Müge İplikçi

Müge İplikçi

Born in Istanbul. Müge İplikçi graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature of Istanbul University. She received an M.A. degree from the Department of Women’s Studies of the same university. During her studies she worked as an instructor of English. Afterwards, she also worked as an instructor of Turkish at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. And there, she received another M.A. degree from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Her articles have been published in literary magazines such as Varlık, Milliyet Sanat, Adam Öykü in Turkey. Some of her stories have been translated into English, Swedish, Kurdish, Dutch and German. She received the 1996 Yaşar Nabi Nayır Short Story Award. She placed third in the 1997 Haldun Taner Short Story Competition.

Her first collection of short stories, Somersault (Perende) was published in 1998. Her second collection of short stories titled Columbus’s Women (Columbus’un Kadınları) was published in 2000. Her third collection of short stories titled To Be Continued (Arkası Yarın) was published in 2001; fourth one was Transit Passengers (Transit Yolcular) and her latest collection of short stories titled Azaleas (Kısa Ömürlü Açelyalar) was published in 2010. The Ash and Wind (Kül ve Yel), as her first novel was published in 2004 , then The Harbinger (Cemre-2006) and finally Mount Kaf (Kafdağı 2008) followed them.

In addition to her collections of short stories she has published two books dealing with the problems of women titled Women of the Ruined City (Yıkık Kentli Kadınlar) and What The Tweezers Plucked Out (Cımbızın Çektikleri) with her colleague Ümran Kartal.

Currently, she works as a parttime instructor at the Faculty of Communication and Media, Istanbul Bilgi University.


Years ago I was one of the nomads in a Middle West state of the USA. The taste of the food in Turkey had been much more yearned for because of a rambunctious ocean intervening. Loneliness had enhanced as much as it could in the reflection of the geography capturing the green. I was surged up with a bizarre feeling that could be named as coming from Middle East or Mediterranean. It was a spirit I couldn’t realize before, one I couldn’t notice though it was somewhere deep inside me. Longing for food overtook me at times when I experienced this feeling intensively. This was certainly homesickness. At those times I’d go, buy and eat baklava! Why especially baklava? Maybe it’s because of the feeling bothering me that loneliness drops blood sugar.

Indeed it had nothing to do with space. It was related with the era. Everyone was slightly desolate and depressive. Additionally, I liked homesickness. It partly revived me. Baklavas were the principal reason for this and these sweet, layered, charming yellow square pieces which smell “motherland” and which one never gets sick of eating made me happy until that day. Until a friend of mine from Gaziantep brought me dry baklavas in a shiny white box… While I was eating those delicious dry baklavas with an illimitable feeling, I was astonished at what my friend said. “Unfortunately we are about to lose baklava because the Greeks claim that it is theirs” my friend blurted out. This expression of my friend is normally a sentence of no significance, but there, in my mood, it turned into a series of questions confusing my mind.

Here we can assume my friend’s nationalistic obsessions are considerable but nationalism could only be one of the factors causing this subject to preoccupy my mind. Therefore, I couldn’t so much blame my friend to be a scapegoat. Besides, the distance fuelled a weird nationalism. Right there I couldn’t help thinking over hierarchies of the West and the East. Could the baklava really have a nationality, even if it had what did it matter, even if it did why it mattered so much—to both sides… Indeed, when considered for a while, it would be inevitable to see it is not only the Greeks who claim to be the owner of baklava. For instance then I remembered that the baklava I bought when my blood sugar dropped had come from Jordan. Other countries’ potential about it couldn’t be underestimated. Yet, as a granddaughter of a Western Thracian grandfather, I decided to restrain the subject between Greece and Turkey. It must be because of my grandfather’s gloomy face directed towards Greek and Turkish lands that I circulated the reality of baklava in my head within the boundaries of two countries with this emotional justification in my mind.

Greece and Turkey (see moderate Islam in the eye of West)—the legendary land through which the Hellenistic culture paved the way for history and life—were actually two similar countries expected to create national allegories. Fields of dreams, fantasies, myths, obsessions and needs as much as a place to learn, explore and practice.

They were two of the countries responsible for adding one more aura to auras of fantasies. In the Mediterranean, there were actually many examples of this duality which seemed to be opposite. Why would peoples behave like enemies despite laughing at the same things in the same way, swearing at the same things with the same words, eating the same types of food and sophisticating under the eclipse of similar histories? Why?

Greece and Turkey… Two countries whose courses have never overlapped for years. Two of the countries trying to proceed among the “national allegories” I had just been trying to mention above and among dense knots or loose ties between literature, history, language and religion concepts which had to be squeezed into these allegories. Lands surrounded by templates (which might likely cause quite a stir) including the possible fact that the tension caused by the nation and the boundaries of a type of food can be eliminated through the idea of creating a canon. It is probably for this reason that such kind of countries are made to emphasize on monopolizing—the preliminary and the only condition of their facing with “Modernism”. In short, the feeling of “losing the ownership” of baklava, kebab, sarma—stuffed vine leaves, white cheese wasn’t a result of the reflection that Greece is redolent of Europe and the West as my friend insistently underlined but was relevant to the fact that Greece fulfills its roles provided by the West, exactly like Turkey. A result of its discourse more likeable than, but not very different from Turkey contextually. If it weren’t like that, the Greeks wouldn’t suffer that much from the reality of “cognitive mapping” leading the third world evaluations of the West. If it weren’t like that, we wouldn’t continually try so hard to prove ourselves to the West as countries where myths had been created but which are bound to be subject to today. Liking baklava would be a binding duty of us—not the borders.

As for me: Although I come from Mediterranean, the land of mythology, as a person who had forgotten tales for a long time I’d wish to be a relentless dreamer. If I were a leading contradictor, briefly a persistent dreamer I’d demand baklava would function as a catharsis rather than lethargy in front of all rule establishers. Concisely, this would be purification and cleansing of the tragedy audience by means of mercy and terror. As expected, this catharsis wouldn’t come true in the story of the baklava the Greek revolutionists ate after gaining their independence from Ottomans or of the yellow slices the exchanged people of Lausanne dreamed about during their long walks. I’d tell this by looking at the photo of golden-toothed friends shining under the sun, extending their legs to Aegean or Mediterranean, speaking half Turkish half Romaic, drinking raki, eating white cheese and in the mean time taking baklavas to their mouths. To be able to tell that those Aegean or Mediterranean lands programmed to create hierarchies and determined by borders can become a friendship place if we want.

Müge İplikçi
© Translation by Esen Köybaşı

Published with the permission of Müge İplikçi