Between East and West

Between East and West

Turkish written literature dates as far back as the 7th century but its oral tradition is older still. Turkish literature started its journey with the nomads on horseback and continued both East and West through religious and cultural relations after the Turks settled in Anatolia. The Turkish shaman poet, who was a medicine man and a magician as well, disappeared in history after the adoption of Islam, but traces of these roots of Turkish poetry have not been completely lost. With Islam came Arabic and Persian influences. While ‘divan’ literature emerged for the nobles of the Ottoman court influenced by Sufism and Persian poetry, there was also a folk literature with its roots in a multicultural Anatolian oral tradition.

In the last years of Ottoman Empire, Turkish literature turned its face towards the West and started a new course parallel to the development of world literature. Both its geographic position between East and West, at the centre of three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa, and also its long lasting relations with East and West gave Turkish literature a unique place in world literature.

After a journey over more than a thousand years, Turkish literature has become a focus for international attention. In the last few years, many Turkish works have been translated into world languages, and many others are in the process of translation. In 2006, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. And Turkey will be the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2008.

It is in such times that the Turkish Book Review sets out its venture to be a voice for Turkish literature. This is the first book review magazine on Turkish literature in English. We are seeking to draw a profile that includes the masters and landmark figures of Turkish writing along with the young authors, mainstream authors as well as more marginal ones.

Turkish literature has attracted global interest but it is not easy to see beneath the surface when viewed from abroad. While some names shine on the surface – as with any literature in the world – some underlying tides can be overlooked. I hope this magazine will help enrich the world’s understanding of Turkish literature in all its depth and liveliness.

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