The Last Tram
Published by Comma Press
"What I know about is absence; the endless geography of yearning..."
For Nedim Gürsel, the state of exile isn’t a static condition, applying to a single person in a specific place, but an entire landscape of longing, through which he, and countless other émigrés, must travel; a mobile experience, a moveable feast.
In these stories Gürsel crisscrosses modern Europe, settling in some cities — like Paris — for many years, visiting others several times, decades apart. But none of them quite constitutes home. Nor is return to his native Turkey — from which Gürsel was himself exiled for his political writings in the 70s — ever really possible, though through his stories, dreams, and memories, he makes many attempts.
Art, history, architecture, contemporary politics... all these feed into the swirling palette of colours with which Gürsel paints the migrant experience. Not to mention a host of unforgettable characters: the lonely Mustafa who cares only for the fate of his beloved poplar tree, back home on the Anatolian plain; the tragic Madame Suslova recalling memories of a lover who squandered her money on the roulette tables of Istanbul; or the Coci family making their desperate way through the Fréjus Tunnel, as re-imagined by an eager documentary maker.
Indeed such is the poetry of Gürsel’s writing, it is little surprise that even in exile he is regarded as one of Turkey’s greatest living writers.
"One of the few contemporary Turkish writers who have brought something new to our literature."
Nedim Gürsel was born in Gaziantep, Turkey, in 1951. Gürsel was forced - after the coup d’état in 1971 - to testify in court over one of his articles, which lead to his temporay exile in France, where he studied at the Sorbonne. Gürsel then returned to Turkey, but the military putsch of 1980 sent him back into exile in France. He was awarded the Prize of the Academy of Turkish Linguistics and Literature for his first major prose work, A Long Summer in Istanbul (1975), which has been translated into several languages. In 1986, his novel La Première Femme received the Ipeçki Prize for its contribution to conciliation between the Greek and Turkish peoples. His autobiography Au Pays des Poissons Captifs was recently published simultaneously in France and Turkey. He faced trial in 2009 for ‘denigrating religious values’ in his novel, The Daughters of Allah, which was also awarded the Freedom of Expression and Publishing Award. His first novel to be translated into English, The Conqueror, was published by Talisman in 2010.
Translated by Ruth Whitehouse.