Sema Kaygusuz was born in 1972 in the Turkish coastal town Samsun. Her childhood was marked by frequent moves, as her father was often posted by the military to different towns in Anatolia. This granted the author glimpses into the diversity of landscape and culture in her home country at an early age, which to this day form the narrative panorama of her literary work. Kaygusuz studied Communication Studies in Ankara from 1990-1994, and during this time wrote her first short stories, which won several small prizes. After graduating she moved to Istanbul, where she worked on various stories which were published in several collections. Her first novel, »Yere Düşen Dualar« (2006; tr: »Wine and Gold«), brought her recognition beyond the Turkish borders for the first time. In addition, the author was involved in other genres, including writing the screenplay for Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s film »Pandora’nın Kutusu« (2007; tr: Pandora’s Box), which won the Golden Shell at the 2008 International Film Festival in San Sebastian.
Her first short story collection, »Ortadan Yarısından« (1997; tr: In the Middle of the Half), already made it clear that Kaygusuz was primarily interested in people’s internal struggles with the disagreeable or concealed portions of their personalities. Metamorphosis and death are as central as the quest for the true inner home, the entrance to which is often blocked. The two following collections, »Sandık Lekesi« (2000; tr: Box Stain) and »Doyma Noktası« (2002; tr: The Saturation Point) established Sema Kaygusuz as a distinctive voice in the canon of young Turkish literature in the new millennium, which concerns itself increasingly with questions of identity and individuality. In keeping with this, the author’s début novel is about a young woman who is confronted with her alcoholic father’s shell-shocked identity, and who attempts to heal his psychic wounds with mythological stories of her own making. In all of Kaygusuz’s works a language can be found which is both musically-inspired and visual, and which is involved in a constant discourse with the mysterious inner life of the narrative subject. Her most recent novel, »Yüzünde Bir Yer« (2009; tr: A Place on Your Face), was inspired by her own grandmother, and deals with the feelings of shame and guilt experienced by someone who survives a massacre.
The author won the Cevdet-Kudret-Literature Award and the France-Turquie Literary Award. She lives in Istanbul and resides in 2010 in Berlin on a grant from the DAAD.