Born in 1967, in Istanbul. Graduated from Robert College (1984) and Computer Engineering Department of Bosphorous University (1988). Received an M.S. in Physics (1993) from the same university. Worked at CERN-European Nuclear Research Center (1991-93) as a high energy physicist; in fact, was one of the first Turkish students to prepare a master thesis at CERN. She quit her scientific career while doing a PhD in physics in Rio de Janerio, when her first book came out (1994). She spent two years in South America and her interest in antropology took her as far as the Amazonian jungle. A few months after she returned to Turkey in 1996, she published her second book and since then, decided to devote all her time to writing.
In spite of having published as early as 1977 and her keen interest in literature, she had never wanted to be a writer. Even to her surprise, her first story The Final Farewell Note won a third prize in Yunus-Nadi-Competition (1990), the oldest surviving literary competition; but still, she postponed publishing her earlier work until 1991. She was in Brazil when her first novel The Shell Man came out. In 1996, she collected her stories and poetic prose under the tittle The Miracolous Mandarin. She became center of attention when her story The Wooden Birds won Deutsche Welle Prize, selected by an international jury amongst 830 stories. But it was her second novel, The City in Crimson Cloak, which established her as a writer. From 1998 to 2000, she worked as a columnist in a major newspaper (Radikal). In her column, named »The Others«, as well as writing short stories and prose, she often treated controversial issues, such as prisons, torture, violence against women, Kurdish rights, etc. Her articles, collected under the tittle When a Journey Ends (2000) brought her both popularity and trouble. In fact she has been a human rights activist since 1993. Aside from these, Asli Erdogan has published poems, short stories, poetic prose, travel essays and political articles in a wide variety of media.
A selection from the critics’ response to her works:
»The deep waters of literature«, »a master of imagery and metaphors«, »poetic and mysterious«, »an engineer of the human soul«. What is unique of her writing is her extraordinarily rich, evocative, poetic style. She is unvariably defined as a powerful, intense writer whose tendency for metaphors and abstraction doesn’t lessen the emotional demands she makes from the reader. Although almost always she builds elaborate structures, it is difficult to classify her work, which alternates between novella, short story and poetic prose.
She treats risky themes such as loss, exile, disintegration, impisonment and death, but her main problematic is probably »the self«. In fact, she is exclusively writing on »internal journeys«, although places, such as a tropical island, Black Forest, a Geneva night, shanty towns of Istanbul or backstreets of Rio act as main characters in her books, they are there to blur the line between the inner world and the outer reality. Very often, perhaps unjustfully, she has been criticized for having no roots in Turkish literature; however, her writing nourishes from various sources: from 19th century literature to Greek tragedy, from mythology to particle physics and from a clear affinity with modernist literature, philosophy and poetry.
Her award winning story The Wooden Birds was published as a book in German (Holzvögel) and in Turkish by Deutsche Welle sponsoring and since then has been translated to ten other languages. The City in Crimson Cloak has been published in France by Actes Sud and in Norway by Gyldendal, and will soon be published by Unionsverlag (Germany) and Soft Skull (USA). The Miracolous Mandarin is translated into French for Actes Sud. Her books were selected as reference books by the Turkology Department of the Bamberg University and other German Universities followed suit.
Asli Erdogan was invited to give readings from her work in Cambridge, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, Oslo, Stockholm, Stavenger, Paris, Saint Malo, Metz, Antwerp, Den Haag, Lisbon, Jakarta and Yerevan. She was invited to take part in the LiteraturExpress organised by Lietraturwerkstat and financed by UNESCO. She has also acted as the spokesperson for Turkey in the PEN-Writers in Prison Commitee Meeting held in Katmandu in 2000. She was chosen as the first Turkish writer to be invited by the Armenian Writers’ Union for a conference held in Yerevan in October 2001. A member of PEN and Writers’ Union of Turkey and one of the founders of the Literary Forum and Diyarbakir Art Center, Asli Erdogan speaks English, Portuguese and some German.
