In this book, Erdağ Göknar, the award-winning translator of Orhan Pamuk’s novel, My Name Is Red, has set himself the task of explaining why Pamuk’s novels have received comparatively little critical attention both in his native Turkey and elsewhere. According to Göknar, most of the educated reading public in Turkey disdains Pamuk because they believe he has betrayed Kemalism (the combination of French-style secularism and nationalism that has become a sort of state “religion” in the Turkish Republic) in order to curry favor with foreign readers. This is the “blasphemy” to which the book’s title refers. At the same time, foreign readers have generally misunderstood Pamuk’s work because they are unfamiliar with Turkish literary and the political context from which it emerged. Göknar’s burden is therefore the dual one of clarifying Pamuk’s real political views for Turkish readers and educating foreign readers about his indebtedness to earlier Turkish writers.
This little memoir, first published in Italian in 1987, is an account of a life well lived. A proud Sephardi Jew, Victor Eskenazi (1906-1987) was fortunate to have been born and raised in Istanbul at a time when that city was still home to an extraordinarily diverse mix of ethnic and religious groups.
In this little book Talat Halman continues his lifelong campaign to acquaint the English-speaking public with Turkish literature. This introduction is intended for readers who know nothing about the subject and do not have the time or interest to read a more in-depth study. Inevitably, it occasionally bogs down into long lists of names, but on the whole it is surprisingly readable.
One of the most distinctive things about Orhan Pamuk’s writing is the playful way he tantalizes his readers by constantly blurring the boundaries between truth and fiction. By having his first-person narrators include many well-known aspects of the novelist’s own life in their tales, he keeps us guessing about which parts of the story actually happened and which are imaginary.
During his long career as poet, scholar, and translator, Talat Sait Halman has done more than any other single individual to promote knowledge of Turkish literature in the United States. Ibrahim the Mad and Other Plays, which he has edited with the able assistance of Jayne L. Warner, is the largest collection of Turkish plays ever published in English—by far exceeding even Halman’s earlier Modern Turkish Drama (1976; reprinted in 1983)—and it is only the first of two volumes, containing plays dating from 1940 to 1969. The second volume, I, Anatolia and Other Plays, due out later this year, will carry the panorama up to the end of the twentieth century.