A searing autobiographical novel about a single night in prison suggests how broken spirits can be mended, and dreams rebuilt through imagination and human kindness
“Like Pamuk’s Snow, Dawn is the Turkish tragedy writ small. In contrast to Snow, it places gender at its heart.” --Maureen Freely
In Dawn, translated into English for the first time, legendary Turkish feminist Sevgi Soysal brings together dark humor, witty observations, and trenchant criticism of social injustice, militarism, and gender inequality.
As night falls in Adana, köftes and cups of cloudy raki are passed to the dinner guests in the home of Ali – a former laborer who gives tight bear hugs, speaks with a southeastern lilt, and radiates the spirit of a child. Among the guests are a journalist named Oya, who has recently been released from prison and is living in exile on charges of leftist sympathizing, and her new acquaintance, Mustafa. A swift kick knocks down the front door and bumbling policemen converge on the guests, carting them off to holding cells, where they’ll be interrogated and tortured throughout the night.
Fear spools into the anxious, claustrophobic thoughts of a return to prison, just after tasting freedom. Bristling snatches of Oya’s time in prison rush back – the wild curses and wilder laughter of inmates, their vicious quarrels and rapturous belly-dancing, or the quiet boon of a cup of tea. Her former inmates created fury and joy out of nothing. Their brimming resilience wills Oya to fight through the night and is fused with every word of this blazing, lucid novel.
About the Author
Sevgi Soysal was born in Istanbul in 1936. Her work is inspired by her childhood in Ankara, youth and student movements in Turkey, revolutionary dreams, and experiences of leftist intellectuals in prison and in exile. In 1974, Soysal won the prestigious Orhan Kemal Award for Best Novel for Noontime in Yenişehir, which she wrote while in prison. Dawn was published in 1975, a beautiful thematic companion to her memoirs of prison life. She wrote a brilliant set of endearing and illuminating story collections, novels, and memoirs before she died at the age of 40 of cancer in 1976. She left behind an incomplete novel, Welcome, Death!
Widely regarded as the foremost translator of Turkish literature, Maureen Freely was born in the US, raised in Turkey, and educated at Harvard. Her translated works include five works by the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. Sevgi Soysal was the first writer she ever translated.
With a clarity and courage rooted in her own experiences as a political prisoner, Sevgi Soysal unflinchingly exposed the suffering and defiance of women in 1970s Turkey, and more broadly the conflicts inherent in personal and political loyalties which continue to resound in our time. A brutal but ultimately rewarding novel, and a timely and typically sensitive translation by Maureen Freely. --Alev Scott, author of Ottoman Odyssey