Ahmet Altan (1950) is one of Turkey’s most-read novelists as well as being among the country’s best-known political columnists. It is a role into which he was born. His father Çetin Altan (1927-2015), was an important literary figure as well as a popular journalist and politician. Ahmet’s younger brother Mehmet, a professor of economics, is also a household name for his political commentary.
Ahmet Altan graduated from the economics department of Istanbul University. In the decades that followed, Altan worked his way around newspapers from the night shift, to the head of the foreign desk to managing editor to chief columnist. It is as an op-ed writer that he commanded national attention. No taboo has proved too sacred to withstand his direct style and crystal-clear prose. In 2007, Altan became founding editor-in chief and lead columnist of the daily Taraf newspaper and remained in that position until resigning in December 2012. In the purge that followed the failed July 2016 attempted coup, Altan was arrested for encouraging the putschists by sending “subliminal messages.”
Throughout his journalistic career, Ahmet Altan continued to write novels and literary essays. His first novel Dört Mevsim Sonbahar (Four Seasons of Autumn) was published in 1982 and brought him the Akademi Boosktore Novel Prize. Since then he has published nine more novels and seven collections of essays. Kılıç Yarası Gibi (Like a Sword Wound), a best seller and the first volume in Altan’s Ottoman Quartet — a turn of the century family saga inspired by Altan’s grandfather’s life — was awarded the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize. Altan’s novels have been translated into many languages.
In 2009, Altan was awarded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media by the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig. In 2011, he received the International Hrant Dink Award.