Born in Istanbul in 1940, Oya Baydar graduated from Notre Dame de Sion High School for Girls. At seventeen she wrote her first novel God Has Forgotten the Children (Allah Çocukları Unuttu). She Studied socology and philosophy at Istanbul University , became assistant professor in 1964 and taught history of social thought in the same department. In 1965 she became a member of the Turkish Labour Party, the first legal mass party of the turkish socialist movement. On account of her political position, she had to resign from her post in 1969 and joined the academic staff of Hacettepe University in Ankara. After the military coup of 1971 she was arrested and expelled from the university. After her release, she worked as columnist and journalist in daily Yeni Ortam and Politika. Following the military putsch of 1980 she left Turkey and for nearly twelve years she was forced to live in exile in Germany. During those years the collapse of the socialist system and the sorrow it initiated was the background of her literary works. The human dimension of the political upheavals she witnessed were foregrounded in her collection of short stories Farewell Alyosha (Elveda Alyoşa, 1991)
After the partial amnesty in 1991, she returned to Turkey. Since then she has published eight novels and other works of fiction and non-fiction. Her novels has been translated into 26 languages including German, French, English, Italian, Greek. She has won many literary awards in Turkey and abroad for her fiction, including the Orhan Kemal Novel Award, the Cevdet Kudret Literature Award, the Yunus Nadi Novel Award. Her novel Returning Nowhere (Hiçbiryer’e Dönüş) has won in Italy the Carical Award (Premio per la Cultura Mediterranea) for 2011.
In addition to her identity as a novelist, Baydar is also a renowned name as an advocator of democratic principles and minority rights in Turkey. She is one of the founders of the Turkish Peace Initiative.
Baydar’s career as a novelist is condensed in two separate periods in her life. The first set of youth novels was written between 1957-63, after which she took a long break because of her active involvement in the socialist movement in the 1960s. After the collapse of the socialist system she retourned to writing fiction in her 50r, during which she produced a co-memoir, a collection of stories and novels.
Farewell Alyosha (Elveda Alyoşa, 1991) is a collection of stories that narrate the sentiment and condition of exile. The book was awarded with the prestigius Sait Faik Story Prize.
Cat Letters (Kedi Mektupları) won the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize in 1993. Hidden between the lines in the scent letters of cats, the reader is provided with a panaroma of political refugees and their re-examination of the commen past after the collapse of the socialist block.
The following novel Return to Nowhere (Hiçbiryer’e Dönüş, 1998) was awarded with “Premio per la Cultura Mediterranea 2011”, competing with more than three hundred books.
Warm Ashes Remain (Sıcak Külleri Kaldı , 2000) awarded with Orhan Kemal Novel Prize, is published in French in 2015, and was nominated for the Femina Prize for the best “roman etranger”. In this novel, Baydar attempted to discuss the corroptive influence of “power”, ranging from sexuel hegemony to political hegemony.
The Gate of Judas Tree (Erguvan Kapısı, 2004), which won the Cevdet Kudret Literature Prize, brought her more critical acclaim by estimeed literary critics. One of them described the novel as “subtantial”, “steadfast”, a work that lacks nothing but includes no excess eiter: a masterpiece. The novel deals about the relation between faith and identity.
Lost Word (Kayıp Söz, 2007) traslated in 24 languages, is about violence. Review articles about the book appeared in various foreing media such as The Guardian, The Independent, World Literature today, Die Welt, FAZ, Freitag, Le Monde, Liberation, etc…
In World Literature Today (May 2012) G. Messa writes: “We need more books like The Lost Word”. In the Independent L. Popescu writes “Baydar’s extraordinary book eloquently demonstrate how violence can erupt wherever tyranny and fear coexist.”
The General of Garbage (Çöplüğün Generali, 2009): the most political of her books, was selected as the best novel of the year.
Your Magnificent Life (O Muhteşem Hayatınız, 2012) treat about Dersim massacre of 1937-38 which is one of the taboo subjects in Turkey.
Baydar’s last novel is: Little Things that Remain Orphan (Yetim Kalacak Küçük Şeyler, 2015)
Literary Works: God Has Forgotten the Children (Allah Çocukları Unuttu), 1960; Age of War Age of Hope (Savaş Çağı, Umut Çağı), 1962; Farewell Alyosha (Elveda Alyoşa), 1991; Cat’s Letters (Kedi Mektupları), 1992; Returning Nowhere (Hiçbiryer’e Dönüş), 1998; Hot Ashes Remain (Sıcak Külleri Kaldı), 2000; The Gate of Judas Tree (Erguvan Kapısı), 2004; Lost Word (Kayıp Söz), 2007; The General of Garbage (Çöplüğün Generali), 2009; Your Magnificent Life (O Muhteşem Hayatınız), 2012; Little Things that Remain Orphan (Yetim Kalacak Küçük Şeyler), 2015.
It is a novel which – with a voice of Oriental fairy-tales coming from faraway, and the dynamism of Scandinavian detective story – draws you in its world momentarily.
Julia Encke, Litteraturen
The Lost World has been referred to by literary critics as perhaps the most important and the most beautiful novel coming from contemporary Turkey.
Harald Loch, Saarbrucken Zeitung
Violence towards others is the theme of Lost Word. Dissecting lab animals, imposing our values on our children, assassinations, armed clashes, honor killings, and war are just some of the stories that are examined. The relationship between people and violence is reflected from its various aspects.
(Foreword, from the catalogue)
All the characters of this novel are victims of history, as well as of their inner conflicts. Paradoxes are inevitable in the contemporary world, so an escape to the “safe” West can bring about death, while a journey to the East, into the mountains – love and the lost word (literary inspiration). The paradox spawns many questions. Should we impose our values on our children or they should be allowed to create their own? Is it humane to make money by photographing human suffering? Can a custom be worth more than a human life? Is there a safe place in the world or is it inside us?
The authoress boldly raises questions that are not easy to answer and artfully intertwines all the contrasts of the world of her heroes: the burned down mountains in the east of Turkey, ugly border places where fear petrifies life and, at the same time, awesome cities and magnificent landscapes of northern Europe.
Despite the fact that the book is dominated by disturbing images of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, this is not a political novel, but a stratified story with alternating lines of the heroes’ inner turmoils, relationship between the East and the West, and contemporary social problems. For all these reasons The Lost World has been referred to by literary critics as “perhaps the most important and the most beautiful novel coming from contemporary Turkey.”
(from the afterward of the Serbian edition)