Fürüzan (born 1935), who uses only her first name as a pen name, is one of Turkey's best contemporary short story writers and one of its most famous female authors. She established her career by writing about the disadvantaged in society, particularly refugees and women and children. She has published two novels and five volumes of short stories, in addition to travel writing and producing a movie script. She has gained critical acclaim in Turkey and the international literary community. Her works have been translated into English, German, Russian, Dutch, Swedish, Arabic, and Persian.
Became Self-Taught Author
Fürüzan Yerdelen was born in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 29, 1935. When she was a child her father passed away and she had to quit school after the eighth grade. She went to work as an actress with the Little Theater acting company. In 1958, when she was 23 years old, Fürüzan married cartoonist Turhan Selçuk. The couple had one child together, but the marriage ended in divorce. Despite her brief formal education, Fürüzan enjoyed reading as a child. When she was a teenager she began writing poems and short stories. She became a serious writer in 1968 and after her divorce she began using only her first name as her pen name.
Fürüzan was a self-taught author who wrote two novels and five collections of short stories. She published her first collection of short stories in 1971 and soon gained public and critical acclaim. In 1971 she won the Sait Faik Short Story Award for her work Parasiz Yatili ("Free Room and Board"). In 1975 she also won the Turkish Language Association Novel Award for her first novel 47'liler (Those Born in '47), about the 1947 generation's perspective on the 1971 coup in Turkey. Fürüzan is best known for her short stories, including Tasrali ("The Girl from the Provinces," 1968), Iskele Parklarinda ("In the Park by the Pier," 1971), Kusatma ("The Siege," 1972), Benim Sinemalarim ("My Cinemas," 1973), and Nehir ("The River," 1973).
Wrote as Voice of the Oppressed
Fürüzan established her reputation as a voice for the oppressed and downtrodden, particularly refugees and women and children. Her characters included elderly servants, migrant families, sexually exploited women, and unloved wives. She made the reader aware of the social problems facing her characters, and hence facing her country, but she did not offer her own solutions to these problems. Instead, Fürüzan tried to generate empathy in the readers and encouraged them to have the strength to address these social problems. Literary critics have described her work as psychologically insightful. Fürüzan was quoted in Contemporary Turkish Writers as saying, "Of the methods that I would like to apply in my writing, the first, I would say, is to be comprehensible. The second is to inspect, from a correct point of view, the problems of the country."
One of the social problems that Fürüzan has addressed in her writing is the difficult material conditions of refugees living in Turkey and the prejudices against them. These refugees are from many countries around Turkey, including Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Greece. They have not assimilated to Turkish culture because of their customs, dress, or accents, and therefore they have been discriminated against. Fürüzan has given a voice to this otherwise ignored population and has written about their virtues, such as cleanliness and strong family ties.
Represented Turkish Women
Another group that Fürüzan has given a voice is women. In a World Literature Today article entitled "The Woman in the Darkroom: Contemporary Writers in Turkey," Güneli Gün compared Fürüzan's work and her impact to that of Erica Jong. In particular, she explained, "These were women's voices that broke through womanly hopes and fears, and they stood in front of the reader, momentarily, utterly open: open eyes, open minds, open sexuality."
For example, in one of her first short stories, Tasrali ("The Girl from the Provinces," 1968), Fürüzan wrote about an elderly widow whose niece, a girl from the provinces, came to live with her in search of a higher education. The widow did not approve of the niece's ambitions despite the fact that she herself was educated. Fürüzan used the relationship of these two characters to explore gender stereotypes. In another example, Fürüzan wrote about the complications of duty, marriage, and love in Nehir ("The River," 1971). When a woman left her farmer husband and his country home for the beauties of city life in Istanbul, one of the characters explained, "There couldn't be a place more beautiful than here, but when you can't get on with your man every place is hell. A man is everything. What's a woman? The most wretched of creatures."
One of her most popular works was Benim Sinemalarim ("My Cinemas"), a short story published in 1973. Fürüzan wrote about a teenage girl whose family was very poor. The girl worked in a sweatshop to help her parents financially, but she did not earn enough money to buy clothes and other things that she wanted. As a result, the young girl turned to prostitution, dating older men to finance her material desires. The story explored how the girl rationalized her decision as well as her parents' reaction to the news. In 1990 Fürüzan turned this short story into a film script and also directed the movie under the same title as the short story. The film was well received and won awards at the Cannes, Tehran, and Tokyo film festivals.
Fürüzan has been credited for her artful command of the Turkish language, in particular for her simplicity and clarity. She wrote from a deeply personal point of view and with a passion that was honest and often angry. An example of this pained honesty can be found in the English translation of her short story Iskele Parklarinda ("In the Park by the Pier," 1971). Fürüzan told the story of a poor thirty year old widow and her young daughter who spent the summer days by the pier. As they were sitting in the park, the woman lamented," Who would want to marry a woman with a seven-year-old child? I'm so thin. I'm flat chested. Maybe if I ate a little better. Oh, where are the husbands anyway? I don't really want to get married. But I haven't a penny."
Later Career Included Travel Writing
In 1975 Fürüzan was invited by the West German government to come to Germany and write a series of newspaper articles about the plight of Turkish workers in that country. In 1975 she published her interviews with some of these workers in a book called Yeni Konuklar (New Guests). In 1981 she wrote another book, ev Sahipleri (The Landlords), about her travels in Germany. In the 1980s Fürüzan continued to write short stories, including Gecenin Oteki Yuzu ("The Other Face of the Night," 1982) and Gul Mevsimidir ("It's the Season for Roses," 1985). She also published her second novel, Berlin'in Nar Cicegi (The Pomegranate Blossom of Berlin) in 1988. Her most recent work, Bizim Rumeli (Our Rumelia) was published in 1994 and tells of her travels to Bosnia, Greece, and Bulgaria.
Fürüzan's work after her trip to Germany was not as well received as her earlier short stories. She has been criticized for adopting a journalistic approach to her subject matter and for using a journalistic writing style that is not as authentic as her earlier style. In addition, her political agenda, which was once subtly woven into her stories, has become more apparent. As Gun wrote in "The Woman in the Darkroom: Contemporary Writers in Turkey," "Her characters are more politically determined devices than they are people that have any basis in the author's experience. It seems as if she has broken into a dark room, where her urgent hunger for truth, beauty, and freedom has been replaced with a diet consisting of crusts of stale ideology, language, and consciousness that have been fed her from someplace else."
Despite these criticisms of her more recent work, Fürüzan has established herself as one of Turkey's best modern writers and certainly one of its best known women writers. She has built her reputation as a voice for the voiceless, the poor, weak, and powerless segments of society. Her insightfulness and poignant writing have gained her popularity in both the general public and the literary community. English translations of some of her short stories can be found in anthologies of Turkish literature.
Arat, Zehra F., editor, Deconstructing Images of "The Turkish Woman," St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Buck, Claire, editor, The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, Prentice Hall General Reference, 1992.
Mitler, Louis, Contemporary Turkish Writers: A Critical Bio-Bibliography of Leading Writers in the Turkish Republican Period up to 1980, Indiana University, 1988.
Reader's Adviser, edited by Marion Sader, R.R. Bowler, 1994.
Variety, May 9, 1990.
World Literature Today, Spring 1986.
"Authors," http://courses.washington.edu/mtle/authors.html(January 31, 2002).
"Contemporary Turkish Literature," http://www.turkish-lit.boun.edu.tr (January 23, 2002). □