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Ebru Ojen in conversation with Aron Aji and Selin Gökcesu

September 13, 2023 @ 11:00 am

City Lights celebrates the publication of

by Ebru Ojen (Translated by Aron Aji and Selin Gökçesu)
published by City Lights Books

Lojman tells, on its surface, the domestic tale of a Kurdish family living in a small village on a desolate plateau at the foot of the snow-capped mountains of Turkey’s Van province. Virtually every aspect of the family’s life is dictated by the government, from their exile to the country’s remote, easternmost region to their sequestration in the grim “teacher’s lodging”–or lojman–to which they’re assigned. When Selma’s husband walks out one day, he leaves in his wake a storm of resentment between his young children and a mother reluctant to parent them.

Written in startling, raw prose, this novel – the author’s first to be translated into English – is reminiscent of Elena Ferrante’s masterful Days of Abandonment, though its private dramas are made all the more vivid against an imposing natural landscape that exerts a powerful, life-threatening force.

In short, propulsive chapters, Lojman spins a domestic drama crystallized through the family’s mental and physical claustrophobia. Vivid daydreams morph with cold realities, and as the family’s descent reaches its nadir, their world is transformed into a surreal, gelatinous prison from which there is no escape.

Ebru Ojen (author) was born in 1981 to Kurdish parents in Malatya, Turkey. In 1984, the family moved further east to Van, when her schoolteacher father was relocated by the state. After Ojen finished high school in Van, she moved to Izmir, completing her university education at Dokuz Eylul University’s Opera and Acting program. In 2014, Ojen published her striking debut novel, Aşı (Vaccine), about a state-sponsored vaccine campaign in an imaginary Kurdish village. That same year, Ojen was recognized among the ten most important emerging voices in Turkish literature. Her next novel, Let the Carnivores Kill Each Other appeared in 2017, followed by Lojman, in 2020, which City Lights will publish in English in August of 2023. She currently resides in Istanbul, Turkey.

Aron Aji (co-translator), Director of Translation programs at the University of Iowa, is a native of Turkey, and has translated works by modern and contemporary Turkish writers, including Bilge Karasu, Elif Shafak, Latife Tekin, Murathan Mungan, and Ferit Edgu. His Karasu translations include Death in Troy; The Garden of Departed Cats, (2004 National Translation Award); and A Long Day’s Evening (NEA Literature Fellowship; Finalist, 2013 PEN Translation Prize). His forthcoming translations are Ferid Edgü’s Wounded Age and Eastern Tales (NYRB, 2022), and Mungan’s Tales of Valor (co-translated with David Gramling) (Global Humanities Translation Prize, Northwestern UP, 2022), and The Behaviour of Words by Efe Duyan (White Pine Press, 2023). Aji was president of The American Literary Translators Association between 2016-2019. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa.

Selin Gökcesu (co-translator) is a Brooklyn-based writer and Turkish translator. She has a PhD in psychology and an MFA in writing from Columbia University.

What has been said about the work of Ebru Ojen

“Ojen has constructed a claustrophobic world in which the mixture of ‘some affection and some hatred’ that can characterize family life finally spills over into a fantastically violent conclusion. This relentless narrative will stun and frighten readers in the best way.”–Publishers Weekly

“A Kurdish family is trapped in a mother’s madness. . . . The children are caught, too, as is the reader, spiraling into a surreal world.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Ojen’s willful characters know from the beginning that the landscape surrounding Lojman and the fates of its inhabitants are false images of nature projected onto them by the state and society. Their story defies all meanings assigned to the nature of motherhood, childhood, manhood by the languages that have constructed them. A compelling, excruciating, and sophisticated dissection of family as a house to which we’re sentenced to love.”–Nazlı Koca, author of The Applicant

“Lojman is a feverish account of the thrashings of an imprisoned body and soul and a hallucinatory examination of motherhood, individuality, and romantic love. A dark, original, exciting novel.”– Ayşegül Savas, author of Walking on the Ceiling

“A parable of violence–of state mandation, of mothering alone, of being mothered, of the vastness of nature–that shocks the system like stepping out the front door into a snowstorm. What does it mean to be a woman, and to be mothered by women, who have suffered under such alienation? Ebru Ojen captures the experience of immense pain with dark fervor and deft lyricism.”–Makenna Goodman, author of The Shame

“I’ve never read anything like Lojman. Ebru Ojen doesn’t shy away–or let her readers shy away–from the darkest human emotions, which she evokes in exquisite, excruciating detail. This intense and visceral story of an abandoned family and their descent into chaos will stay with me for a long time.”–Helen Phillips, author of The Need

“The most impressive aspect of Lojman is that it keeps the family out of its traditional patterns and recreates it with an uncompromising, malevolent reality.”–Gazete Duvar (an online magazine in Turkey)

“Ojen has succeeded in building a distinctive language in Lojman, just as she did in her first novel, Vaccine.”–Abdullah Ezik in Sanat Kritik

“Questioning social roles and institutions, [Lojman] also draws attention with its bold and unique narrative language”–T24

This event has been made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit this link: https://citylights.com/foundation/


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