An important figure in the Turkish literary scene, Sabahattin Ali is more well known internationally because the translation of his novel Madonna in a Fur Coat reached best-seller lists abroad. The plot revolves around a shy young man from rural Turkey who moves to Berlin in the 1920s, where he meets a woman who will haunt him for the rest of his life.
One of the dominant figures of the postmodern movement in Turkish poetry, İlhan Berk was also known for his translation of great poets into Turkish, such as Ezra Pound and Arthur Rimbaud. His own style has its roots in mythology, while also dabbling with the poetry traditions of West and East.
One of the most important representatives of modernism in Turkish literature, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar was a poet, novelist, literary scholar, and essayist. His novel The Time Regulation Institute offers a juxtaposing perspective between Istanbul aristocrats and the local neighborhoods and families, for an often absurd view of the old way of life adapting to the new Western modernity.
A leading figure of the modern novel in Turkey, Oğuz Atay’s first novel Tutunamayanlar (The Disconnected) was controversial when it was published in 1971, and a bestseller when it was reprinted in 1984. The novel, written in the stream of consciousness narrative mode, has been translated into three languages so far.
Yaşar Kemal is another of Turkey’s leading writers who was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His novel Memed, My Hawk (İnce Memed) follows the story of a young village boy named Memed, who endures the great cruelties of the local landowner. When his love Hatche is imprisoned while they both try to escape, Memed joins a band of brigands to plot out his revenge.
Born on Heybeliada in 1915, Aziz Nesin was certainly one of Turkey’s most important writers. Jailed several times due to his political views, he still managed to be one of the few authors who made a living through his work. He established the Nesin Foundation in 1972, to help destitute children with shelter and education. His autobiography (in four volumes) expresses not only the life of a great writer but that of a whole country and its many difficulties.
The Chuck Palahniuk of Turkish literature, Hakan Günday doesn’t hold back in his writing, which is raw and often disturbing. His award-winning novel More deals with the story of Gaza, who becomes a human trafficker like his father.
Nazım Hikmet is one of Turkey’s most well-known poets, whose work has been translated into more than fifty languages. He spent much of his adult life in prison or exile due to his political beliefs. A leader of Turkish avant-garde, Hikmet was a prolific writer of poems, plays, and film scripts that dared to break boundaries.
Currently one of Turkey’s most famous writers, Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. Apart from his famous novels My Name is Red and Snow, The Museum of Innocence is especially noteworthy because of Pamuk’s establishment of an actual museum in Istanbul’s Çukurcuma neighborhood, which is based on the fictitious plot of the novel.
Orhan Veli Kanik, Oktay Rıfat, and Melih Cevdet (who had been friends since high school) wrote Garip: A Turkish Poetry Manifesto in 1941, which marked a historic break from the conventional Turkish-Ottoman tradition of prosody. Their individual works offer an essential glimpse into Turkish poetry that dared to include colloquialisms, completely changing the form for a new generation of writers.