She was born on the 24th August, 1960, in Istanbul, as the daughter of Tülay Tuna and Etem Mağden, mechanical engineer, and cousin of the writer Reha Mağden. She graduated from Maçka Primary School (1971), English High School For Girls (1976), Robert College (1979) and Boğaziçi University, from the Department of Psychology (1983). She travelled through Asia for three years; lived in India, Japan and the United States. She worked as a copywriter and worked on the TV programme “As One Reads” (Okudukça) on channels TRT-2 and Kanal 6. After writing columns since 1997 for the newspaper Radikal, she left her job temporarily in 2001 to write her novel, Two Girls (İki Genç Kızın Romanı, 2002). In 2002, she went back to her job as a daily columnist at Radikal but resigned in 2005. Following her resignation from Radikal, she started to write weekly articles for the journals Yeni Aktuel and Red. In 2006, she was accused of “using the media to prejudice people against the military” after writing an article, entitled “Conscientious Objection Is a Human Right”. After being tried in court, with the possibility of being sentenced to three years in prison, she was absolved of the accusations. In 2007, she went back to her work as a columnist at Radikal. In 2011 she left Radikal, writing instead in the newspaper, Taraf. She is a member of Turkish PEN Center (PEN Yazarlar Derneği) and Writers’ Center (Edebiyatçılar Derneği). She is divorced, mother of a daughter and lives in Istanbul.
In 1979, her first poem If the Heart is Black (Zenciyse Yürek) was published in the journal, Felsefe Dergisi. She continued to publish poems in journals such as Beyaz, Sonbahar and Oluşum. Her talent of embodying ordinary people and incidents caught literary critics’ attention quickly. Her poetry collection, Kitchen Mashaps (1995) was adapted into a play by Emre Koyuncuoğlu and put on stage in Izmir and Istanbul. Her novel, Two Girls (İki Genç Kızın Romanı) was adapted for cinema by Kutluğ Ataman. After the publication of her book, The Messenger Boy Murders, (Haberci Çocuk Cinayetleri, 1991) in Russia, she became the first Turkish writer of Gayatri Publishing House. The Messenger Boy Murders has also been translated into Dutch by Hamide Doğan and has been published by Athenaeum-Polak&Van Gennep Publishing House in Holland. Her novel The Companion (Refakatçi, 1994) has been translated into German. Two Girls has been published by Serpent’s Tail in England. In 2010, she published her novel Ali and Ramazan (Ali ile Ramazan) which tells the tragic love story of two men, Ali and Ramazan who meet in the orphanage and become life-long friends and later, lovers. The TEDA Project (Translation Subvention Program of Turkey) rejected financial support for the book’s costs of translation which created debate on the conservatism of the Project.
Her books, Monday Articles or Is It Worth Bothering About These? (Pazartesi Yazıları ya da Hiç Bunları Kendine Dert Etmeye Değer mi?, 1997), Go on Now, Walk Out the Door/Wicked Writings (Kapı Açık Arkanı Dön ve Çık!/Habaset Yazıları, 1998), Radikal Articles or But Unfortunately the Street Was Empty (Radikal Yazıları ya da Fakat Ne Yazık ki Sokak Boştu,1999) Everybody Is Talking About You, Are You Really That Unhappy? (Herkes Seni Söylüyor, Sahi Mutsuz Musun?, 2001) consist of the columns she wrote for the newspaper, Radikal. Her columns, in which she criticizes popular culture and politics, have been attacked by the critics for her unconventional usage of the language. She has held a unique position among columnists for her usage of the spoken language in her texts, writing “1” instead of “one”, and her edgy satirical tone while critiquing popular culture.
The stories in The Messenger Boy Murders are all connected to each other, creating a novel. Mağden deforms the conventional forms of the novel, with her plot and narrative style, along with the ambiguous setting and timing of the stories. The Messenger Boy Murders, the text she wrote following her three years of travel in Asia, does not take place in a marked setting. Not only a surreal thriller, the text also presents the first example of one of Mağden’s main themes, the violence between mother and daughter.
