Soysal’s last completed novel and crowning literary achievement ... The ingenuity of Dawn lies in its chorus of wounded, weary, angry voices from all corners of Turkish society ... No one is spared the narrator’s roving curiosity, and everyone, even the police officers who browbeat and torture their detainees, turns out to be vulnerable and complex ... vivid dialogue ... That Soysal’s work is often categorized as Turkish coup literature sometimes detracts from the breadth of her literary creativity and unapologetic feminism ... daringly explicit about the tribulations of the female body, from accounts of sexual assault in prison to the shame women feel about menstruation. Their learned humiliation is likened to the suppression of thoughts and political beliefs, linking censorship of the body to censorship of the mind ... Freely’s translation is clean, colloquial and confident. I like how she sometimes preserves the flavor of the Turkish original by translating idioms literally ... Besides exposing the disillusionment and exhaustion of the Turkish left, Dawn articulates the difficulty of a fresh start, or, as Mustafa puts it, 'how we did our best to pick up the pieces of our despised selves and mend them as best we could'.
More relevant than ever ... The tension between how the outside world views liberated, intellectual women and how they view themselves is often the driving force of such novels, and hence their writing is often turned inwards, with sharp observations of situations and characters. Dawn is a visceral and cinematic example of this kind of writing: where the embodied social experience of women takes central stage ... The brilliance of the novel might be traced to the formal structure ... Dawn is surely ahead of its time in laying bare all the facets of discrimination and privilege; Soysal’s writing is captivating, reflective, and thrilling.
Dawn integrates all of Soysal’s signature techniques and preoccupations. She had no interest in publishing manifestoes or airing grievances disguised as prose fiction ... Soysal’s characters may strive or yearn for social justice, but she won’t let the reader admire them simply for that reason. Their aspirations and values trigger a range of behaviors and situations, conflicts and suspicions, self-doubts and resentments.
Wrenching ... The urgency of the prose and the fluid shifts in points of view underscore the precariousness of the characters’ lives during a tumultuous and violent period following a recent coup ... The environment’s inescapable heat and suffocating humidity feels palpable, and the novel powerfully underscores how the threat of violence drives all the characters into suspicion and paranoia. This story of persecution convinces with its urgency and humanity.
The novel shifts seamlessly between perspectives. The result is a complex portrait of 1970s Turkey that critiques the senseless violence inflicted by autocratic bureaucracy, with attention to the overlapping injustices of class, ethnicity, and gender that pervade and extend beyond the regime. Startling reflections on beauty and freedom are woven throughout ... An exciting translation of a feminist novel that renders a nuanced picture of the conflicting ideologies of 1970s Turkey.