Aslı Erdoğan

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Aslı Erdoğan

She was born in 1967, in Istanbul. She graduated from Robert College in 1984. She had a double major in Computer Sciences and Physics at Bogaziçi University in 1988. After receiving her MS at Boğaziçi University in 1993, she worked at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as a high energy physicist and became one of the first Turkish postgraduate students at CERN. She quit her scientific career before completing her postgraduate research degree in Rio de Janeiro and published her first book The Shell Man (Kabuk Adam) in 1994.

Upon returning Istanbul, she published her first story collection Miraculous Mandarin (Mucizevi Mandarin) in 1996. In 1997, she received Deustche Welle prize for her short-story "Wooden Birds" (Tahta Kuşlar)' which was later translated into nine languages. Her second novel The City In Crimson Cloak (Kırmızı Pelerinli Kent, 1998) is also translated into French. The Norwegian translation of the book was published by Gyldendal in the Marg series. The columns she wrote for the Radikal newspaper are collected in When does a Journey Ends? (Bir Yolculuk Ne Zaman Biter, 2000). In 2005, she published In the Silence of Life (Hayatın Sessizliğinde). In addition to her novels and stories she published two more essays collections: Diary of a Lunatic (Bir Delinin Güncesi, 2006) and One More Time (Bir Kez Daha, 2006). Her works having been translated into five languages, she was chosen amongst the “50 Writers of the Future” by the French literary magazine Lire. She published The Stone Building and Other Stories (Taş Bina ve Diğerleri) in 2009.

Aslı Erdoğan is the writer of journeys. The journeys that she depicts are more in the inner worlds of the protagonists than in the external reality. The thoughts and the feelings of her protagonists are the focus of her texts, which leads her literature to be defined as poetic prose. The dualities of –arts and science, dark and light, order and chaos- are noticeable in her texts. Especially scientific research positioned against artistic creation is one of her main themes.

She defines herself as the writer of wounds, “For me, literature is the art of talking in the language of the wounds.” These wounds might be physical in the shape of a lost eye or an internal disease. But the nature of the wounds is mostly emotional. The scars or old wounds on her protagonists’ bodies indicate their pasts, portraying them as the outsiders of the society both physically and emotionally.

Past is another notable theme in her fiction. Her narrators do not live within the moment, rather they try to hold onto their past by remembering it through writing. The shadow of the past is always one of the main agents of their motivations. To be able to deal with their pasts, they write through their pains, sublimating their wounds.

Her stories and novels mostly take place in countries other than her native Turkey. The spatial estrangement indicates and complements internal estrangement. For instance, in The City In Crimson Cloak, Rio de Janeiro becomes a disturbing, bleeding wound. In the short story "A Visitor from the Country of Past" from the Miraculous Mandarin, Istanbul cannot exist without the protagonist’s memories and turns into a bleeding wound. In some of her stories, European cities disturb the protagonists with their orderliness and lifelessness. Her protagonists prefer tropics, where they see their own wounded reflection. As tropical and jungle-like atmospheres seem more alluring to them, Western world and its scientific system of order become the symbol of entrapment. For them, while Western cities represent limits and repressed feelings and desires, tropical countries stand for the freedom of bodily desires, sexual drives and pleasure.

Death is another theme in Aslı Erdogan’s texts. The real freedom comes only after death. She creates a similar faith for all of her protagonists. The path to cleanse yourself from the past by writing about it is also the path to die. When her protagonists finally save themselves from their pasts, death is the only way to absolute freedom. As opposed to the conventional plots and language of her first texts, in her second story collection and her last fictional book The Stone Building and the Other Stories, the narrative style turns into a delirium, a poetic syncopation. As can be seen in her The Diary of a Lunatic, her texts lose their coherent narrators as the conventional plots of her texts are deformed. With the fragmented language and obscure narration, Erdoğan does not only talk about the wounds of the subject, but uses the language of the wounds.

The author received the Yunus Nadi Prize in 1990 with her short story "The Final Farewell Note," as well as the 1997 Deutsche Welle Prize. In 2005, her In the Silence of Life was awarded "The Book of the Year Prize" by the Dünya Media group. Her works have been translated to several languages:

Translated Works
The City In Crimson Cloak

  • Actes Sud, April 2003
  • Gyldendal (Norway), Marg Series, September 2004
  • Soft Skull (USA), Februrary 2008
  • Unionsverlag (Germany) February 2008
  • Bulgarian rights bought by Biblioteka 48
  • Bosnian rights by Buy Book
  • Arabic rights by Cadmus-Al Furat (Syria-Lebanon)

The Miraculous Mandarin

  • Actes Sud (France), published May 2006
  • Ramus (Sweden)
  • Aton-Biblioteka 48 (Bulgaria)
  • Translated into Greek by Anthe Karra
  • Translated into Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian by Enver Ibrahimkadic, Buy Book Bosnian rights

The Wooden Birds

  • Published as Holzvögel in German in 1998 by Deutsche Welle-Onel, translated by Cornelius Bischoff
  • Actes Sud
  • Paradox (Bulgaria)
  • In The Silence of Life
  • Actes Sud
  • translated into Italian by Serra Yılmaz

Other texts in French:

  • Conversation avec le spectre d’un ermite and Ali, in: M.E.E.T no 8 Pekin (Beijing)/Istanbul
  • Le Bruit des Autres, in: Les Bonheurs de Babel
  • La Nuit des Mots, in collaboration with François Daireaux
  • Les Oiseaux des Bois, in: Etoiles d’Encre
  • Dans la Silence de la Vie, in: Siecle 21, no 8
  • Journal de une Detraquee, in: Folie Issue of Bleu Autour

In other languages
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