British daily newspaper The Guardian has published a “Top-10” list displaying the best 10 novels about Türkiye, with a novel written in 1945 by one of Türkiye’s leading female authors sitting at the top.
“Derviş, who is the Madame Bovary of Turkish literature, wrote about the loss and longing of urban, affluent Turkish women in this novel,” said Defne Suman, a Turkish writer who has penned the list for the U.K. daily.
The novel is about a woman named Celile who is torn between her respectable husband and her passionate tango partner in 1940s Istanbul.
“Although the story is, in many ways, universal, Derviş brilliantly captures the particularities of Turkish society and its struggle with modernity,” the daily said.
The runner-up is “Highly Unreliable Account of the History of a Madhouse,” penned by Ayfer Tunç.
A postmodern Arabian Nights, the novel “takes place over one Valentine’s Day in a mental institution on the Black Sea.”
Nobel laureate and author Orhan Pamuk’s famous “The Museum of Innocence” and “The Flea Palace” by Elif Şafak sit in the third and the fourth spot on the list, respectively.
Then comes “Middlesex,” Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer prize-winning novel. The novel tells the story of two siblings, Ottoman citizens of Greek descent, running away from war and ending up in New York “with a secret in their hearts and in their DNA.”
Famous Turkish novelist and poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s “A Mind at Peace” sits in sixth place.
Calling the novel, which was published in 1949, a “Turkish Ulysses,” the daily added: “It contains the most beautiful picture of Istanbul ever depicted in literature, as well as offering deep insights into human nature.”
The list’s seventh place hosts “Last Train to Istanbul,” a novel penned by another famous Turkish female author, Ayşe Kulin.
Taking place during World War II, Kulin “reveals a very little-known part of Turkish history: The mission to rescue Turkish Jews in Paris from the Nazi occupation.”
“Like a train, the novel starts slowly and speeds up as it nears the end.”
“Motherland Hotel” by Yusuf Atılgan, who died in 1989 at the age of 68, is the eighth best novel about Türkiye.
In this existential nightmare, the anti-hero Zebercet is waiting for his lover’s arrival in a small hotel that was, once upon a time, a wealthy mansion.
Another 20th-century author, Sait Faik Abasıyanık, sits in ninth place on the list with his work, “A Useless Man: Selected Stories.”
The stories portray the everyday life of ordinary people in Istanbul and the complications that transpired during the country’s transformation from the Ottoman empire to the modern Turkish Republic.
The list ends with “Waiting For Fear,” penned by Oğuz Atay, a pioneer of the modern novel in Türkiye.
In his novel, Atay “asks the question ‘Who are we?’ and tries to answer it in each individual short story, which are all told in his signature ironic style.”
According to Suman, these 10 books “not only talk about Türkiye’s historical and social context but also reflect the distinctive styles and the creativity of their authors in dealing with individual, philosophical and political questions.”
Hurriyet Daily News