Mağden puts her female protagonists at the centre of her texts. The mother-daughter relationship especially lies at the heart of her plots. The development of her characters shares characteristics with anti-bildungsroman stories. Instead of the protagonists of the bildungsroman stories who gradually develop from childhood to adulthood, Mağden’s protagonists evolve into madness, always carrying the child within. In her mother-daughter depictions, mothers turn into children and children to mothers, constantly exchanging their roles, becoming textual twins. For her texts, mothers and daughters are two parts of a whole and the fine line runs between a passionate motherly love and a bloodthirsty hatred. Her Two Girls, represent the problematic through the relationship between Behiye and Handan, as well as the stormy relationship of love, jealousy and concern between Handan and Handan’s mother. Her novels The Companion and Mom, Who Were We Escaping From? (Biz Kimden Kaçıyorduk Anne?, 2007) centre around the mother-daughter relationship which is depicted as a constant war, a scuffle. In her texts, the child’s devotion to a mother is both a heaven and a cage. The mother, on the other hand, both approaches the child with loving, but also carries the child like a burden. Mağden’s texts create this dance as an endless process. The child painter of The Componion crowns this dilemma with the portrait she paints, “It Takes Two to Tango”. There is no place for men and fathers in Mağden’s texts. While her rare male protagonists are not portrayed as profoundly as her female protagonists, the settings of her texts reflect the inner worlds of her female protagonists, turning the cities, villages, houses and ships into allegoric settings.
The Companion tells the story of love and hatred between a twelve year old, genius painter and her companion who is also the narrator of the story. The two main protagonists of the novel exist again as two parts of the whole, surviving by feeding on each other. Afraid to turn into the mother of the painter, the companion has to face her own childhood through the painter. She lacks the talent to reflect her darkness in art forms. By organizing her external possessions, she tries to organize her inner world. To control her unbearable desire to call people, she even cuts the phone cables in her house. But her self-control does not last long, since the journey that she is about make will be a journey into her inner world, rather than an external one. The letters that she and child write to each other about their deepest secrets, “The Letters from the Underground” touch her suppressed fears more and more. The companion tries to cleanse herself of the effects of the child painter by taking countless showers or brushing her teeth unnecessarily. Jale Parla, in her My History is my Nightmare! Dream, Nightmare, Room and Writing in the Texts of the Women Novelists (Tarihçem Kabusumdur! Kadın Romancılarda Rüya, Kabus, Oda, Yazı, 2004) points at the sleepwalking sessions of the child with the company of her companion and suggests that these walks are into the sub-conscious of the companion. The intolerableness of these journeys to her subconscious leads the companion to throw the child painter into the dark water of the pool which represents the womb of a mother. Pushing the girl into the pool, the companion finally faces her own childhood and leaves the boat.
Mağden’s Two Girls, published in 2002, depicts the thin line between love and possessiveness through a relationship between two young girls, as well as the relationship between a mother and her daughter. The text embodies the violence of love, as the possessive relationship of Behiye and Handan surrounds both their inner and external worlds. In her Mom, Who Were We Escaping From?, the emotional violence between mother and daughter turns into physical violence, creating a thriller out of motherly love. The relationship between a daughter who adores her mother and does everything to please her and a mother who devotes herself to her daughter passionately, results in murder as the mother kills everyone who tries to be involved in their lives. As the daughter gradually loses her independence, the murderous mother experiences limitless maternal feelings. In a similar way to The Companion, dreams and the narratives of the dreams speak the language of the protagonists’ sub-conscious. The daughter is portrayed as the only person who understands the language of her mother’s dreams. In Magden’s texts the line between love and possessiveness, devotion and losing one’s independence proves itself to be a thin one.
English Translated Works: 1- Mağden, Perihan. The Messenger Boy Murders. Trans. Richard Hamer. London: Milet Pub., 2003. 2- Mağden, Perihan. Two Girls. London: Serpent's Tail, 2005.