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Novel About Greek Exodus From Istanbul Wins Turkish Literary Prize

Turkish literary prize
A major literary prize has been awarded to Hercules Millas, a Greek author from Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Stegop/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

A Turkish literary award named the Orhan Kemal Novel Prize has been awarded to a Greek writer from Istanbul named Hercules Millas for his works on the nature of Greek identity through the lens of Greek-Turkish relations.

Last Friday, a committee awarded the prestigious award to Millas for his body of work, specifically honoring his newest novel named “Family Tomb,” which follows the life of a Greek family who is forced to flee Istanbul. 

Turkish literary prize awarded to Millas

The prize was awarded to Millas out of 55 total submissions, and committee members took into account his large body of work in their decision.

The Orhan Kemal Novel Prize began awarding writers annually in 1972 in honor of one of the most influential Turkish authors of the previous century who is the prize’s namesake. Kemal, who passed away in 1970, was well known across Turkey for his realistic novels which vividly portrayed the lives of the poor in Turkey.

Millas, who was born and raised in Turkey, currently resides in Greece. He holds a PhD in Political Science and has taught in many university departments across both Greece and Turkey. His research and life’s work have focused on documenting Greco-Turkish relations through a literary lens.

He has examined this relationship both through individual stories and literary works as well as through the study of the volatile political relations between the two countries. His most well known work is an academic text published in 2016 named “Nations and Identities: the Case of Greeks and Turks.”

Millas spoke to the press about his accomplishment following his winning of the Turkish literary prize, saying “This gift, named after Orhan Kemal, is the most important and meaningful award of my life for me. All awards are gratifying, but the one associated with Orhan Kemal is different, at least for me.

“It will be a legacy I will leave to my grandchildren to be remembered with so many valuable writers who have received this award so far.”

Drawing parallels between himself and the namesake of the award, Millas continued, “I would like to express my gratitude to all board members who have awarded the Family Tomb. I also thank the heroes of the novel, who are now in that grave.

“I know well that they feel rewarded, too, because they are close acquaintances. I feel like they created the novel. Orhan Kemal wrote his novels like that. His writings were about marginalized and marginalized people.

“I believe I received the award with (my literary subjects),” said Millas, clearly touched by the honor.

The committee members who awarded Millas with the major Turkish literary award also spoke on Millas’ achievements, with the Orhan Kemal Cultural Center releasing a press statement.

“His novel combines the subject of coexistence with differences, which is still a burning problem today, with vivid observations and an impressive narrative. The successful examination of this subject by intertwining it with universal issues such as marginalization, prejudice, and multiculturalism, makes it worthy of the award.

“It also explains how the discussion of belonging has been transformed from generation to generation.”

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