22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Hasan Ali Toptaş

Portrait Hasan Ali Toptaş
© Ali Ghandtschi

Hasan Ali Toptaş was born in Baklan, southwest Anatolia, in 1958. After leaving school, the son of a truck driver, he received higher vocational training in the district town of Çal and following his military service made a living through odd jobs before finding a position at the inland revenue. He worked in various small towns as a bailiff and treasurer, and finally as a tax officer in Sincan near Ankara. At this time Toptaş managed to continue writing, despite having no luck in getting published. Following the publication of a few short stories in journals and anthologies, he paid for his first volume of stories to be pr inted, entitled »Bir Gülüşün Kimliği« (1987; t: Identity of a smile). He submitted his second novel, »Gölgesizler« (1995; t: The shadowless), not yet published, to the Yunus Nadi Prize jury and won. Following the award of the most coveted literary pr ize in Turkey, the Orhan Kemal Prize, the book appeared in German. With a flow that is at once clear and poetic, and with seamlessly interwoven temporal and narrative planes, the novel tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of several people in the village, including the most beautiful girl. Her kidnapping is blamed on a young man who is arrested and tortured and finally loses his mind. Yet, no pr ocess of enlightenment whatsoever is described – unlike in the common genre of the socially critical »village novel«, which became popular as a result of the secularization of Turkey. Instead, the novel dwells on general existential uncertainty even within the simple rural population and questions the boundaries between truth and dream, reality and fantasy. »It occurs to me that everything is, at heart, created in the form of a spiral. That which we expand or eliminate in ›reality‹ is actually the creation of a narrative truth. The point is to create a transcendental narrative plane where the individual parts of the texts may merge and all existential forms are allowed simultaneously«, the author explained in an interview.

Within the tradition of Kafka and Borges, Sait Faik, Orhan Kemal and Yaşar Kemal, Toptaş’s literary forms merge postmodern traits such as self-referentiality and the tragicomic with the Ottoman oral story-telling culture of fairytales. Thanks to his contribution to the renewal of Turkish literature Toptaş is frequently named on a par with Orhan Pamuk. Meanwhile, he has published, among other works, one children’s book – »Ben Bir Gürgen Dalıyım« (1997; t: I am a hornbeam branch) – and his fifth novel »Uykuların Doğusu« (2005; t: East of Dreams). In 2006 his »Yalnızlıklar« (1990; t: Solitudes), poetic texts constructed as a series of encyclopedia entries, was translated into Flemish and adapted for the stage. Toptaş took early retirement in 2005 and has since dedicated himself full time to his writing.

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