The Short Story Flies High

It was in the decade of the nineties especially that the short story began to take off in Turkish, peaking in the early years of the 2000’s.

In Turkish literature the short story has been overshadowed by the novel ever since Şemseddin Sami’s  ‘Taaşşuk-ı Talat ve Fitnat’ (1872-73). Nevertheless, while the novel was borrowed from the West approximately 150 years ago, the short story tradition dates back as far as the medieval epic of Dede Korkut. Many reasons could be cited for why the short story was overshadowed by the novel, a lack of reader interest surely being the most prominent. For the short story demands of the reader perceptiveness, an intellectual background, internalization of the abstract, and an ability to fill in ‘gaps’ in the narrative. The novel on the other hand demands far less, proof of which lies in the fact that while the novels published between 2000 and 2006 alone number around 1,700, some 1,202 short story writers published 3,175 collections in the hundred plus years from 1890 to 2008.

Among Turkish short story writers, Sait Faik fought against the domination of the novel and proved that the short story is a unique genre unto itself. His is the first name in the modern Turkish short story. After Sait Faik, a host of short story writers from Sabahattin Ali and Orhan Kemal to Oktay Akbal, Nezihe Meriç, Sevgi Soysal, Tarık Dursun K, Tahsin Yücel, Oğuz Atay, Vüs’at O. Bener, Bilge Karasu, Leyla Erbil, Sevim Burak, Selim İleri, Füruzan and Necati Tosuner, right up to the ‘40’s Generation’, all contributed to the development of the genre in Turkish.

A look at the short story since 1980 shows that as well as stories that remain true to the tradition, there are also scores of short story writers that take the genre into the future. Writers that could be described as bursting the banks of the river of tradition. Among these pioneers of the future we could cite Cemil Kavukçu, Murathan Mungan, Feride Çiçekoğlu, Mahir Özbaş, Hasan Ali Toptaş, Özcan Karabulut and Mehmet Zaman Saçlıoğlu. Indeed, it would not be far off target to dub the years since 2000 the golden age of the short story in Turkey.

Let us now take a look at some of Turkey’s recent short story writers:

Cemil Kavukçu: As acclaimed critic Fethi Naci has said of him: “He is a master of narrative. Everything he touches becomes a story.” Kavukçu, who forged his own style and influenced subsequent storytellers through his writings, explains in moving language that the characters who appear in his stories as ordinary folk are not ordinary at all. Pick up any story of his at random - from ‘Sunday Sun’ to ‘Pigeon with a Collar’ - and you won’t be able to put it down.

Murathan Mungan: Successful in just about every literary genre, this writer is continuing now in his recent ‘Gloves, Stories’ the career he launched with ‘Last Istanbul’. His ‘Room’ books especially (Forty Rooms, Forty Rooms with Three Mirrors, and Forty Rooms with Seven Doors) have a special place in the history of the short story in Turkish. We might modify Fethi Naci’s remarks about Kavukçu and say of Mungan that everything he touches turns to writing.

Özcan Karabulut: This is a writer who has found his own language and style, chronicling society’s ills as well as his own loves and rebellion in his stories. His collection, ‘Solitude from Beginning to End’,  earned him an honorable mention in the 1998 Sabahattin Ali short story contest and second place in the Orhan Kemal short story contest the same year.

Feride Çiçekoğlu: This writer, who spent four years in prison following the 1980 coup, describes the period in her first book, ‘Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite’. Çiçekoğlu, who details in her own unique language all the pain a military coup causes the people of a nation, produced her best stories in the collection, ‘Did Your Father Ever Die?’

Mehmet Zaman Saçlıoğlu: This writer shared the Yunus Nadi short story award for best unpublished story with Vüs’at O. Bener in 1993. The collection of which the story is a part was later published under the title ‘Yaz Evi’ and won the Haldun Taner short story award in 1998. Saçlıoğlu’s ‘Wall and Shadow’ was published in 2009.

Ayfer Tunç: Reaching out to a broad mass of readers in her book about Turkey in the 70’s, ‘If You Have No Objection My Parents Are Coming to See You’, Ayfer Tunç takes a disconcertingly close look at everything about people in her stories. She provides a clue to her own writing when she says, “I write because I am not content with the single life granted to me; I write so I can be myself and others at the same time.”

Hasan Özkılıç: Winner of the 2007 Milliyet Haldun Taner short story award for his book, ‘My Heart Has Gone Awry’, which followed ‘Waiting at Şerul’ and ‘Over There on the Roads’, this writer is noteworthy for his attachment to traditional realism.

Barış Bıçakçı: A writer who has come into prominence since 2000, Bıçakçı has opened up a new dimension in the history of the short story in Turkey by employing a keen power of observation to reveal the relationship between the ordinary person and the environment. In the words of critic Semih Gümüş, ‘Barış Bıçakçı’s quiet, unassuming stories are among the best I’ve read in recent times. What he describes seems to be of no importance. But although his language and narrative style may also appear to be quite ordinary, you will have to make a whole new appraisal of your reading habits.”

Aslı Erdoğan: Rediscovering her fans after a hiatus of ten years with her ‘Stone Building and Others’ published in 2009, Erdoğan is the only Turkish writer among the 50 deemed likely to last.

Müge İplikçi: Experimenting with a different narrative style in almost every book, Müge İplikçi has sustained this approach from her early ‘Flip-Flop’ right up to the recent ‘The Short Life of Azaleas’. The writer sums up her source of inspiration in two words: ‘My dreams and my flights from reality’.

Faruk Duman: Winner of the Sait Faik short story award for his second book, ‘Return from the Hunt’, this writer published his first book at the age of 23. One of our young masters who has created his own language, Duman depicts in striking images the moments that leave a mark on human lives.

Kadri Öztopçu; Attracting attention with the stories he published in Adam magazine, Öztopçu made a splash with his first book, ‘Wrong Stories’. He published his second book, ‘Baiting the Bird’, in 2009. Öztopçu is a master at depicting interesting moments in interesting places with a disconcerting ordinariness.

Sibel K. Türker: In ‘The Counter-hearter’ and ‘Story Drunk’ (2005 Yunus Nadi Short Story Award) Türker tells stories that could take place anywhere in the world. She received the 2007 Haldun Taner short story award for her book ‘Ağula’.

Refik Algan: First making a name for himself with the stories he published in magazines in the 1970’s and 80’s, Algan won the Sait Faik award in 2006 for his first book, ‘The Clock Tower’. I might also point out that this writer, who published his ‘The Carefree Sleeper’ in 2007, also paints, plays the oud, and is interested in Islamic mysticism.

İnan Çetin: Silent since 2000, this writer has put his signature on two collections of short stories, ‘The Chateau Inside Us’ and ‘Lotus with a Thousand Leaves’.

Murat Yalçın: This writer has forged a unique language and style of expression - especially in the genre of the very short story - in ‘The Guide to Insinuation ’, ‘Happy Hour’, and ‘Dead Air’.

Sema Kaygusuz: One of the most talked about writers of the first decade of the 2000’s, Kaygusuz appeared first with short stories although she has recently turned to the novel. Capturing a different voice in each story she tells, she is a master at reflecting life’s small details.

Behçet Çelik, Yekta Kopan, Murat Gülsoy, Şebnem İşigüzel, Leyla Ruhan Okyay, Suzan Samancı, Murat Özyaşar, Emrah Serbes, Orçun Türkay and Yalçın Tosun are some other short story writers that have recently appeared on the scene.