Publisher Risks Prosecution in Turkish Criminal Court
(HarperCollins)–Now in its 23rd printing in the US–Peter Balakian’s memoir ‘Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past’ has just been published in Turkey with the title ‘Kaderin Kara Kopei’ by Belge International Publishers in Istanbul.
Ragip Zarakolu–director of Belge Yayinlari publishing house–has published several books on subjects considered dangerous by the Turkish government and has been tried and imprisoned repeatedly for his intellectual principles. His late wife and partner at Belge Yayinlari–Ayse Zarakalou–was arrested more than 30 times and was jailed several times. For her courage–Mrs. Zarakolu was awarded the Freedom Prize by Germany’s Frankfurt Book Fair in 1998.
"The political establishment claims that it has expanded the limits of freedom of expression in the recent reform process," Zarakolu said in March. "Of course–the easiest kind of publishing in the world would be to practice autocensorship with regard to views we don’t like–and therefore do something that keeps everyone smiling. But how honest is this–and to what extent does it reflect the true situation? It really is nothing more than self-deception."
For a country hoping to enter the European Community–the censorship of books and the lack of intellectual freedom are serious obstacles.
Balakian’s memoir–called an "essential American story," is a boy’s coming-of-age story about growing up in the affluent New Jersey suburbs of the ’50s and ’60s. Set amidst American pop culture and adolescent experience–’Black Dog of Fate’ deals with the author’s journey into his family’s past as it intertwines with the history of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and his grandmother’s dramatic story of survival.
Published to critical acclaim in 1997–’Black Dog of Fate’ was a New York Times Notable Book–and won the 1998 PEN Prize for memoir. It was "best book of the year" for the LA Times–Library Journal–and Publisher’s Weekly–which called the memoir "a prose masterpiece by an acclaimed poet." The Philadelphia Inquirer called it "a landmark chapter in the literature of witness."
‘Black Dog of Fate’ has also appeared in German–Dutch–Greek–and Armenian editions and is published in paperback by Broadway Books. Balakian–who holds a BA from Bucknell University and a PhD from Brown University–is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities at Colgate University. His other books include the New York Times bestseller ‘The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response’ and ‘June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000.’
Ragip Zarakolu is not alone in risking imprisonment to defend freedom of expression in Turkey. Internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was recently indicted for "public denigration of Turkish identity" after he was quoted in a Swiss newspaper as saying–"Thirty thousand Kurds and 1 million Armenia’s were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it." His trial is scheduled for December.