteachers, academics and clerical workers—sometimes for nothing more than having kept an account with the wrong bank. In so doing, he has rendered these people unemployable: no one dares to hire them for fear of being tainted. Only those whose views mirror Erdoğan’s can speak openly about politics. The rest are warned to exercise extreme caution, most especially in restaurants, cafés, and taxis.

Publishers have been hard hit. The bravest have continued to champion work they value, even if there is a risk it might be viewed as criminal, obscene, or (worst of all) dangerous for young minds. Others have chosen the safety of self-censorship. Turkey is awash with writers whose words can no longer be seen or heard. But walk into any bookstore, and there is one slim volume you will never fail to find.

Its title is Madonna in a Fur Coat. First published in 1942 and set between the two world wars, it tells the story of Raif, sent by his father to Berlin to study soap manufacturing. But Raif’s secret passion is for literature and art. He spends his days with books and his evenings in art galleries, until one night, he happens on a painting called Madonna in a Fur Coat. He falls in love, first with the image, and then with the artist whose self-portrait it is.

As the two become friends, and then closer still, they bend and defy the rules of gender. More often than not, Maria takes the role of the man, setting the terms of their engagement, while Raif remains respectfully passive, until the moment arrives when Maria needs him to look after her. It is this shifting of roles that most perplexed the novel’s first readers. This reaction wasn’t unexpected, considering its author, Sabahattin Ali—almost everything he wrote, he wrote against the grain.

Read More

Book Review: One man’s journey through the eyes of another

By Manal Shakir

Sabahattin Ali published “Madonna in a Fur Coat” in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1943. At the time, the book was one of many of his published works. They were widely circulated in Turkey and held in high esteem although, at times, they got him into trouble. While this book may not have gained much recognition then, its popularity today in Turkey, 70 years later, is greater than many other authors. And now, translated into English by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, it can attract a new generation of readers.

“Madonna in a Fur Coat” is the introspective journey of a young man in the 1930s. Told from a narrator’s perspective – one whose name the reader never learns – it opens with him struggling to find work after losing his job. While desperately wandering the streets, the narrator happens to stumble upon an old friend, Hamdi, who promises to help him out of his predicament. Read more

Source: Arab News

A Story of Chaos at the Border of Turkey and Syria


Dark at the Crossing By Elliot Ackerman

237 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95.

“The age of the war correspondent as hero,” Phillip Knightley famously wrote in his book “The First Casualty,” “appears to be over.” According to Knightley, Vietnam was the high-water mark for the self-mythologizing and self-aggrandizing descendants of the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mowed down by the Japanese on the island of Ie Shima in 1945. Since then, he argued, governments at war have learned to tame their roving journalists; to exaggerate only by a certain degree, many correspondents have become variants of the press eunuchs laconically described by Evelyn Waugh in Abyssinia sitting at the hotel bar writing up the destruction of a hospital in Adowa by Italian bombers. During that war in 1936, indeed, Waugh himself received an actual cable from his editors in London concerning the “heroic nurses” supposedly killed at Adowa. It read, “Require earliest name life story photograph American nurse upblown Adowa.” To which he immortally replied, “Nurse unupblown.” The journalistic stenography of war had already begun.

But what, conversely, of the war literature created by Americans not implicated in the corporate machinery of reportage? It could be argued that it’s a richer harvest. And one could also argue that the most vital literary terrain in America’s overseas wars is now occupied not by journalists but by novelists and even poets: Jehanne Dubrow’s “Stateside,” Brian Turner’s “Phantom Noise,” David Abrams’s “Fobbit,” Nadeem Aslam’s “The Blind Man’s Garden,” the stories of Katey Schultz. Read more

Source: NY Times


Nobel Laureates speak out for jailed Turkish writers

Nobel laureates and other writers have issued a message of solidarity to Turkish colleagues who have been jailed as part of what they call a “heavy-handed” crackdown against free expression.

Close to 150 writers and journalists are in prison in Turkey, several jailed as the government embarked on a massive clampdown on a network linked to a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for Turkey’s failed coup in July. The crackdown later extended to other government opponents.

Nobel laureates, including Elfriede Jelinek and JM Coetzee, and other high-profile authors vowed today not to remain silent “while your human rights are violated.” Read more

Review: In ‘More,’ Dispatches From Hell by a Human Trafficker


This disturbing new novel by Hakan Gunday, one of Turkey’s leading young writers, is like a visit to a Hieronymus Bosch hell: terrifying scenes of suffering, starvation, sadism, depravity and the agonies associated with combat zones. “More” recounts the story of a boy named Gaza who works with his father, a human trafficker, and it conveys the suffering of refugees and migrants as they try to make their way from war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Syria through Turkey and eventually on to Greece and the wider world (that is, if they survive a cascade of perils, one more awful than the next). It is also the narrator’s coming-of-age story, starting at 9 — a dark fable that traces the metamorphosis of a bright schoolboy into an appalling monster.

The importance of this novel — which won the French Prix Médicis Étranger award — lies in its horrific portrayals of refugees fleeing desperate situations, sometimes leaving home with a lifetime’s possessions in a single plastic bag, only to find themselves in another inferno, preyed upon by unscrupulous smugglers and thugs. Such passages powerfully convey the plight of a record number of refugees today — the United Nations estimates that 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution at the end of 2015 — with the visceral, emotional detail that reports from policy groups rarely possess. Read more

Farewell to Yaşar Kemal, towering author of Turkish literature

Turkey is bidding farewell to its towering man of letters Yaşar Kemal, not only a great author who published over 25 acclaimed novels and short stories throughout his life, but also an unflinching literary dissident who used his pen to give an unadulterated voice to the plight of his fellow countrymen: Today’s Zaman

Yasar KemalKemal, who died on Saturday at age 91, was a giant of turkish literature, acclaimed the world over for his solid, genuine depiction of the human condition and emotions as well as both the beauty and cruelty of nature in his own unique style reminiscent of folk stories.

Kemal, the bard of the Çukurova plains, the fertile land that nurtured him and his larger than life stories, will be laid to rest on Monday in İstanbul, his second home for over half a century. Read more

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