Nedim Gürsel was born in Gaziantep, Turkey, in 1951. He published his first novellas and essays in Turkish literary magazines in the late 60s. After the coup d’état in 1971, he had to testify in court for one of his articles. This led to his decision to temporarily reside in France. He studied Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris and completed his dissertation in 1979 on Nâzim Hikmet and Louis Aragon. Gürsel then returned to Turkey, but the military putsch of 1980 sent him back into exile in France. He first wrote articles and travel reports which were published in ‘Le Monde’, as well as in the Turkish newspapers ‘Cumhuriyet’ and ‘Milliyet’. Today he teaches contemporary Turkish literature at the Sorbonne and directs the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
Gürsel’s first collection of stories ‘Uzun Sürmüþ Bir Yaz’ (Engl: A Summer without an End) was published in 1976 and in the same year received Turkey’s most prestigious award for literature, the prize of the Turkish Academy. Eleven years later his first novel followed, ‘Boðazkesen’ (Engl: The Conqueror), which was also highly regarded internationally; it is available in German under the title ‘Der Eroberer’ (1998). It is about a writer in Istanbul in the late summer of 1980, who gets so involved in his novel’s historical hero, the as equally cruel as charismatic Sultan Mehmet II, that the past and the present become one and he follows in the murderous footsteps of his conqueror. What starts out as a gloriously colorful novel about passion, life, and death, soon also shows itself to be a critical examination of the military dictatorship of the early 80s. In his country, Gürsel was accused of being a traitor for his realistic portrait of the conqueror Mehmet, whom the fundamentalists perceive as a saint.
In ‘Resimli Dünya’ (Engl: Turbans in Venice), which was published in 1999, the author has his Turkish protagonist study his homeland from the point of view of Italian Renaissance painting. A dialogue develops between Ottoman and the European culture, which is characteristic of Gürsel’s literature that was honoured with many further Turkish and French prizes. Gürsel was a jury member of the Lettre Ulysses Award in 2003 and 2006. Along with Yaşar Kemal and Orhan Pamuk, he is considered one of Turkey’s most important writers.
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