Bridge of the Golden Horn

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The Bridge of the Golden Horn by Emine Sevgi Özdamar

Translated from German by Martin Chalmers

Published by Serpent’s Tail, October 2007


The Bridge of the Golden Horn is a celebration of cultural diversity and the migrant condition. It is an extremely uplifting book in its portrayal of a young immigrant’s determination to transcend her cultural and linguistic imprisonment. In time, she achieves her artistic goals and becomes totally accepted by the host intellectual community. PEN’s goal of artistic freedom as a force for cultural unity is fully realized in this remarkable book.

The Bridge of the Golden Horn is a coming of age novel, an account of an education, sentimental, political, theatrical, literary. A teenager, the (unnamed) heroine signs up as a Gastarbeiter in Germany. She leaves Istanbul and works on an assembly line in Berlin and lives in a factory hostel. But Özdamar’s novel is no glum tract, it’s a witty, picaresque account of a precocious teenager and young woman refusing to become wise, of hectic years lived between Berlin and Istanbul, Istanbul and Ankara. These are years of sometimes grim repression, particularly in Turkey, but also of a hope and optimism that seem almost unimaginable today. The Bridge of the Golden Horn is a novel of Berlin winters and summers by the Sea of Marmara, of the streets and smells of Berlin and Istanbul and of the eternally smoky cafés of left-wing intellectuals.


Born in Malatya in Turkey, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, lived in a number of towns before her parents finally settled in Istanbul. Still a teenager, and unable to speak a word of German, she went to Germany in 1965 as a Gastarbeiter to save up to go to drama school. Özdamar returned to Turkey, studied acting, became involved in radical politics and left Turkey for Berlin again during the period of military repression in the 1970’s. She acted on stage in Berlin, Paris, Avignon, and Dusseldorf and appeared in a number of films. She first wrote plays, before publishing stories and novels in German which have won numerous prizes and been translated into several languages. Emine Sevgi Özdamar lives in Berlin.


Martin Chalmers has translated many leading German-language authors into English. Book translations include works by Bertolt Brecht, Erich Fried, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Alexander Kluge, Hubert Fichte, Elfriede Jelinek and Herta MŸller. He has also translated numerous stories, academic essays and some poetry. In 2004 he was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize for his translation of The Lesser Evil. The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1945-59. Martin Chalmers grew up in Glasgow, but now lives in London.


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