cover image Dawn


Sevgi Soysal, trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. Archipelago, $20 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-1-953861-38-2

In the wrenching English-language debut from former political prisoner Soysal (1936–1976), first published in Turkey in 1975, a group of leftists live under the constant threat of incarceration and torture. The story opens with a police raid during a dinner party, where the author introduces several dissident characters, and the narrative proceeds from their alternating perspectives. The urgency of the prose and the fluid shifts in points of view underscore the precariousness of the characters’ lives during a tumultuous and violent period following a recent coup. These characters had migrated south from Marash to the port city of Adana, both to escape persecution and to start over. There’s Mustafa, a teacher who, after his initial arrest, continues to be targeted by the police; Mustafa’s uncle Ali, a factory worker who loses all hope after repeated abuse by authorities; and pregnant Oya, whom Soysal portrays as having even less personal autonomy than the others because she is a woman. Soysal also recognizes the power of oppressive governments to corrupt its servants. Policeman Zekai Bey relishes his authority and enjoys punishing others. The environment’s inescapable heat and suffocating humidity feels palpable, and the novel powerfully underscores how the threat of violence drives all the characters into suspicion and paranoia. This story of persecution convinces with its urgency and humanity. (Nov.)