Who are the best authors from Turkey

Turkish authors want to boycott the book fair

Around 20 Turkish writers want to boycott the Frankfurt Book Fair (from October 14, 2008): They have signed a joint declaration - some of them are the authors of classics of modern Turkish literature, all of them are staunch Kemalists.

The literary critic Füsun Akatli justifies the boycott with her dislike of Prime Minister Erdogan's pious-conservative ruling party AKP. This government cannot represent Turkish culture and literature. Akatli explains that she wants to dissuade Turkey from its 80-year line of progress and modernity. "Under the patronage of a culture ministry from this government, I personally do not want to take part in the Frankfurt Book Fair," says the critic.

The book fair as an opportunity for Turkish literature

The Turkish writers' associations and the organizing committee point out in vain that the Frankfurt Book Fair is not an event organized by the Turkish government. Many Turkish writers also criticize the boycott as absurd.

The author Ahmet Ümit, whose socially critical political thrillers are among the country's best-selling books, believes the boycott is wrong. For him, the book fair with its international audience is a great opportunity for Turkish literature. "To refuse this chance in protest against the AKP government, that doesn't make sense to me. On the contrary, we should rather use this chance and present our literature there and make it known. It is a great literature and far too little known in the world "says Ümit.

The criticism remains vague

However, the boycotters doubt that they can adequately present their country and its culture in Frankfurt. The Ministry of Culture wants to manipulate the image of Turkey through the supporting program and the selection of the participants, suspects literary critic Akatli.

"It will be portrayed there as if there were writers of all possible views in Turkey, including those who support moderate Islam. We will see that these people in Frankfurt are treated equally and presented as equals. Such a picture should be faked there, and I personally don't want to appear in such a picture, "she says. The boycotters do not want to say who they mean by their criticism of the selection of authors for the book fair. Füsun Akatli does not mention names either.

Critics criticize the lack of transparency

Her criticism of the Turkish preparations for the fair and the supporting program remains similarly vague. "That was done in complete secrecy," says Akatli. Only after the fair would they find out who had attended and what topics were being discussed. There is no such thing as transparency.

The boycotters accuse the organizers of this lack of transparency in their written declaration of protest. However, the program of the book fair has been published on the website of the organizing committee for weeks, including all symposia, participants and topics.

A wide range of topics in the book fair's program

Panel discussions are scheduled on women's liberation, migration and freedom of expression, on coming to terms with the past and modernization, on football, music and humor, and - in fact - a panel discussion on Islam in Turkey is also planned.

While some of the 200 or so invited writers vacillate between the two camps, in view of this program many others have decided to participate and are defending their decision. After all, taking part in the book fair does not mean giving up criticism of the government, says Ahmet Ümit. "I can also say what there is to criticize about the AKP. I will explain our country there with all its weaknesses and strengths - not just black or white, but in all its shades of gray. That is a contribution to democratization and modernization Turkey. "