Turkish writer and activist Aslı Erdoğan spent 136 days in a prison cell in 2016 after police raided the offices of the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. The Turkish Government then banned her from leaving the country for many months. Preventing her, for example, from travelling to Germany to accept the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize and to the Netherlands to accept the Princess Margriet Award for Culture.
Erdoğan first came to public attention in the 1990s with her short stories and novels, initially more in Western Europe and the United States than in Turkey. The world she describes is a sombre and pessimistic one, like a wounded body. The columns she wrote for the newspapers Radikal and Özgür Gündem gave a voice to disenfranchised sections of the Turkish population and established her reputation as a socially engaged writer. In 2018 she will publish The Stone Building and Other Places, her second work to be translated into English, a series of moving, allegorical portraits of lives ensnared by the structures of power.
Aslı Erdoğan is this year's guest of honour at La Foire du Livre.
Turkish-Kurdish writer Burhan Sönmez lives and works in Cambridge and Istanbul and has written about literature, culture and politics for publications including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit and La Repubblica. He began his career as a human rights lawyer in Istanbul. After suffering an assault at the hands of the police, in 1996 he came to the United Kingdom for lengthy medical treatment. He is described in the Turkish press as a quiet literary revolutionary who opens the door to the painful memories of the Kurds. He is the winner of many prizes like the ‘Disturbing The Peace’ Award 2017 from the Václav Havel Library Foundation for courageous writers who publish in dangerous circumstances. His books have been translated into 32 languages. He is also a member of PEN International.
This literary evening will be moderated by Kerenn Elkaïm (journalist).