Murat Gülsoy (born 1967) started his literary career as a publisher and a writer of the bimonthly magazine Hayalet Gemi (Ghost Ship) in 1992. His works explore the metafictional potentials of self-consciousness with ‘page turning’ plots. He also produced interactive hypertext works on internet exploring new ways of narrative. Gülsoy has published 11 books in Turkey so far. Besides short stories, he has three novels addressing modern masters Kafka, Borges, Eco, Stern, Fowles and Orhan Pamuk. He is the recipient of most prestigious national literary awards. Being a writer, he also works as an engineer for biomedical science, as a psychologist, as a teacher for creative writing. He is the chairperson of the editorial board of Bogazici University Press. Stehlen Sie dieses Buch is the first book to be translated into German (Literaturca Verlag). His last novel, ‘A Week of Kindness in Istanbul’ has been translated to Chinese, Macedonian, Romanian, and Bulgarian.
Can God See Me?
“Do you know how I see others? How could you… One can only be deluded why one’s own eyes. I had once experienced a blurry love affair. It had driven me to delusions. It had made me think I had discovered the meaning of life. You wouldn’t believe me, but you wouldn’t say anything. That’s why I never interrupted your silence. The longer you were silent, I’d want to travel to a place where human reasoning didn’t exist; where the outlook that makes sense of the world didn’t exist, where trees would grow towards my inner emptiness…”
These people who strive to escape the corner that life and the city have entrapped them in by fleeing, fantasizing, contemplating, putting up a fight, or who have somehow been forced out, cry out of the text as if screaming for help, to be seen, counted and known. In this book which he investigates different narrative styles, as he roams the corridors of our helpless states, Murat Gülsoy presents us with ‘fragments of the psyche saved from a fire’, in a startling and though provoking frame.
In the Mirror of Darkness
Orhan is a mediocre doctor, leading an unhappy but stable and controlled life. This changes once and for all with the appearance of Ece, a theatre actress suffering from panic attacks, who he meets one night in the emergency service of the hospital he works at. The result is not only the fusion of two bodies, but also the fusion of stories in past, present and future times. As we wander around in the exhibition rooms of the novel’s museum on an eerie journey, the recounted stories of these desperate characters obsessed with their past, fuse into one. When he looks in the mirror, the mirror of darkness, an odyssey into the mysterious labyrinths of the mind, Orhan finds Ece’s reflection staring back at him instead of his own, and discovers he is trapped in Ece’s body, leaving the reader, caught in the vortex of the novel, wondering which—if any—of these characters really exist. This is precisely the schizoid question posed, since after all, the reader is only in a novel. And so we continue reading, perhaps for the same reason that the characters too forge ahead: we are fueled by the undeniable, irresistible existence of the “dark matter” somewhere deep in our souls.
Sarp, Orhan’s schizoid cousin, eventually becomes the character we turn to in our effort to grasp reality in this truly genius mind-twisting metafictional work.
“You see Orhan, the best thing about being inside a novel is that you can do whatever you want. But of course, you have to be aware first. And this is exactly where the paradox begins. Because if you’re inside a novel and you become aware of it, then you’ve simply gone mad. You can’t carry on living the story you’re in like you used to. You can’t just say, ‘Oh right, so it’s a novel after all, ok, I still need to get up early in the morning, I’ve got a job to go to’. Then again, you don’t even have a job anymore, do you. Anyway, just forget it. Let’s get on with what we’re doing. And just what are we doing, you’re going to ask… You see Orhan, I’m filling in your speech bubbles too. And you go calling me mad—how unjust. Yes, let’s get back to business. Our business is being novel characters.”
A Week of Kindness in İstanbul
Published in Bulgaria by Paradox, in China by CHIRP, in Macedonia by Tabernakul, in Romania by Art Editorial
Murat Gülsoy is known for his explorations of narrative techniques, and his outstanding novel A Week of Kindness in Istanbul is no exception. In the seven chapters of the novel, seven pictures taken from Max Ernst’s collage novel: Une Semaine de Bonte (A Week of Kindness) are delivered to seven people, on the seven days of the week, by a fictive author who asks them to look at the pictures and write whatever comes to mind. Through their reading and interpretation of the collages, Murat Gülsoy’s seven Istanbulite protagonists reveal their inner selves, opening up seven different windows for the reader into today’s Istanbul. The black and white surrealist pictures come to life in the lives and imaginations of these characters, who are each linked to the fictive author in some way, and who each write in their own unique literary style.
Halil, father to a friend of the fictive author, is a senior character who had always wanted to write. Melancholic about the past, pessimistic of the future, he presents vivid descriptions of his friends and family with his humorous powers of observation.
A divorced, middle aged academic in the social sciences, Ayşe analyses the pictures parallel to her life crises. Through a cold blooded self-analysis, she theorizes the condition of being an intellectual woman in a third world, Muslim country.
Ali, the least self-aware character in the beginning, arrives at a painful confession by the end of the novel. During the process of writing, his eyes are opened to his weaknesses, his unhappy marriage, and his past sins.
Akın, a former political activist who is a white collar worker today, sees his life span in the pictures of Ernst, and tries to hide his betrayal behind his poetic narration. His lines uncover the story of a young university student who lost his love because of his cowardice, and whose life was ruined by the dark political atmosphere following the 1980 Turkish coup d’état.
