Five tales: A Romani band takes to the stage at a luxurious hotel in Istanbul... A madwoman’s tragic past comes to light... The metropolis is ravaged by a linguistically-transmitted disease... A well-to-do family implodes as a buried secret bursts like an infected wound... A prostitute swells with a child that refuses to be born...
The stories included in this issue’s Pocket Anthology differ dramatically from each other in terms of narrative style and subject matter—which is a reflection of the large amount of writing being produced by the younger generation of writers in Turkey today, a slippery corpus that refuses to be pinned down by a rubric of trends. Nonetheless, something is lurking there. Just beneath the surface. Aching. To get out.
In the last decade or so, there has been an opening up of sorts in Turkey as more and more researchers and writers delve into the country’s darker past. A past that has long been taboo. A past steeped in the suffering of the Armenians. Kurds. Greeks. Not to mention women, children, the dispossessed. The list goes on. Only now are those tragedies starting to come to light. Rupturing, we might say, as today’s writers exhume the specters of history.
These stories are driven by an undercurrent of past griefs that explode into the present, just as Turkey itself has been swelling with the well-known “secrets” of its own history, and that grief is exacerbated here by social exclusion in the form of discrimination against the Romani people, as well as prejudice regarding madness, contagion, sexual orientation, and sex workers. In many ways, these stories have taken what Orhan Pamuk calls the 'melancholia' of Turkish writing one step further into grief.
But there is something else too. Humor. While not downplaying the buried pain that afflicts the characters in these stories, humor is stitched into the narratives in a way that—almost—makes the suffering bearable. This, too, is on the rise across and between the layers of contemporary Turkish society, and it stands on the shoulders of the ancient Turkish humor of Nasrettin Hoca tales and the ever-present comedy magazines read avidly in all big cities. This new-and-rediscovered humor intertwines with the currents of historical and present grief in a way that Turkish literature turned its back on in the '90s and the first decade of this century.
You may access these fine tales below, or via our table of contents: