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PEN Atlas presents the view from Turkey

Past Event

Under President Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule, press freedom in Turkey in 2016 is at an all-time low. News agencies and papers have been shut down or taken over by the government, while everyone from journalists to comedians is facing criminal defamation or terrorism charges.

What is it like to be a Turkish writer in these times? In a special PEN Atlas panel event, journalist-author Ece Temelkuran, novelist Burhan Sönmez and translator Canan Marasligil discuss the main issues of the moment through a literary lens with Maureen Freely, President of English PEN.


Maureen Freely is an author, journalist, translator and academic, who has written seven novels, as well as non-fiction. She is Head of the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. Her novel Sailing through Byzantium was named as one of the best novels of 2014 in both the TLS and the Sunday Times, and she has translated five books by the Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Canan Marasligil is a freelance writer, literary translator, editor and curator based in Amsterdam. She works internationally with arts and cultural organisations and with a wide range of project partners from Turkey, the UK and other European countries. Her interest is in challenging official narratives and advocating freedom of expression through a wide range of creative activities. The thread running throughout her work is her belief that the arts and culture can have a positive impact on our societies. Canan has been Translator in Residence at Free Word Centre in London and a writer in residence at WAAW in Senegal and at Copenhagen University, where she also started working on “City in Translation”, her ongoing exploration of languages and multilingualism in urban spaces.

Burhan Sönmez was born in Central Anatolia and grew up speaking Kurdish and Turkish, and later moved to Istanbul to study law. His first novel North was published in 2009 and his second novel Sins & Innocents was granted the 2011 Sedat Simavi Literature Prize which Sönmez was the youngest-ever author to win. Istanbul Istanbul, his third novel, was published in 2015. His work has been published in more than twenty countries.

For political reasons, Burhan lived in exile in Britain for a number of years. He is member of PEN Turkey, English PEN and is a founding member of the PEN International Writers Circle.

Burhan currently lectures in Literature and Novel at the University of METU.

Ece Temelkuran is one of the Turkey’s best known novelists and political commentators. Her investigative journalism books have broached highly controversial topics in Turkey, such as Kurdish and Armenian issues and freedom of expression and women’s rights. Her novels are published in several languages. She is a of winner of Turkish Journalist of the Year, the Pen for Peace Award and the Freedom of Thought Award from the Human Rights Association of Turkey.  In 2012 she was sacked as a journalist for her investigation of the Roboski massacre, in which 34 mostly young people were killed in a Turkish airstrike near the Turkish-Iraqi border. Her forthcoming book Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy will be published by Zed Books in September 2016.

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