Turkey: a country split between two continents, bordered by eight countries and six seas. It's geographical location played an integral part in the turbulence that plagued its history, moulded its cultural heritage and established a role for the Moors.
Nicolas Monceau, a well-known Political Science lecturer at Université Montesquieu – Bordeaux IV, specializes in Turkey. Numerous of his writings are referenced by English academics.
If your French is up to it, his Istanbul – Histoire, promenades, anthologie et dictionnaire, Bouquins, 2010 is a great analysis. For a good overview on Turkey check out www.http://researchturkey.org.
Whether you are planning to visit Istanbul for a weekend or opting for a longer vacation in Turkey, you will no doubt find yourself in the one-time Constantinople. Monceau's book points out some great city walks, guided by the observations of Alphonse de Lamartine, a19th-century French writer and politician, as well as modern day travel writers.
Elif Şafak (also called Elif Shafak), a well known Turkish writer is one of the contemporary references. A best selling author, her books are available in English. Her politically feminist education lends itself well to her writings on what life is like for women in Turkey. Apart from being an academic, she is a talented novelist who knows how to grab her audience's attention.
Penguin Books have published an English version of The Bastard of Istanbul.
There's also the hard hitting Honour, again published by Penguin Books.
Even if Turkish cinema is not internationally known, certain movies have made it big. One such example is Yol, co-directed by Serif Gören and Yılmaz Güney ,, which won the Palme d'Or Prize at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. So why watch this film in particular before your trip to Turkey ? Yol gives an insight to Turkey through the eyes of five convicts, who have been given leave to visit their families. As they travel home to Anatolia or Kurdistan, the viewer learns about military dominance alongside the pressures of adhering to tradtional beliefs. Its a slow yet dramatic movie. Although dialogue is minimal, it effectively expresses how the feelings and desires of both men and women are suffocated. Yol presents a compliant view of Turkey, a country where the people are restricted and controlled. You'll understand why the realease of this movie caused problems for its writer/directors.