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Burhan Sönmez

Istanbul (Turkey)


Burhan Sönmez


Lawyer and university lecturer in Literary Theory and the Novel at the METU University in Ankara. A specialist in human rights, he has been President of PEN International since 2021. He began his career as a lawyer in Istanbul where he founded TAKSAV (Foundation for Cultural Research and Art) and was a member of IHD (Human Rights Society). In 1996, after being seriously injured when police attacked a peaceful demonstration, he went into exile in London where he was treated thanks to the NGO Freedom from Torture. His works are rooted in the oral stories and legends with which he grew up speaking Kurdish and Turkish in a small village in central Turkey. He has published five novels, among them Kuzey (İletişim Yayıncılık, 2009 – in English, North), Masumlar (İletişim Yayıncılık, 2011 – in English Sins and Innocents) for which he received the Sedat Simavi award, Turkey’s most prestigious literary prize, and Istanbul Istanbul (published in Catalan and Spanish by Periscopi 2018 and Minúscula 2019). In recognition of the quality and commitment of his literature he has also received the Disturbing the Peace Award in honour of persecuted writers who defy totalitarian regimes and given by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation. His fourth novel Labyrinth, which has been published in Catalan and Spanish (Periscopi and Minúscula, 2022), abounds with stories about the meanings of memory and human strength and power.

Update: 24 March 2022

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