Müslüm Yücel
Jan 02 2018

2017’s best books: reading interrupted…

Despite tragedies, economic woes and a lack of readers, there were still some wonderful books in Turkey in 2017.

As in 2016, Sabahattin Ali’s 1943 novella Kürk Mantolu Madonna (Madonna in a Fur Coat) remained the bestseller. The story about Raif, a man struggling between with emotions of guilt and shame in pre-war Berlin, resonates with Turkish readers who have perhaps turned to this book looking to both forget and find themselves. The English paperback edition came out in 2017, and it feels as fresh as ever.

This was followed by Zülfü Livaneli’s new book Huzursuzluk, tells the story of a Kurdish man’s love for a Yazidi woman. Other domestic writers focused on similar issues of characters struggling to find themselves.

People also turned to translations of U.S.-Israeli author George Prochnik’s An Impossible Exile and the works of Austrian Stefan Zweig.

In 2017, we spent a lot of time trying to reassess our own identity. Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari came to the rescue with his Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow in which we learnt that having become gods, we lost something of ourselves and have not been able to find it.

Meanwhile, Turkish author and psychologist Azra Kohen’s book Aeden - Bir Dünya Hikâyesi (Aeden - A World History) discussed how people are not born human but become human, and helped us discover what we had lost, our humanity.

Another book on the bestseller list was Seher, a collection of 12 short stories by imprisoned Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş. Though he has been held in jail facing terrorism charges since November 2016, his book ensured we did not miss him. Even carrying the book became a form of protest and just as it had to be written, it must be read.

It was a fruitful year for fiction in Turkey. Selim İleri, best known for his Her Gece Bodrum (Every Night is Bodrum), wrote of unfinished emotions in his latest book Sona Ermek (To Reach the End). The novel examines the loneliness and memories of a life not yet finished, but which the character wants to end.

Murat Gülsoy meanwhile touched on high school and university memories with his Öyle Bir Yer ki (A Place Like This), a somewhat melancholy book to read on a dark day. It speaks of how people get together to reminisce or remember the past, yet, until now, yet the character has not lived one day worth remembering.