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Last week we talked about the Turkish language and gave some tips about learning Turkish and made some resource suggestions. We also talked about how reading is one of the most important steps while learning a new language. In this sense, in this week’s article we will talk about only Turkish literature and give you some great book suggestions from Turkish literature !
Before beginning, let’s take a look at the history of Turkish literature. Turkish Literature comprises a period of nearly 1,300 years. From the Chinese sources we learn that Turkish literature began in the 2nd century BC but unfortunately we do not have any written samples surviving from that period. And the earliest known writings in a Turkic language are the Orhun (Orkhon) Inscriptions (Orhun Yazıtları in Turkish ) written in cuneiforms on two large monuments, dated 8th century AD, discovered in 1889 in Northern Mongolia where the Turks originally come from. They were made to honor the two Turkish brother rulers; Kul Tigin (prince) and Bilge Khagan (emperor), and they explain about the Turks' culture, social life and art.
After the victory of the Seljuks at the Battle of Manzikert (Malazgirt Savaşı) in the late 11th century, the Oghuz Turks began to live in Anatolia. In addition to the earlier oral traditions there began a written literary tradition issuing largely—in terms of themes, genres, and styles—from Arabic and Persian literature. For the next 900 years, until shortly before the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the oral and written traditions were largely separate from one another. After the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the two different traditions united for the first time.
Turkish literature has some of the most esteemed writers both from the Ottoman and Republican periods. Some of those writer were influenced by political events or the circumstances of the period they lived in. These writers and poets enriched Turkish culture deeply with emotional poetry and fictional novels using their unique styles of writing. It is true that they are not yet as famous as their counterparts in the West, but they have many valuable works in the tradition of Turkish literature. Also with translations of their work into various languages today it is possible to know these Turkish authors and poets and their unique ways of writing. Yasar Kemal was one of Turkey's leading writers who had been a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novel "Ince Memed". And Orhan Pamuk was awarded with this prize in 2006 with his novel "Museum of Innocence". But of course there are many other established authors which we will share below. If you are learning Turkish or just interested in Turkish literature, enjoy those good novels and authors !
Now the book suggestions.
Ince Memed by Yasar Kemal
Yasar Kemal is one of the leading Turkish authors. His famous novel Ince Memed is written in thirty eight years. The book is about the story of a young rural boy named Memed, who endures persecution by the local landowner. When his lover is imprisoned while they try to escape, Memed joins a gang of bandits to seek his revenge. The book tells about the human relations of Memed, who opposes the system. With nature and colors, Ince Memed is a story of Cukurova which is a large fertile plain in the Cilicia region of southern Turkey. If you love to read rural stories and people, Yasar Kemal’s pen is right for you.
Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitusu (The Time Regulation Institute, 1954) by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar
Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitusu is written by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, one of the masters of modern Turkish literature. The main character is Hayri İrdal, who narrates the novel and presents it like a memoir. The novel discusses his and other people's formation of the Time Regulation Institute, which changes the time on Turkey's clocks to that used in the West and educates the public about the importance of "being on top of one's own time". Before the Institute, Hayri Irdal meets a psychiatrist named Dr Ramiz, who later introduces İrdal to Halit Ayarcı (the Regulator). Halit Ayarcı decides to establish the institute after talking about time while drinking rakı with Hayri İrdal.
It is highly recommended for you to check out the novel’s comments on Goodreads.
A Useless Man: Selected Stories by Sait Faik Abasiyanik
Sait Faik Abasıyanık (18 November 1906 – 11 May 1954), is Turkish short story writer, novelist and poet. He is one of the leading authors of Turkish storytelling and he is considered a turning point in Turkish literature with his contributions to contemporary storytelling. He was influenced by names such as André Gide, Comte de Lautréamont, and Jean Genet, while creating his own unique language.
His stories celebrate the natural world and trace the plight of iconic characters in society: ancient coffeehouse proprietors and priests, dream-addled fishermen and poets of the Princes’ Isles, lovers and wandering minstrels of another time.
Many stories are loosely autobiographical and deal with Sait Faik’s frustration with social convention, the relentless pace of westernization, and the slow but steady ethnic cleansing of his city. His fluid, limpid surfaces might seem to be in keeping with the restrictions that the architects of the new Republic placed on language and culture, but the truth lies in their dark, subversive undercurrents. One for the story lovers among Turkish books.
Dokuzuncu Hariciye Koğuşu by Peyami Safa
Peyami Safa (April 2, 1899 – June 15, 1961) was a Turkish journalist, columnist and novelist. He is one of the Turkish literature of the Republican era with his psychological works such as Dokuzuncu Hariciye Koğuşu (Ninth External Ward). He reflected on his life and his changes to his works. He created the type Cingöz Recai inspired by Arsène Lupin of the French writer Maurice Leblanc.
In Dokuzuncu Hariciye Koğuşu (Ninth External Ward), he tells the story of a 15 years old boy who falls in love with a girl who is 4 years older than him and also has an infection at his leg. He stays in a hospital for a long time.The whole story revolves around his feelings and fears in a heartwarming naive language of Peyami Safa. It is a thin but heavy book at the same time. It is a good book to start reading Peyami Safa, then you can discovers his other works too.
Kürk Mantolu Madonna (Madonna in a Fur Coat, 1943) by Sabahattin Ali
Sabahattin Ali is an important figure in Turkish literature, as much for the tragic circumstances of his death – the author was allegedly beaten to death at the hands of the government – as for his work. Originally published in 1943, this short novel has since become one of Turkey’s most widely read books, with its translation reaching many bestseller lists abroad. The plot revolves around a shy young man from rural Turkey who moves to Berlin in the 1920s, where he meets a woman who will haunt him for the rest of his life. Ali himself spent 18 months in the German capital as a young man, returning to Turkey to teach and write. Over the course of his life, he was imprisoned several times.
‘Poems of Nâzım Hikmet’ (1986)
Nâzım Hikmet is one of Turkey’s most well-known poets, and his work has been translated into more than 50 languages. He spent much of his adult life in prison or exile due to his political beliefs, and it was here that he wrote much of his poetry. A leader of the Turkish avant garde, his poems tackle themes of love, national identity, Marxism and more.
In this article we took a brief look at Turkish literature and suggested some books for you from great Turkish writers. But of course there is more waiting to be discovered by you. And we will share more reading lists. Stay tuned for our next blog articles,
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