Selim Ileri: Author of romance, nostalgia and mourning


Long modern Turkish fiction had followed two completely different paths until the postmodern turn of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first path, which is openly the mainstream followed by the greatest Turkish novelists and their imitators, belongs to high culture, although many novels and stories written on this path depict rural life. The second path, on the other hand, generally underestimated and rarely considered in the art of fiction, is romantic fiction. If an author of the first path mentioned a romantic relationship between the sexes, he did so by placing that relationship in a social context. Even in the case of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, who is famous for writing great romantic passages in his novels and stories, the romantic relationship between a man and a woman involves a better image, for example, of the social and aesthetic change of people. time.

On the other hand, love fiction never died thanks to the interest of the female audience. Since the first novels of the 19th century, the main subject of Turkish novels has been romantic relationships, and the gender of the main audience is female. This type of reader has been true to the genre, which makes it preferable for publishers. Many romance novels were published in newspapers in several times, which increased the number of readers. However, critics and literary circles have tended to underestimate this type of novel because their subject matter is very limited, they are based on too many clichés, and the authors of such fictions do not seek to renew the genre at all.

From the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s, the hard wall between social / aesthetic romance and romantic romance was gaping by the younger generation of the time. Especially Selim Ileri, who published his first novel in 1973 and became a prominent author after his ‘Bodrum Tetralogy’, did not pay much attention to the aforementioned difference between genres and instead created a generic mix with a beautiful storytelling focused on pathetic emotions such as unrequited love, longing, sensitivity and mourning.

Author Selim Ileri poses for a photo with a mural in the background, Istanbul, Turkey, August 23, 2013. (File photo)


Ileri was born on April 30, 1949 in Kadıköy, Istanbul. His father Hasan Hilmi was an engineer from Cyprus. He left Nicosia for Istanbul in order to obtain graduate studies and became a senior engineer after graduate studies in Switzerland on a state scholarship. Ilery’s mother, Süheyla, was a housewife who gave her son the love of reading and fiction by telling him stories every night of his childhood. Ilery’s older sister, Meral, graduated from the German Philology Department and became a professor of German language and literature.

Ileri was first educated at elementary schools in Cihangir and Firuzağa. After primary school he was admitted to Galatasaray High School as a boarding school. He left Galatasaray so as not to lose a year because he could not pass the final examination of the composition class. He enrolled in Bakırköy High School before moving to Atatürk High School, from where he graduated. He met such eminent authors as Vedat Günyol, professor of French, and Rauf Mutluay, professor of Turkish literature, who made him think seriously about writing. He started his writing career by writing short stories in the footsteps of great Turkish writers like Sait Faik and Sabahattin Ali.

Ileri was an avid reader of fiction even in his childhood. He started reading with the novels of Kemalettin Tuğcu, which are imitations of Charles Dickens in Turkish. He has also read numerous works by sentimental authors such as Ethem Izzet Benice, Güzide Sabri, Kerime Nadir and Muazzez Tahsin Berkant. And at the high school level, he read more seriously, meaning he became a regular reader of mainstream modern Turkish fiction. He read Yakup Kadri, Reşat Nuri and Halide Edip in addition to foreign authors such as Camus, Sartre and Kafka, who were very popular among Turkish audiences in the 1950s and 1960s.

Author Selim Ileri leans on a railing surrounded by vegetation as he poses for a photo.  (File photo)
Author Selim Ileri leans on a railing surrounded by vegetation as he poses for a photo. (File photo)

A very young author

Ileri published her first collection of stories – “Cumartesi Yalnızlığı: Güz Notları” (Saturday Solitude: Autumn Notes) – at the age of 19. of his paternity. Ileri is one of the best essayists of our time. He is the author of over 20 collections of essays with scattered subjects such as modern Turkish literary canon, Istanbul (city and life), literary figures and memoirs (personal and social).

Perhaps Ileri’s best short story book is “Dostlukların Son Günü (The Last Days of Friendships, 1975), which is a lament about departures. He won the 1978 Sait Faik Short Story Prize with this book. “Bir Denizin Eteklerinde” (On the Shores of a Sea, 1980) and “Son Yaz Akşamı” (The Last Day of Summer, 1983) are also worth mentioning.

“Bodrum, every night”

Ileri’s career reached its peak as soon as he completed the famous “Tetralogy of Bodrum”, which is a four-book landscape of a social group – the posh people of Istanbul. “Her Gece Bodrum” (Bodrum, Every Night, 1976) is a masterpiece of bodily love, romance and pathetic ends among people living under the cruel social codes of high society, who easily oppress the most sensible. Ileri won the TDK (Turkish Language Institution) Literary Prize in 1977 with “Her Gece Bodrum”. The tetralogy ended with the fourth novel, “Bir Akşam Alacası” (Mixed Colors of Sunset, 1980).

The subject, romance and nostalgia of Ileri were very popular in the 1980s due to the depoliticization of society after the military coup of September 12, 1980. Ileri enjoyed massive attention from readers of various social circles until the mid-1990s, when its audience began to decline. At that time, he was more popular than ever; however, he lost the attention of the general public and could only speak to his special audience, which had been faithful to romantic writing and had always responded well to sentimentalism.

Ileri has continued to write and publish more specific and personal subjects since the late 1990s. Once in a press interview, he admitted that he lived in a lighthouse, although that does not mean that he did. himself felt protected. I believe he meant that even though an author and his character are apolitical, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have no problem or that their life is not worth writing.

Selim Ileri received the title “State Artist” in 1998. In 2012 he won the Presidency’s Grand Prize for Culture and the Arts for literature. He also won half a dozen literary awards. Ileri lives and pursues his literary work in Istanbul.


About Author

Comments are closed.