A young married working mother, Deniz writes about her secret life enriched with fantasies. The ambiguity of the surreal pictures provokes her oppressed sexual desires and her thoughts and feelings explode in a wild stream of consciousness narrative.
Erol, an old friend of the fictive author, resists becoming a part of his experimental project at first. He and the fictive author once shared the ambition of becoming a writer, but only one of them managed to succeed. Therefore he feels challenged by his friend’s request. Nevertheless, he finally decides to play and the surreal plot he weaves turns the whole novel into a metafictional work.
Yağmur is the fictive author’s young cousin. In the huge city of Istanbul, the cousins have been drawn apart by the daily rush of their individual lives. The crowded solitude of Istanbul embraces Yağmur and thus her narrative is dominated by her fears, nightmares, and despair.
The Lingering Death of a Lover
The Lingering Death of a Lover is the story of a man taking care of his wife who is in a coma. Serap is hit by a car one night, on her way to the cinema with her friend, and ends up in a vegetative state. Cem, a successful journalist, quits his job and, isolating himself from the rest of the world, becomes his beloved wife’s dedicated nurse. Trapped in a strictly planned daily routine at home, Cem reads Serap the paper, talks to her, cleans her lovely but mute body, cooks for her even though she cannot eat. The psychological stress on Cem deteriorates his state of mind. His imaginary conversations with Serap, hopeless investigations on the brain and soul, the guilt and suffering caused by their imperfect past, all gradually alter his mental health. This desperate love story becomes a battleground of science and mystic forces. The novel explores the condition of modern man: suspended between life and death, East and West, science and belief, love and despair.
I am the Bad Guy in This Movie
Yunus Nadi Novel Prize
The main character, the middle aged writer manqué, Önder and his wife Defne have moved to a beautiful Aegean village to live in peace. Here, far from the chaotic big city life in Istanbul, he wants to write a novel. His motivation is to prove himself to his dead father, a physicist who had dedicated himself to the modernization of Turkey. Önder has failed to walk in his father’s footsteps; he is a university drop out and this makes him feel pretty much like a loser. I’m the Bad Guy in This Movie consists of alternating chapters of Önder’s life and his novel. The novel in the novel tells the story of what Önder’s life was like five years ago. The Önder in his novel is in a love triangle, whereas in real life his marriage is about to collapse. The son in the novel is betrayed; Önder is the one responsible for betrayal in real life. These two gripping plots run parallel to each other and reveal that being the victim or the survivor are just two different roles in life. The postmodern structure of the novel transforms Önder from a naïve buildingsroman character to a bad guy. The image of his dead father becomes an allegory of the figure for the founder of the modern Turkish Republic and Önder himself becomes the parody of the imperfect and hopeless postmodern intellectual.
Steal This Book
Sait Faik Short Story Award
Although the stories in this collection are all independent, they are in fact all connected at the same time. In Steal This Book, blurring the line between fact and fiction, in which reality becomes fiction and fiction invades life, Gülsoy pushes the limits of fiction and demands the active participation of the reader. Reality and fiction collide in these stories, as Gülsoy plays games with his themes.
Published in German by Literaturca in 2007
Dreams, imagery, delusions, recurring memories, mental illusions, moments that were lived, re-lived or believed to be lived… Murat Gülsoy takes the reader to a world of mysterious signs, events, and imagery through a transparent narrative.
Continuity of the Realms and the Other Stories
“No, he didn’t turn up that night, nor on any other night after that… I thought about it again and again afterwards. This can’t be how the story ends. Ok, I have no evidence; ok, I couldn’t find the way to that neighborhood again, the place I had found miraculously that day; ok, my phone never rang again… But still I bear hope. I still don’t know who it was that phoned me and gave me the address. The mysterious person who brought a dead story back to life can do it again; can give me one last chance. If my desire is strong enough and if I am patient enough… Since there is someone who is actually thinking about me… Even if I don’t know who it is, it is still worth looking forward to! Because, if something happens once, it can happen again. What has happened once can happen twice. What would be the point of living if we didn’t have this to hope for?”
Irony and literary games unveil the mystery of daily life in modern Turkey.
Letters of One Thousand and One Nights
Written in an extremely free narrative style, opening doors to the inner worlds of people that we are both strangers to, and very familiar with at the same time, these stories unchain our emotions, obsessions, fears, and fantasies. The intertextual stories in Letters of One Thousand and One Nights demonstrate how we always have other stories behind the stories we tell. Every story creates its own truth and in that truth we proceed, claiming the story as our own.
But Everyone’s So Self-Absorbed
These stories mainly focus on two themes: game and writing. An outstanding characteristic in Murat Gülsoy’s stories is his wide use of irony and black humor. “In my stories, I like to amaze people,” says Gülsoy, “with thought provoking plots and unexpected, surprise endings.” Each story is based on an image and has elements of fantastic fiction. Although the stories seem to be connected thematically, the author attempts different experiments in each one.
Disenchanment: Creative Writing
Critical essays on creative writing techniques.
602nd Night: The Story Reflects on Itself
Critical essays on modernist and postmodernist writing experience: Close readings of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Oğuz Atay and Orhan Pamuk.