Category Archives: blog

Literature Overview

A friend of mine studying literature at university once told me she was interested in reading some modern Turkish writers. I had a look round for some kind of guide in English and I was less than inspired by what I found. I hear there was once a good ‘Penguin Guide to Turkish Literature’ but I have never seen it. The material I found seemed very dry and academic, and not really up to the job of selling Turkish authors to a new potential audience.

I hope one day somebody asks me to translate such a guide, but in the meantime I’d like to build a brief layman’s guide for non-Turkish speakers interested in finding out about the literature. Just having a summary list of the names of translated authors can be useful and there is a compilation of translated novels on the page: list of translated works. I aim to give some basic background information, links to sites with more details in English and links to publishers to help readers find the novels. Where possible I will also give links to reviews of the translations on the internet.

It’s certainly won’t be an exhaustive list and it may take me a while to build it up. Also feel free to write to me with your suggestions. Click on the writers link for more information.

Orhan Kemal

I’ll start with a personal favourite….

Writer: Orhan Kemal
Life: 1914 – 1970
Born: Adana
Summary: His novels and short stories relate the daily life of the urban poor, many from amongst the agricultural and factory workers of the Adana region, in a time of great social upheaval in Turkey. His works reflect the effects of economic changes on the local people and the contradictions inherent in society. His fluid and fast flowing style, along with a positive outlook on the human spirit, has contributed to his long lasting popularity.
During his lifetime, he supported himself with many different jobs both blue collar and white collar, and it was only in later life that he was able to survive from his writing. He lived in the Adana region for many years but also in Syria, Lebanon and Istanbul. In the 1930’s he was imprisoned on a charge of spreading communist propaganda and spent some time in Bursa Prison with the poet, Nazim Hikmet. Aswell as producing 30-40 novels and story anthologies, he also wrote plays and film scripts. One of his plays, about life in prison in the 1940’s, Ward 72 (72.Koğuş) has twice been made into a film.

Translated works with links to publishers and review:

The Idle Years – My Father’s House
Turkish title: Avare Yıllar – Baba Evi
Publisher: Peter Owen Publishers
review: Independent Newspaper

The Prisoners
Turkish title: 72. Koğuş
Publisher: Everest Publishing

Reviews: Overview from Everest in English

In Jail with Nazim Hikmet
Turkish title: Nazım Hikmet’le Üç Buçuk Yıl
Publisher: Saqi Books 
Reviews: Cornucopia Magazine
ILA Magazine

Translations into other languages:

Comprehensive list of works translated to other languages on the Orhan Kemal website – see below for link.

Other useful links:
Orhan Kemal Website