Roni Margulies
(Turkey, 1955)   
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Roni Margulies

The work of the writer Roni Margulies is pre-eminently the voice of the individual in an age of globalisation, of shifting identities and uncertain borders. That is hardly surprising. Margulies is a Turkish poet in the sense that he grew up in Turkey, writes in Turkish and reveals a great sensitivity for the subtleties of the Turkish language, although his own family background has without a doubt pre-programmed him to regard identity and location as anything but self-evident. He was born in Istanbul in 1955. On his mother’s side, the family is Turkish but also Sephardic Jewish, on his father’s side Polish (his grandparents settled in Turkey in 1925). Roni Margulies attended an English-language elite school in Istanbul and decided in 1972 to read Economics in London. He has lived in London ever since, although he has spent an increasing amount of time in Istanbul in recent years. He has written poetry since 1991. He has also translated work by Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin into Turkish.

Margulies’ poetry is characterised by its epic intention. Practically all his poems are poetic translations of historical events (he is clearly fascinated by the past) and experiences. They always tell a story about some great theme, such as oppression, migration, alienation or death, but do so via the individual observation of small-scale events. Margulies is an excellent, almost photographic, observer. His use of language is clear and simple, but at the same time highly meticulous. Seven collections of his poetry have been published to date.

Margulies has also been politically involved for many years now, as a member of the Socialist Workers Party of Great Britain. In this, he is just as much driven by his nostalgic preference for the champions of utopian visions as by ideological conviction. He has written many journalistic articles and essays on the struggle against capitalism, both in English and in Turkish, in which he criticises with considerable critical acumen the hegemony of free-market ideology.

© Erik-Jan Zürcher (Translated by John Irons)

[Roni Margulies took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2008. This text was written on that occasion.]


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