Available in English in 2025
The Circle can be read as an elegy to bygone Istanbul. The main character of the novel, a Greek-Rum Istanbulite in his mid-seventies, named Periklis Drakos, embarks on writing about his life, his dreams, and reckonings through the pen of his young neighbor Leyla. The opening of the novel bears witness to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Periklis, who has fallen for Leyla, is confined to the Circle Building, an old building in Istanbul’s cosmopolitan Beyoğlu neighborhood, where Periklis was born and grew up. Isolated from the world, save a few neighbors with whom he still interacts, he turns his attention to the architectural and decorative details of the Circle Building, such as the leaded glass windows, floor mosaics, the antiquated elevator, and the shadowy corners. The novel conjures up the past through these material details as well as the depiction of the interiors. The ornaments adorning the building and the old-fashioned furniture point toward an irretrievable past, and they imbue the narrative with subtle nostalgia and melancholy.
At the same time, the name “Circle,” evokes the circular structure of life, a revolving or return to the beginning. While one thread of the narrative gives testimony to the early weeks of the pandemic, another thread represents the radical transformation that Istanbul has undergone in the twentieth century: as a result of this process, the neighborhoods, demographic texture, and culture of the city gradually changed, leading to a visible decline.
In the present-time of the novel, the urban gentrification movement of the twenty-first century is about the eradicate the old identity of Istanbul. Seen against this backdrop, Beyoğlu, or Pera— as the neighborhood was called in the past—, considered as the heart of Istanbul’s lost multicultural life, emerges as a major character of the novel. With its architecture and social fabric, the site becomes the central metaphor of the transformations Istanbul has experienced since the last century. As a novel of decline, The Circle has an aged man as its narrator. Clearly, due to his long-life span, the narrator has lived through and retained in his memory the city’s past. However, this choice implies more: Periklis is the hero who, despite the urban decay, and despite having been subjected to the politics of oppression and intimidation due to his minority identity, has retained his integrity. Not only does he stand upright but is surprised to find himself falling in love with the much younger Leyla at the threshold of his seventy-fifth birthday. Through its multilayered dimensions, The Circle presents a reflection on home, belonging, memory, and identity.
It is a novel of friendship, passion, of resistance and hope, as it is a narrative of melancholy and mourning. The novel is inspired by Marquez, Nabokov, Kafka, Proust, and Pamuk, and at times we can find subtle greetings sent to these beloved writers.
The Lost Land
Available in English in 2026
“I feel like all children who grow up in Istanbul carry this lost land within themselves. The stories of this book came right from there. The reason for our besetting uneasiness might be because our ‘home’, our city is changing extremely fast and the places that nested our memories are wiped away, people are exiled. Today, we are all wandering the streets of Istanbul, looking for a ghost.”
—Defne Suman, interview with Sibel Oral
In this book, Defne Suman meets with her readers through the short stories she has delicately woven around the themes we have traced in her previous novels. Stunning stories about home, land, nest, unmourned losses at home and within the nation, to face, to be exiled, belonging, to be a woman, to grow up, staying and leaving…
FIRST PLACE in Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest — Winter 2022–23
FIRST PLACE in Northwestern Ontario Writer’s Workshop Short Fiction Award — 2023
The award-winning story “Hitchhiker” was published in the European Review of Books
Available in Turkish
It is the year 2100. The world as we know it is finished. It has been devastated by war, pollution, viruses, natural disasters. The air is polluted, the sea is polluted, cities are ruined, water and food supplies are depleted, nature is destroyed, the stars, even the sun are barely visible through a gray haze and the human race is reaching its final end. However, human emotions endure, even in this nightmare scenario: love, hope, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, grief, loneliness, cruelty.