Asli Erdogan has had various jobs and professions in her life: a research pysicist and a teaching assistant; a ballet dancer and a teacher of English; she did translations, wrote travel articles for a geography magazine, did social research, choreographed for street theatre, prepared radio programmes on classical music, did voluntary work with street children and prisoner families and lectured on various subjects, mainly literature and mythology. She is one of the founders of DSM, the first art and culture center in Diyarbakir, a Kurdish town devastated by the armed conflict, and regularly holds workshops, seminars and lectures there.
The year of 2003 marked a turning point in Asli Erdogan’s literary career. Her second novel was published in French by Actes Sud, with the title La Ville dont la Cape est Rouge (translator Esin Soysal-Dauvergne) and received a reasonably good attention from the French public and press. In August, the same novel was chosen into »Turkish Library«, a giant project by Unionsverlag to translate 14 novels from the whole 105 years of Turkish prose into German. Asli Erdogan was one of the youngest of all writers and one of the four women. In September, Gyldendal, the biggest publisher in Norway, published the same book in »Marg Series« (»Marg« means both margin line and spinal chord in Norwegian). She was the first Turkish writer to appear along with Helene Cixous, W.G. Sebald, Nathan Englander, etc. The book received incredibly good reviews, Afterposten indicating it as one of the last of a kind of city novel and comparing the author to Joyce and Kafka. In October, a very well known Turkish actress (Serra Yilmaz, receiver of »The Best Foreign Actress prize« in Italy) acted a part of her latest text In the Silence of Life in Milan’s Piccolo Theatre.
Asli Erdogan published some more texts in French and joined »Joy of Babel« meeting held in St. Nazaire. In February 2005, she returned there as a resident writer and completed her book. In fact, the year of 2005 was to be a year of international readings, biennales, meetings and translations. She participated in Winternacten (Holland) and St. Malo festivals, St. Nazaire and Sarajevo meetings and Jakarta Biennale of Literature. The City in Crimson Cloak was accepted by Soft Skull in U.S.A. Finally, she was chosen as one of the »50 promising writers of future« by the French Literary Magazine Lire, and probably the only one from »a minor language«.
Starting with the »Autoportrait« International exhibition in 2002, where Asli Erdogan was for the first time invited as a writing artist, she participated in several exhibitions and collaborated with artists from different disciplines. With her text In the Silence of Life, she took part in Istanbul Biennale 2003 and later exhibited in Diyarbakir Art Center. She worked in collaboration with the French artist François Daireaux, for his exhibition »Entrance« and wrote the text La Nuit des Mots. In 2004, she did a wall-writing project for an outdoor exhibition: »C.V. on a Prison Wall«, and joined Istanbul Biennale of 2005, in the exhibition »The Waiting Room«. And finally, another French artist, director and choreographer Bruno Marin, made her text in a dance-drama and performed in Istanbul and Diyarbakir. Now, her first novel, The Shell Man, is being adapted for a radio play.
In July 2005, she published In the Silence of Life as a collection of poetic prose, a style rarely tackled in Turkish literature, and brought together all those texts acted, photographed, exhibited, choreographed, turned into dance theatre etc. The book was chosen as »The Book of the Year«.
Two years later, excerpts from the book are being composed by Mimi Lorenzini for the 10th anniversary of Querbes Literature and Music Festival in France.
- Yunus Nadi Prize1990 with her short story The Final Farewell Note
- Deutsche Welle Prize1997 with her short story The Wooden Birds
Deutsche Welle organized a literary competition every two years,each time a different language chosen. The sixth was for Turkish. Twenty stories amongst 830 were chosen by the Turkish prejury to be translated for the international jury. Asli Erdogan won the major prize with her story The Wooden Birds, which was published as a book in German called Holzvögel and Turkish by Deutsche Welle sponsoring.
- Asli Erdogan was the youngest writer voted for »75 books of the 75 years of Republic«, with The City in Crimson Cloak, which was chosen among »the best novels of the last 25 years«. She was among the most succesful female writers of 1996, the best writers of 97, again of 98, nominated as »the writer of the next millenium«, and was chosen amongst the ten people »who most influenced Turkish cultural scene in the last decade« in 2005.
- »The Book of the Year Prize« 2005 with her book In the Silence of Life, Dünya Press Awards.
