MARION – Has it been a good year for Turkish literature lovers?

Has it been a good year for Turkish literature lovers?As this year comes to a close and a new one hovers over the horizon, we end this year with a round-up of Turkish literature translated into English — both books reviewed in the year on this page and those newly published and waiting on our shelves for their turn for a review.British classical music composer Ralph Vaughan Williams once claimed that andldquothe art of music above all the other arts is the expression of the soul of a nation.

andrdquo Book-lovers would probably disagree. Orhan Pamuk catches the wistfulness and desire to wallow in melancholy — that Turkish word andldquohuzun,andrdquo which is so hard to translate — in his writings about Istanbul in a way that little else can.

And the classics of YaIar Kemal such as andldquoMemed, My Hawkandrdquo (sadly out of print in the United Kingdom for many a year) perfectly express the values operating in AnatoliaandldquoYou just must read andlsquoalIkuIu,and#39 my dear!andrdquo insisted Turkish public relations doyenne Betul Mardin when I sat next to her at a function. For her, nothing could explain Turkey and its history to an English person better than this 1922 novel about an Istanbul lady who goes to teach in an Anatolian village — a bit of a Turkish Anne of Green Gables.

But until recently, apart from a few noted examples such as these, or the works of NazIm Hikmet and Orhan Kemal, very little Turkish literature was available to be read in the English language. Recently, Turkish literature has begun to come out of the shadows and on to the world stage.

Partly this is due to the spotlight of a Nobel Prize partly it is a result of the excellent work done by the Translation and Publication Grant Program of Turkey (TEDA). Local publishing companies, such as itlembik YayInlarI and Everest YayInlarI, have also played an important role, alongside Milet Publishing of the UK, in bringing new works to the English language readerHereand#39s a reminder of some of the highlights from the past 12 months:1.

andldquoThe Time Regulation Instituteandrdquo by Ahmet Hamdi TanpInar (published by Penguin, April 2014): A stunning satirical novel of the early Republican period by the author Orhan Pamuk calls andldquothe most important Turkish writerandrdquo On the one hand it is a parody worthy of Jonathan Swift, poking fun at the state enterprises that attempted in the first half of this century to mold Turkish society and to change the way a people not only behaved but also thought and spoke. On the other hand, it speaks to the whole world, brilliantly caricaturing the worst excesses of government departments and NGOs.

Anyone who has suffered at the hands of bureaucracy gone mad will laugh out loud at the antics of Hayri Irdal and his colleagues at the Time Regulation Institute.2 andldquoRose of Sarajevoandrdquo by AyIe Kulin (published by Amazon Crossing, August 2014): Kulin once more explores the emotions of love and war as she sets this novel in the Balkans in the 1990s as war threatens to tear apart not just countries but also families.

Heroine Nimeta has always been responsible. Trained as a journalist she is immune to crises, until when covering a protest in Zagreb she meets a handsome reporter who captures her heart.

By intertwining Nimetaand#39s inner turmoil with the slow-motion horror of a genocidal conflict, Kulin can explore how we destroy ourselves. This novel contains a detailed portrait of the searing intensity of Milosevic, but it has received some criticism from Bosnian sources over its over-play of the relationship between Turks and Bosniaks.

3 andldquoWhen Pera Trees Whisperandrdquo by Ahmet umit (published by Everest, May 2014): Ahmet umit has been called Turkeyand#39s answer to Stieg Larsson. Lovers of umitand#39s detective novels will be delighted he has a new aenture set in Istanbul, although this time it is more a psychological thriller based around the events of the Gezi Park uprising.

Murder goes hand-in-hand with political intrigue in this tale of a city not at peace with itself. A superb story launches itself with the strapline andldquoLove keeps life from being ordinary.

Murder saves death from mediocrity.andrdquo4.

andldquoBlack Sky, Black Seaandrdquo by Izzet Celasin (published by MacLehose Press, November 2013): The Gezi Park protests were not the first to be seen in Taksim Square. Even more infamous was the events of May Day, 1977.

This is an auspicious date for the workers movement in Turkey and, like the assassination of JFK, the full truth of what happened and why has never been uncovered. Celasin takes us back to this era and gives us a youthful, enthusiastic hero called Oak.

The publishers in their blurb draw parallels between this and Orhan Pamukand#39s andldquoSilent House,andrdquo which deals with the same painful period in Turkish history. The first half of this novel lives up to these claims, as the author speaks with the authority of one who lived through these emotions and subsequent torture, but its later descent into nihilism is a disappointment.

5 andldquoMount Qafandrdquo by Muge Ipliki (published by Milet, April 2014): Mount Qaf is the mystical mountain in Islam, believed to be inhabited by the djinns and the place where the realm of man meets the realm of the spirits. Iplikiand#39s short but harrowing novel takes us into the murky world of the CIA rendition program US-educated Turkish journalist Emel is trying to trace an old classmate, Pakistani-born Zahide.

True to much Turkish literature, and inspired by the place where the world of men blurs into that of the spirits, this tale springs surprises and takes on a surreal nature. Ultimately we are not sure who Emel really is, and what is the relationship between her and Zahide.

This can be disconcerting for the English-language reader, who is more used to a novel with a clear progression towards a finale that ties up all the loose ends.6 andldquoIstanbul Bluesandrdquo by Buket Uzuner (published by Milet, May 2014): This set of short stories by popular Turkish novelist Buket Uzuner seems to be cashing in on the international success Orhan Pamuk had with depicting the sadder side of this thriving city.

Nevertheless, they are sensitively told and seek to uncover the psychological and emotional state of characters who could represent every Istanbulite.7 andldquoBoundless Solitudeandrdquo by Selim Ileri (published by Milet, February 2014): Turkish authors seem to do sad novels the best.

Nostalgia haunts this novel, as the reader is constantly drawn back to the past by heroine Handan Sarp, a soprano at the Istanbul City Opera What gives this story bite is its controversial subject: Handanand#39s attraction to a young seamstress named Emel, and the accompanying realization that her sexual orientation is to put her at odds with the morals of a Muslim society.8 andldquoZarifeandrdquo by Deniz KavukuoIlu (published by Milet, April 2014): Zarife has made it.

She has managed to pull herself up out of the gutter and is now one of the wealthiest women in Turkey. But there has been a price to pay.

This novel deals with how ambition and regrets are incompatible bed-fellows its heroine may be tough, steely and feisty on the outside, but she is not immune to feelings of hollowness inside.The year 2014 also saw a new novel published by Orhan Pamuk in Turkish, andldquoKafamda Bir TuhaflIkandrdquo (A Strangeness in My Mind), but there has been no announcement yet about an English publication.

Pamukand#39s translator, Maureen Freely, has been busy working on a short story collection by Sait Faik AbasIyanIk entitled andldquoA Useless Man,andrdquo which will be published by Archipelago Books on Jan. 8, 2015.

We will also have to wait until April 2015 for the English edition of Elif Shafakand#39s latest novel, andldquoThe Architectand#39s Apprentice.andrdquoBut even without a Pamuk or Shafak blockbuster, 2014 was still a great year for Turkish literature lovers.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman