Turkish author waits for Hans Andersen Awards
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Hans Christian AndersenHaving been shortlisted for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, Turkish children’s author Sevim Ak believes the prejudice of the Western world against Turkish children’s literature will change to some extent if she is granted the award.
“Western publishers abstain from our children’s and teenagers’ literature due to previous bad experiences. I believe once we overcome this bias, a great many high-quality works of literature in Turkey would have the chance to be translated into other languages,” she told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Sevim Ak was selected as worthy of nomination by the Turkish Association of Children and Youth Publishing (ÇGYD) for her contributions to children’s literature so far, which Ak considers as an award in itself.
Turkish literature trend
Having been shortlisted for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, “However, I must say that the boom in terms of quality is way below that of quantity. What has already been created is boldly presented as if a new creation, or if a certain type of story sells well, its imitations are rapidly taking their places in bookstores’ shelves. Most importantly, because the publisher’s ultimate target is their books’ inclusion to schools’ curricula, the stories are becoming alien to an actual child’s imagination.”
Ak said she had a strong belief that it was possible to tell the problems of real children in a language and style that suited all ages. “However, we still could not overcome some taboos in this field; we are still at a toddler’s level in surpassing them.”
Ak’s harshest critique is the lack of interest in alternative publications outside of the bestseller champions. “These lists are populated by fantasy and adventure stories. These genres are of a global penetration and they are often launched at the market simultaneously with their film adaptations, PC or PlayStation games or toys, and alternative works have to wait to be noticed and discovered by the readers silently on the dim corners of the bookshelves.”
Writing and working for children
Born to teacher parents, Ak grew up on a dead-end street in Samsun on the Black Sea Coast. Ak’s first published piece appeared in the daily Cumhuriyet. Later many other children’s magazines also published her writings. In 1987 she brought her collected stories to Redhouse Publishing House and her first book “My Kite is a Cloud Now” was published. With this book, Sevim Ak won the Children’s Literature Story Prize of Akademi Bookstore. This prize encouraged her to write more. Her work received critical acclaim outside of Turkey. Some of her stories were published in Yugoslavian children’s magazines. Her short story called “My Name is Titi” was included in the Balkan Children Writers’ Selection (Tregime) which was published in Albania. Another medium that aroused Sevim Ak’s interest was children’s theater. One of her plays, “The Hide and Seek of Dreams,” was staged in Istanbul Municipality City Theaters.
What are the Hans Christian Andersen Awards?
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Switzerland-based International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) biannually presents the Hans Christian Andersen Awards to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children’s books. The nominations are made by the National Sections of IBBY, and the recipients are selected by a distinguished international jury of children’s literature specialists. Astrid Lindgren, Erich Kastner, Gianni Rodari, Christine Nostlinger and David Almond are among the bearers of the award. The Author’s Award has been given since 1956 and the Illustrator’s Award since 1966. The Award consists of a gold medal and a diploma, presented at a festive ceremony during the biennial IBBY Congress. A special Andersen Awards issue of IBBY’s journal Bookbird presents all the nominees and documents the selection process.
Previously, Turkish author Eflatun Cem Güney was selected to the honorary list of the award in 1956 and 1966. Among the shortlisted Turkish authors are Muzaffer İzgü, Gülten Dayıoğlu and Ayla Çınaroğlu.