New publication by CEMS Director M. Brett Wilson

September 13, 2023

Nur Baba: A Sufi Novel of Late Ottoman Istanbul
By Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu

M. Brett Wilson (Editor and Translator)

This first-ever English translation of Nur Baba – a classic of modern Turkish literature written by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu – offers a unique window into Sufi lodges, social dilemmas, and intellectual life in early twentieth-century Istanbul.

Inspired by Karaosmanoğlu's personal experiences with Islamic mystical orders, it is a story of illicit romance and spiritual inquiry, depicting a colourful lodge of Sufi dervishes led by a charismatic, yet morally suspect, spiritual master named Nur Baba. The plot follows his attempts to seduce an attractive married woman from an elite family and recounts her dramatic experiences in the life of a Sufi community. The setting shuttles between the grand mansions of Istanbul's elite families and a Sufi lodge where rich and poor intermingle. Exploring questions of gender, morality, and religious bias throughout, it captures the zeitgeist of early twentieth-century modernist thinkers who criticised Sufism for impeding social progress and debated the public roles of women in a rapidly modernising society.

Alongside the editor's meticulous translation, the volume includes a scholarly introduction, maps, and images, as well as explanatory footnotes that will aid both students and scholars alike. The novel will be of particular interest to those studying world literature, Sufi studies, and Ottoman-Turkish history.

We offer Brett our earnest congratulations.