Category Archives: Literature

February 03

Bleeding Heart Nationalist: Cegerxwîn and the Imagined Community (2021)

A group of students from the village madrassa were playing on a hilltop overlooking the Syrian border town of Qamishli. Overhead, Turkish bomber planes passed by, firing at the retreating supporters of Hajo Agha.[1] Hajo was the preeminent leader of the Hevêrkî, a Kurdish-speaking tribal confederation constituting some 150 villages around Tur Abdin in southeast Turkey. […]

June 11

Ahmet Kaya: Witness to the Age (Documentary)


January 28

Looking East From Istanbul: Memduh Sevket Esendal

Memduh Şevket Esendal was a revolutionary, a diplomat, and a political party grandee. During the interwar years, he was a Zelig-like figure, moving from Azerbaijan to Persia to Afghanistan, bearing witness as each underwent dramatic changes. Returning to Turkey in the 1940s, he became an active participant in political struggles. Yet, despite all these experiences, […]

June 19

The Sick Man of Turkey: Rıfat Ilgaz and Humor in Hard Times

They came for Rıfat Ilgaz again when he was sixty-nine years old. Six years earlier, he had returned to his Black Sea hometown of Cide and settled into a slowed-down version of his professional life: he still wrote columns for the local paper and he still published a range of books, but now he could […]

May 16

Ahmet Kaya: Witness to the Age

As the story goes, Ruhi Su, the famous Turkish folk singer, was giving a concert at Bosphorus University in 1977 when he was approached by a young man inspired by his music and hoping to follow in his footsteps.[1][2] Su was sixty-five and a well-established figure on the Turkish left; the young man was twenty […]

June 19

Miner Fiction

  Many criticisms were made of the Turkish government in the days following the deadly Soma mining disaster—that its leaders were ethically compromised by their relationships with the mine owner; that the cabinet ministers responsible for regulating the mining industry should be replaced; that a high-level advisor who kicked a helpless protester in the middle […]

December 26

The Long Road: Mehmed Uzun and the Kurdish Struggle for Rights

   “I was introduced to Turkish with a slap,” explained Mehmed Uzun on his deathbed, “I ate that slap on the first day of primary school in Siverek. Even today I can’t get it out my mind. We were trying to line up in the yard, talking Kurdish amongst ourselves. A reserve-officer teacher slapped me. […]

December 23

Saintly Verses: Aziz Nessin

[“Lots of agitation, no precaution.” Milliyet, 7/4/1993] [GO STRAIGHT TO TRANSLATION OF I Bought Flannel . . .] The New Yorker recently published an article by Salman Rushdie detailing his life in the twenty years since the Iranian government placed him under a fatwa, both calling for his death and offering a reward to anyone who carried it […]

December 22

The Most Famous Turkish Writer You Don’t Know

[GO STRAIGHT TO TRANSLATION OF DRUNK] When Sabahattin Ali’s body was found, head beaten in, near the Bulgarian border, he’d been dead for nearly two months.[1] The year was 1948, a decade after the death of Ataturk and nearly a quarter of a century into the Republican People’s Party’s single party rule. For the past […]

December 22

Orhan Kemal: Courting Controversy

[GO STRAIGHT TO TRANSLATION OF STRIKE] “Before I knowed it, I was sayin’ out loud, ‘The hell with it! There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing.’ . . . . I says, ‘What’s this call, this sperit?’ An’ I says, ‘It’s […]

December 22

Mike Hammer and Sickle

[GO STRAIGHT TO TRANSLATION OF SILENT CREEK The year was 1950 and Kemal Tahir was fresh out of prison and broke. A general amnesty had cut short his sentence by three years, but all told he’d been behind bars for twelve. In 1938 he and several other writers had been charged and found guilty of […]

December 21

Goodnight Panco

  CONTENTS I. Sait Faik: Living, Dying, and Remembering II. Translation: Trip III. Translation: Such a Story IV. Translation: A Man Created by Loneliness V. Translation: There is a Snake in Alemdağ VI. Translation: Panco’s Dream VII. Translation: Master Yani VIII. Translation: Blanket IX. Translation: Καληνύχτα Over a decade or more, heavy drinking can destroy the liver. Tissue normally capable of filtering […]