The narrator of this short, stark novel is Rock, a young man, one of the last people left on earth. Although he knows the futility of writing when no one will remain to read his writing, he is compelled to confront his past and record it. His is a tale of friendship, of escape, of hardship, of loss, of love. He relates his childhood in an orphanage on an island cared for by childless, committed women, called “Mothers.” This orphanage becomes one of a series of ‘shelters’ where all children of the country are collected and raised to provide soldiers for the endlessly warring army and mothers to replace a dying population.
It is also on a personal level a story of the eternal triangle—the narrator, his best, his only, friend Cloud and Rain, the girl he loves. Rock and Rain manage to escape at a crucial time and the novel describes their journeys over the desolate world, purposely vague as to location, searching for a sanctuary that does not exist. In Rock’s writing he confesses his grief, his jealousy, his betrayal, his love. Irrationally, he continues to write. These emotions make the otherwise frighteningly ugly and extreme scenes seem familiar and real.
In this short, bleak novel Defne Suman deals with all the issues that concern us now—climate change, epidemics, pollution of our world, war, dictatorship, exile. She also conveys what it means to be human, even in the most dire of times. This compelling novel will haunt and charm, and never be forgotten.
Hide and Seek
Available in Turkish
A New Year’s morning in Oregon, a college student Eda Kaya, locks herself in the bathroom of a laundry by mistake. In her confinement she revisits her recent past in Istanbul and attempts to resolve the mystery behind her charming cousin Leyla’s sudden disappearance.
Is Leyla playing hide and seek with Eda, or did she get lost in pursuit for love? Is the love she pursued for a man, or is it love of God? Could the Muslim businessman she had an affair with just before she had disappeared, have hurt her? Does Leyla confuse her first experience of sexuality with love? Or with faith? Did she suddenly cover her hair to rebel against her secular family, or did her secret lover force her to do so? What part does the mystical Islamic cult, where Leyla had secretly taken Eda one day, play in her vanishing?
Hide and Seek explores the crisis of urban youth in Istanbul who is stuck in between old school secular institutions and the newly growing conservatism patterns of Turkey in the 21st century. It is narrated from the perspective of a humorous and energetic young woman who grew up in Turkey and now lives in the USA. It is a perspective shifting story both for the ones who are inside and and for those who are outside of Turkey.
Available in Turkish
Blue Forest is compilation of essays and journal entries. It is the first volume of a trilogy where Defne Suman tells her encounters with life in a sincere and friendly tone. Blue Forest covers her journal entries from 2007 to 2011. Her life in the Southeast Asia, first experiences with hatha yoga, leaving home, facing oneself, spirituality and relationships are discussed in a humorous tone throughout the book. Blue Forest, being Defne Suman’s debut book in Turkish, has been cherished very much from the day it was first published and has become a great source of inspiration for people in Turkey, especially for young women who would like to break free from the traditional structure of the society.
Available in Turkish
Human Condition is the sequel of Blue Forest. It is the second volume of a trilogy where Defne Suman tells her encounters with life in a sincere and friendly tone. It is the compilation of her journal entries from 2011 to 2014. The tone is still friendly but more mature than the “raw voice” of Blue Forest. Human Condition focuses mostly on growth and loss. Defne Suman depicts her experiences of becoming an instructor of Hatha Yoga and writing her first novel: Hide and Seek. Apart from yoga and creative writing, the meaning of marriage, love, sickness and death are discussed from a heartfelt perspective. Just like Blue Forest, Human Condition has become a great source of inspiration for people in Turkey, especially for young women who would like to break free from the traditional structure of the society. (The last volume of trilogy will soon be published in Turkey.)
Ways of Escaping from Home
Available in Turkish
Editor: Defne Suman
Inspired by Alejandro Zambra’s novel, Ways of Escaping Home is an anthology of short stories and memoirs of Turkish authors. Defne Suman is the creator of the project and the editor of the book. Well-known authors of Turkish literature including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk as well as young promising writers who make their debut with this anthology contributed to the book with narratives of escaping from, staying at or returning home. It is a multicolored and fun book to read at a time when we are all reviewing our relationship with “home”.