Image: European Union flags on Castle Street, Hull, Great Britain. Creative Commons.
With the UK still reeling at the prospect of leaving the European Union, we’re looking back to a time when another country seemed on the brink of joining. The title of our December 2005 issue, “Women on the Verge (of European Union),” nods to both the all-female lineup and the presumptive results of the first formal membership talks between Turkey and the EU. The issue sparkles with wit, typified by Perihan Magden’s picaresque “The Secret Meanings of Unappreciated Words,” in which a self-styled lexicographer celebrates her decision to leave her factory job by dining out. The evening unfolds in a river of red wine as she’s joined by a heavy smoker who, mysteriously, knows both her dictionary and her plans; an affectionate dwarf and his leonine one-eyed brother; and a musical prodigy turned rabbi, and ends with the narrator handing off her letter of resignation to a messenger boy in eighteenth-century garb. More soberingly, if no less absurd, Magden and two other contributors, Asli Erdogan and Elif Shafak, have been prosecuted by the Turkish government, Magden and Erdogan for human rights activism and Shafak for “insulting Turkishness” in her writing. Eleven years later, Turkey is no closer to EU membership and may never join, but the contributors to the issue have established themselves in the much larger union of international writers.