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Waiting for the Fear

Waiting for the Fear

by Oğuz Atay, translated from the Turkish by Ralph Hubbell, introduction by Merve Emre

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Adored in Turkey for his post-modern fiction and regarded internationally as one of Turkey’s greatest writers, Oğuz Atay remains largely untranslated into English. First published in 1975, Waiting for the Fear is Atay's only collection of short stories, a book that is routinely praised in Turkey, by, among others, the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, for having transformed the art of short fiction.

The eight stories that the book contains, all of them focused on characters living on the margins of society, are dramatic and even tragic, while also being shot through with irony and a humor. In the title story, a nameless young man, of a thoughtful and misanthropic turn of mind, returns to his home on the outskirts of an enormous nameless city to find waiting for him a letter in a foreign language of which he has no knowledge at all, and from this anomalous, if seemingly trivial, turn of events, one thing after another unfolds with stark inevitablity. Another story nods to Gogol's "The Overcoat": its hero is a speechless beggar wandering around the back streets of Istanbul dressed in a woman’s fur coat who will end up stuck in a shop window like a manikin. Elsewhere, a professional story peddler lives in a hut beside a train station in a country that is at war—unless it isn't. He can't remember. What do such life and death realities matter, however, so long as there are stories to tell? Atay's stories are full of a vivid sense of life's absurdities while also being psychologically true to life; his characters, oddballs and losers all, are also utterly individual with distinctive voices of their own, now plainspoken, wistful, womanly, now sophisticated and acerbic, with a dangerous swagger. And if Atay is a brilliant examiner of the inner life, he is no less aware of the flawed social world in which his people struggle to make their way.

Waiting for the Fear is a book that, page by beguiling page, holds the reader's attention from beginning to end, the rare collection of short stories that not only reflects a unique authorial vision but reads like a page-turner. Ralph Hubbell's new translation will introduce readers of English to a still insufficiently known giant of modern Turkish and world literature.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377964
Pages: 240
Publication Date:


Turkish writer Atay makes his English-language debut with this alluring 1975 collection, sharply translated by Hubbell, of dreamlike fables and horror stories…. Devotees of modernist literature will be grateful for Atay’s hypnotic and intense writing.
Publishers Weekly

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