Aslı Biçen

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Aslı Biçen

Aslı Biçen (b. 1970)
Aslı Biçen (b. 1970)

Aslı Biçen was born in Bursa in 1970. She completed her primary and secondary education at Bursa Private İnal Ertekin and Bursa Anatolian High Schools. In 1993, she graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature at Boğaziçi University. She has been working as a translator since 1990 and she is a member of the Literary Translators Union (ÇEVBİR), which was established to protect the rights of translators. Biçen, who thinks one should qualify on the literatures of both the source and target languages, holds workshops and seminars on literary translation. She has translated works of writers such as Dickens, Faulkner, Cortazar, Fuentes, Rushdie, Djuna Barnes, John Barth, Durrell, Arthur Phillips, A. L. Kennedy, Wallace Stevens, Ariel Dorfman and Elif Şafak into Turkish. She was prosecuted for her translation of The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak in 2006 along with the novelist herself and Hüseyin Semih Sökmen, the publishing executive of Metis on charges of "humiliating Turkish Nationality," in accordance with the article 301 of Turkish Penal Code. On 21 September 2006, the case resulted with acquittal on the grounds of "the absence of elements of crime and the lack of evidence" by Beyoğlu Court of Justice.

In her first work Elime Tutun, which was written in 1995 but published ten years later, a love story that begins on a ferry is depicted. It is the romance between an impotent man who has broken loose from the language of sexuality and a woman who has stepped outside first the limits of language, then mind, and eventually gone mad. In the book, an experimental narration focusing on the themes of language and memory is constructed. Intermingled word games and memory tricks emphasize the idea of illusion. Language, body, and mind lose their fixed positions within the text by means of the concept of game. It turns into a narration of fragmentation. Although there are different narrators who describe the complex love of two unnamed characters, the dominant one is mostly the male one whose sphere of dominance is limited to his language. The writer questions “masculinity” along the lines of socially-constructed gender identities. In the work, which is defined as a poetic text and is based upon metaphors, the frequently used imagery of the sea in referring to femininity, sexuality and aforesaid fragmentation appears as an unattainable totality/accuracy/integrity. Biçen demonstrates a sensitivity of language and unique touch brought with her translating experience, while presenting a multi-layered reading with a metaphoric narration and closed meaning worlds to her readers. According to her, “literature is not related to the perfection of the subject. For a qualified literary, work using the source language in an enchanting way is needed".

Her second book, İnceldiği Yerden, on which she worked for three years, narrates the story of a fictitious rural town named Andalıç, which gets disconnected from the land and drifts towards the Aegean Sea and Greece as a result of an earthquake at night. Beginning with the preparations for a wedding ceremony and set amongst the rural people and their lives, the novel proceeds with the declaration of a state of emergency on the island by the governor, the mayor and the police commissioner due to the disconnection from the mainland. In the text, the emergence of opposing voices and their suppression process in the floating town turns into “a political metaphor” (Turkes) and political allegory. The projection of physical break is also observed in the novel’s first half before concentrating on the story of the rural people and in the second half that exhibits fantastic features. The novelist adopts a metaphoric and symbolic narration similar to her first book. Critics draw attention to the writer’s authenticity, while also maintaining that her novel is associated with other works through the metaphor of the island in literature. For instance, Ömer Türkeş elaborates on the similarities of this book with The Tale of the Unknown Island by Jose Saramago.

Aslı Biçen handles the turbulent political environment of 1980s and the conditions that perpetuated this environment with her next work, Tehdit Mektupları, which is an example of epistolary novel. The story begins with a murder investigation document of 1982. Cihan, who is a university student, is imprisoned and tortured despite his innocence. He writes letters to his fiancé and the past is revealed slowly through them, as well as the diary of an idealist solicitor, the (unsent) letters that Cihan’s father penned and the flashbacks that focus on court documents, through which mistakes, sins, jealousies and secrets come to the open.

Works

  • Elime Tutun (2005)
  • İnceldiği Yerden (2008)
  • Tehdit Mektupları (2011)

Translations

  • Siyah Madonna, Doris Lessing
  • Fransız Teğmenin Kadını, John Fowles
  • Masal Masal İçinde Khimaria, John Barth
  • Eşek Arısı Fabrikası, Iain Banks
  • Geceyi Anlat Bana, Djuna Barnes
  • Konfidenz, Ariel Dorfman
  • 62 Maket Seti, Julio Cortazar
  • Mavi Gitarlı Adam, Wallace Stevens
  • Ortak Bir Şeyleri Olmayanların Ortaklığı, Alphonso Lingis
  • Doğmamış Kristof, Carlos Fuentes
  • Nehrin Dönemeci, V. S. Naipaul
  • Sherlock Holmes ve Arap Prensesi, John North
  • Abşalom Abşalom, William Faulkner
  • Afrodit'in Başkaldırısı, Lawrence Durrell
  • Geceyarısı Çocukları, Salman Rushdie
  • İstanbul'da Son Aşk, Milorad Paviç
  • Kasvetli Ev I- II, Charles Dickens
  • Freud / Görüntünün Ortasındaki Karanlık, Louis Breger
  • Troya'da Aşk, Adele Geras
  • Türkiye Uygarlıklar Rehberi 1 / İstanbul, JohnFreely (with Tuncay Birkan, Gürol Koca)
  • Türkiye Uygarlıklar Rehberi 2 / Marmara Etrafında - Karadeniz Kıyısı, John Freely(with Tuncay Birkan, Gürol Koca)
  • Türkiye Uygarlıklar Rehberi 3 / Ege Kıyıları, John Freely (with Tuncay Birkan, Gürol Koca)
  • Türkiye Uygarlıklar Rehberi 4 / Akdeniz Kıyıları, John Freely (with Tuncay Birkan, Gürol Koca)
  • Türkiye Uygarlıklar Rehberi 5 / Anadolu, John Freely (with Tuncay Birkan, Gürol Koca)
  • Kapalı Kitap, Gilbert Adair
  • Kulenin Anahtarı, Gilbert Adair
  • Meşuga, Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • Mor Bir Serserinin Gezi Notları, Osamu Dazai
  • Mozart ve Deyyuslar, Anthony Burgess
  • Toplu Öyküler, Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • Araf, Elif Şafak
  • Muhtaç Olduğun Her Şey, A. L. Kennedy
  • Wittgenstein'in Maşası: İki Büyük Filozof Arasındaki On Dakikalık Tartışmanın Hikâyesi, David Edmonds, John Eidinow
  • Yazarın Ölümü, Gilbert Adair
  • Prag, Arthur Phillips
  • Sonsuzluğun Kıyıları: Bilim Dünyasından Şaşırtıcı Ama Gerçek Öyküler, Adrian Berry

Bibliography

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