cover image Cold Nights of Childhood

Cold Nights of Childhood

Terzer Özlü, trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. Transit, $16.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-945492-69-3

In Özlü’s posthumous English-language debut, a young woman describes her 1950s childhood and her treatment for mental illness in her 20s. “All I ever wanted was to be free to think and act beyond the tedious limits set by the petit bourgeoisie,” says the narrator. Indeed, her account defies many narrative conventions, especially the flow of time and memory. Years pass in mere sentences, hurtling through scenes at a brisk pace. Through details of her experiences—especially the sexual abuse by clinicians—the reader gains a picture of madness as a by-product of various repressive social norms. After marrying a man who tries to control her behavior, the narrator reflects on the binds of marriage: “Why can’t we find our way out of all this?... From earliest childhood, they stop us from being ourselves.” The edition includes a magnificent introduction from Ayş egül Savaş, who puts Özlü (1943–1986) in a lineage with Italo Svevo and Franz Kafka and praises her frank approach to sexuality as “neither sensational nor metaphorical.” Freely’s keen translation ought to interest readers in this significant avant-garde writer. (May)