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Women on the Verge (of European Union)

December 2005

The women of Turkey are on the front lines of proverbial conflicts between East and West, tradition and modernity, spirituality and fundamentalism. Good thing they have such a great sense of humor. An extravagant sense of the absurd characterizes Perihan Magden’s picaresque encounters with an elegant dwarf and a bejeweled monkey in “Courage Does Not Reign” and her hilarious jousting with language in “The Secret Meanings of Unappreciated Words.” Fantasy, expectation, memory and elusive reality trade places in Sebnem Isiguzel’s “Real Life for the Last Scene of a Movie,” while in her “Ivy” a painter battles color blindness.

Asli Erdogan’s “Wooden Birds” pursues sanatorium inmates as they commune with nature and a collegiate rowing team. Letife Tekin depicts villagers caught between superstition and modern conveniences in “Dear Shameless Death.” Bejan Matur’s poems speak to time and illusions. And Elif Shafak explores religious tension and sensuality both in a work of fiction, “Nausea,” and a marvelous essay, “Women Writers, Islam, and the Ghost of Zulaikha.” We thank Levent Yilmaz, very probably the most charming and brilliant Turkish-French-Italian publisher in the world (visit his new small press, Galaade Editions), for bringing together this extraordinary literary harem of writers with irony and vitality to burn.

Courage Does Not Reign
By Perihan Magden
“I do not know what to say to you,” said the director. “Therefore I shall say nothing.”
Translated from Turkish by Alin Ince
The Secret Meanings of Unappreciated Words
By Perihan Magden
Reaching into the first drawer of the counter behind him, he pulled out a red rose with a long stem. “And he also left this for you.”
Translated from Turkish by Cem Yegül
Fragments from “Real Life for the Last Scene of a Movie”
By Sebnem Isiguzel
We had to walk. This necessity made me happy. I hadn’t been this happy for a long while, I thought.
Translated from Turkish by Suat Karantay
From “Ivy”
By Sebnem Isiguzel
That is my life. There is no escape from any memories.
Translated from Turkish by Mary Isin
Wooden Birds
By Asli Erdogan
Perhaps they might meet the village lads or the male patients of the men’s sanatorium, as spent as themselves. What else was there to do in the midst of the Black Forest?
Translated from Turkish by Nebile Direkçgil
From “Dear Shameless Death”
By Latife Tekin
But in that moment of pure amazement, while some blew prayers to the right and left or panicked and almost wet their pants, a few risked touching the bus gingerly.
Translated from Turkish by Saliha Paker & Mel Kenne
Time and Illusion
By Bejan Matur
Flying into the field of cloudsWith the taste of sun and waterThere is no night out thereNight does not fall in the distanceA silver cage around my neckLike an unfaithful concubineI lay down and curled…
Translated from Turkish by Suat Karantay
By Bejan Matur
They smell of the earth when they cry out
Translated from Turkish by Suat Karantay
The East with Its Acrid Wind
By Bejan Matur
Ah dear flesh / Why do you linger here
Translated from Turkish by Ruth Christie
It Hurts To Be Here in This World / I Came To Know It
By Bejan Matur
The blood that knows to wait / Knows too to turn to stone
Translated from Turkish by Yasemin Tuksal
By Elif Shafak
Sorrow is a dirt for her, the moment she notices a speck of it smeared on her body, she scrubs it off her skin.
Translated from Turkish by the author
Women Writers, Islam, and the Ghost of Zulaikha
By Elif Shafak
First, the woman writer systematically refrains from writing on sexuality until she is “old.”
Translated from Turkish by the author