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States of the Union:


Burhan Sönmez

States of the Union is an ongoing series featuring brief pieces by writers we admire from around the world. Some of the writers are in exile, some communicate from within a country ruled by a regime they defy. Read editor-in-chief Dale Peck’s introduction to the series here. For the full series, click here.


My sister always reminds me of those times when we were little, in the 1980s. “I wonder what the world will be like in 2000, and where we will be?” I would ask. While I was dreaming of our lives a generation ahead, my sister, who is three years younger than I, would look at me in amazement. We gave free rein to our predictions, naïve dreams, believing in what we wanted to happen, not what was going to happen.


The year 2000 arrived, and she asked me if I could remember our childhood dreams. She was on the other end of the phone, I was in exile, far from our dreams.

We have grown more and more, and reached a strange time where it seems impossible to envision the world even two years from now. We have put our dreams aside and breathe the air of reality. A pandemic tears the globe apart, earth and sky is slaughtered in daylight, and poverty and merciless clowns seated on thrones cast a dark cloud over the horizon.

Now, at this very moment, in some corner of our planet, two young siblings are sitting side by side, asking what will happen in twenty years, making reasonable predictions, believing that the world will be flourishing when the time comes, because they are charmed by the belief that what they want to happen is more promising than what is going to happen.


Burhan Sönmez

Burhan Sönmez is a Kurdish prize-winning novelist from Turkey. He is the President of PEN International, elected at the Centennial Congress in 2021. He is the author of North, Sins and Innocents, Istanbul Istanbul, Labyrinth, and Stone and Shadow.

Image by Hippolyte Baraduc (1850-1902). Reproduced from L'âme humaine: ses mouvements, ses lumières et l'iconographie de l'invisible fluidique (The human soul: its movements, its lights, and the iconography of the fluidic invisible), Paris: Librairie internationale de la pensée nouvelle, 1913.

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