Continuing our month-long season to celebrate the English PEN centenary, World Book Club talks to multi-award-winning Turkish-Kurdish writer and activist Burhan Sönmez about his unforgettable novel Istanbul, Istanbul.
At once powerfully political and intensely personal, Istanbul, Istanbul is the story of four prisoners kept in underground cells beneath the city, who tell one another stories about their city to pass the time. There are two Istanbuls, one below ground and one above, yet in reality both are one and the same.
Sonmez worked as a lawyer in Istanbul and was a member of IHD, the Human Rights Society, and a founder of BirGün, a daily opposition newspaper. He was seriously injured following an assault by police in 1996 in Turkey and received treatment in Britain afterwards.
Here he discusses his novel, censorship and the tense political situation in Turkey, and the invaluable impact of English PEN and other such pressure groups with presenter Ritula Shah and readers from around the globe.
Istanbul, Istanbul was translated by Ümit Hussein.
(Picture: Burhan Sönmez. Photo credit: Roberto Gandola.)
This month, to kick off a mini-season to celebrate a very special centenary World Book Club talks, for a second time, to the Nobel Prize-winning giant of world literature, Professor Wole Soyinka, about one hundred years of the writers’ organisation English PEN. PEN is the influential pressure group which helps support and campaign for the release of writers held unlawfully in jail around the globe and which helped to secure Soyinka’s release in 1969, after 26 months of detention without trial by the military regime in Nigeria.
Guest presenter Ritula Shah also discusses Wole Soyinka’s first new novel in half a century with the author and his readers around the world: Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is a bitingly witty whodunit, a scathing indictment of Nigeria’s ruling elite, and a powerful call to arms from one of the country’s most relentless political activists and world-famous writer.
(Picture: Wole Soyinka. Photo credit: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images.)
Maylis De Kerangal: Mend the Living
World Book Club this month talks to the award-winning French writer Maylis de Kerangal about her remarkable and haunting novel Mend the Living.
After a horrific car accident on the Normandy coast surfer Simon Limbeau is rushed to hospital where his devastated parents are later told that he is on life-support, but is brain-dead. His heart, however, is still beating perfectly and could be donated to save someone’s life. They are faced with an agonising choice.
Mend the Living is the story of Simon Limbeau’s heart – and the story of all the lives that are turned upside down in the 24 hours between the accident that cuts short his life and offers hope of new life to another.
(Picture: Maylis de Kerangal. Photo credit: Philippe Quaisse.)
Crime and Punishment: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
To mark the bicentenary of the birth of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky World Book Club revisits Crime and Punishment in an edition recorded at the elegant Pushkin House, London’s Russian cultural hub, in 2016.
To help us explore Dostoyevsky’s haunting classic thriller Harriett Gilbert was joined by acclaimed Russian writer Boris Akunin and Russian scholar Dr Sarah Young.
Consumed by the idea of his own special destiny, Rashkolnikov is drawn to commit a terrible crime. In the aftermath, he is dogged by madness, guilt and a calculating detective, and a feverish cat-and-mouse game unfolds.
(Photo credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images.)
Jane Harper: The Dry
World Book Club this month talks to the world-renowned Australian author Jane Harper at her home in Melbourne, Australia, about her internationally garlanded thriller, The Dry.
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, tensions in a small town community become unbearable when the Hadler family are found brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler’s guilty, committing suicide after slaughtering his wife and son.
But policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his best friend and is reluctantly drawn into the investigation. As he probes deeper into the killings, secrets from the past bubble to the surface and he questions the truth of his friend's crime.
A chilling story set under a sweltering sun dealing with issues of climate change, alcoholism and a community on the brink of breaking down.
(Picture: Jane Harper. Photo credit: Katsnapp Photography.)