- Chosen amongst the »50 Writers of Future« by French literary Magazine Lire, May 2005.
- Shortlisted for Balkanika Prize with The Miraculous Mandarin, chosen amongst the seven books to represent the seven languages spoken in the Balkans, lost the prize because the nomination was from the Fench edition while the original was published in 1996.
The City In Crimson Cloak
Actes Sud, April 2003
Gyldendal (Norway), Marg Series, September 2004
Soft Skull (USA), scheduled for September 2007
Unionsverlag (Germany) scheduled for January 2008
Bulgarian rights bought by Biblioteka 48
Bosnian rights by Buy Book
Arabic rights by Cadmus- Al Furat (Syria-Lebanon)
The Miraculous Mandarin
Actes Sud (France), published May 2006
Ramus (Sweden), scheduled for early 2008
Aton-Biblioteka 48 (Bulgaria) scheduled for spring 2008
Translated into Greek by Anthe Karra
Translated into Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian by Enver Ibrahimkadic, Buy Book Bosnian rights
The Wooden Birds
Published as Holzvögel in German in 1998 by Deutsche Welle-Onel, translated by Cornelius Bischoff
Actes Sud, scheduled for 2008
In The Silence of Life
Actes Sud, scheduled for March 2008
translated into Italian by Serra Yilmaz
Other texts in French:
Conversation avec le spectre d’un ermite and Ali, in: M.E.E.T no 8 Pekin (Beijing)/Istanbul
Le Bruit des Autres, in: Les Bonheurs de Babel
La Nuit des Mots, in collaboration with François Daireaux
Les Oiseaux des Bois, in: Etoiles d’Encre
Dans la Silence de la Vie, in: Siecle 21, no 8
Journal de une Detraquee, in: Folie Issue of Bleu Autour
- Maison des Ecrivains Etrangers et des Traducteurs M.E.E.T., St. Nazaire (February–March 2005)
- International Centre for Writers and Translators, Rhodes, (February of 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001)
- PASSA PORTA, Belgium (May 2006)
- Andre Malraux Institute, Sarajevo (April–May 2007)
International Meetings, Festivals (Last 2 years)
- Les Nuits, Les jours de Querbes; August 2004
- Stavenger Festival of Literature and Freedom of Expression (honorary guest); September 2004
- Reading with E.S. Ozdamar; September 2004, Antwerp
- Festival Teatro Mediterraneo; (Text Acted in Piccolo Theatre); October, 2004
- Les Bonheurs de Babel, St. Nazaire; November 2004
- Winternacten Literary Festival, Den Haag (replacing Orhan Pamuk); January 2005
- St. Malo Festival du Livre et du Film, »Etonnants Voyageurs«; May 2005.
- Sarajevo International festival du Livre; May 2005
- Jakarta Literary Biennale; September 2005
- Winternachten Literary Festival 2006 (for commemoration of Henk Van Woerden)
- Festival of Mid-Eastern Literature, Kopenhagen, September 2006
- Ubud Literary Biennale, October 2006
- SICA Meeting, Amsterdam, January 2007
- Berlin Literaturfestival, September 2007
Exhibitions, Multidisciplinary Participations
2002: Autoportrait, International exhibition, Istanbul
2003: »Justice in Death«, exhibited during Istanbul Biennale 2003 and in Diyarbakir Art Centre
2003: »Farewell Letters«, Diyarbakir Art Centre
2004: »C.V. for a Prison Wall«, Outdoor exhibition
2005: »Waiting« for »Waiting Room« project during Istanbul Biennale 2005.
- In The Silence of Life was acted by Sera Yilmaz in Milan’s Piccolo Theatre, directed by A.N. Samlioglu; October, 2004.
- Texts turned into dance theatre by Bruno Marin, acted and danced in Istanbul (September, 2004) and in Diyarbakir (May, 2005)
- Excerpts from In the Silence of Life choreographed into classical ballet and danced in the antique town of Aphrodisias, summer 2006
- Excerpts from the same book now being composed by Mimi Lorenzini to be played for the 10th anniversary of Querbes Literature and Music Festival, August 2007