Learn Turkish via a Graphic Novel!

Faruk Geç's “A Letter from Germany”

An Interactive Module for Self-Study and Classroom Use

Adapted for students of Turkish by Ralph Jaeckel and Mehmet Süreyya Er


Used with the permission of Mr. Faruk Geç and made possible with support from the Center

for International Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago




The Turkish Graphic Novel on Urban Themes

The Author of the Novel

Why This Graphic Novel as an Interactive Instructional Tool

Who This Adaptation Is For

Strategies for Using This Adaptation

Various Approaches

Sample Questions

Sample Narrative Retelling

The Novel

Cast of Characters

The Original Graphic Novel with Mouse-Over Access to the Translation

The Graphic Novel without the Text

Turkish-English Vocabulary


We wish to express our thanks first of all to Faruk Geç for allowing us to adapt his novel and to make it freely available through the Internet to students of Turkish everywhere.

Our thanks also go to the Center for International Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago for providing the funds to post our interactive adaptation on the Internet.

For advice on format and the style of the English translation, we are indebted to Diane James.

Finally we wish to acknowledge the contribution of our technical experts Metin Albayrak and Salih Deniz Köprülü without whose imaginative solutions to our many problems this project would never have been realized.


The Turkish Graphic Novel on Urban Themes

The following account is based largely on Levent Cantek, Türkiye’de Çizgi Roman (The Graphic Novel in Turkey), Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1996.

Until the appearance of Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup in Hürriyet in 1969, very few originally Turkish comic strips had featured contemporary, everyday, urban life in Turkey. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, a period when comics proliferated, most strips were free adaptations, translations, or imitations of American, French, German and Italian originals with no particular relation to life in Turkey. Adventure stories were especially popular, and they soon inspired locally created Turkish adventure comics featuring first the early Turkic heroes of Central Asia and later the heroes and events of Ottoman and early Republican times. Very few originally Turkish works dealt seriously with the lives of ordinary people.

A major step toward the development of modern strips dealing with everyday life in Turkey occurred in 1948 under the influence of Italian soap opera–style strips, when Şevki, a staff cartoonist at the newly established newspaper Hürriyet, began reproducing the images from Italian photo-romance novels with Turkish subtitles. After he emigrated to the United States, he was replaced in 1955 by Faruk Geç who continued his predecessor’s work as adaptor. At that time Geç had not yet found his own style and manner of exposition, but favored the style of Alex Raymond, the American creator of the “Flash Gordon” and “Jungle Jim” comic strips, the Turkish versions of which had an enthusiastic following in Turkey. That same year Geç produced his first graphic novel, Aşk Arzusu (Desire for Love), a copy of an Italian photo-novel.

Sensing the need for graphic strips more true to life than had been customary, Geç changed course in 1967. He embarked upon a long series of original works later known as Gerçek Hayat Hikâyeleri (Real Life Stories). His first work in this series, Boğaziçi Rüzgârları (Bosphorus Breezes), appeared in 1968.

In remarks quoted by Cantek, Geç indicates that while he dealt with humanity as a whole in these works, he realized the special importance of treating romantic topics appealing to women because 60–70 percent of Hürriyet’s readers were women. His stories featured mostly the loves and travails of literate, urban, bourgeois women and his heroes were designed to appeal to them. He adds that each of his novels was intended to convey a message.

Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup was an early item in the Real Life Stories series. The story unfolds against the background of the 1960s when Turkey was establishing a new relationship with Europe and seeking entrance into the European Community. In fact Turkey already had a growing, thriving presence in the EC, as many Turks had gone to Europe as guest workers and helped create the German economic miracle. Indeed, 2011 marks a half-century of the presence of Turkish guest workers in Germany.

The novel tells how Hakkı Bey, the head of a family, leaves Istanbul for Germany to seek work to support his wife and children who remain behind, how they cope in his absence, and how… but that would be giving the story away! The novel is not an adventure story nor a fantasy or a comedy, but a realistic account of a middle-class woman facing a family crisis in the conditions of Turkish urban society in the late 1960s. It is also a reflection of relations between classes in a changing society in the process of establishing ties with Europe. As such, it raises many interesting questions.

It is also—and this may be its strongest appeal to students as it surely was to its original Turkish newspaper readers—a somewhat soap operastyle romantic love story between two young people from different strata of Turkish society. As an example of popular print media set against the background of major historical events, it will appeal to students coming to the study of the Turkish language from many fields: the history of modern Turkey, popular culture, graphic and serial art, women’s studies and media studies. We believe this graphic novel will encourage students to delve into these aspects of Turkish life.

Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup never appeared as a free-standing publication outside of its serialization in Hürriyet. It appears here as such for the first time. It may in fact be the first complete Turkish graphic novel to appear on the Internet.

The Author of the Novel

Faruk Geç was born 15 March 1931 in Adapazarı, Turkey. After attending the Akyazı Primary School and then middle school and lycée at Istanbul’s reknown Galatasaray Lycée, from which he graduated in 1951, he completed his studies at the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts in 1956. Geç was known first as an illustrator and then as an adaptor of foreign graphic novels for Turkish readers. While only 17 years old, he began his career creating cover illustrations for various publications. Early on he won aclaim for his cover for Resimlerle Atatürk'ün Hayatı (Ataturk’s Life in Pictures) by M. Necati Yazar. While working for the newspaper Hürriyet, where he produced his first Turkish adaptation of a foreign graphic novel Aşk Arzusu (Desire for Love), he created a graphic novel from the film Cleopatra, staring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, even before that film was shown in Turkey. He followed that with a similar adaptation of the film Love Story. For his many accomplishments he received several awards: a Certificate of Honor for Journalism, and, for fifty years of service, both the Burhan Felek and the Communication Trust awards. Aside from his work in Turkey, Geç practised his profession in France, Italy, and England. Today he may best be known for the Real Life Stories series, mentioned above, some items of which became classics and continued to be reprinted many years after their original publication. In the 1990’s he began painting and exhibiting large oil paintings of Ataturk. He is currently devoting himself to his painting.

Why This Graphic Novel as an Interactive Instructional Tool

Short clips of comics or TV series have been used successfully in language teaching, but as far as we know this is the first attempt to present a complete graphic novel for this purpose. Despite the emergence of ever new media, the graphic novel as a genre not only survives but is gaining popularity, and its wide appeal and the growing recognition of its literary and social significance have led to the development of related academic studies and courses. Foreign language examples merit study as an aspect of popular media culture. This adaptation for language learners will serve as an introduction to this field in the Middle East.

As a student of Turkish you want to be familiar with authentic, original material in a variety of Turkish literary genres. This graphic novel introduces you to a historically significant Turkish example of a popular genre you are already familiar with in English.

Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup opens a window onto the Turkish urban culture of Istanbul as it was depicted to appeal to a certain broad urban readership at the time of its creation. It features Istanbul scenery, character types and social situations. In its treatment of the basic emotions of love, hope, fear and despair, however, it taps into the universal concerns of its readers.

A graphic novel is a union of word and image, a feature especially important in the early stages of language learning: it aids recall and reflects a culture more faithfully than written words alone. Like a film strip or TV segment, it gives prominence to dialogue, but it has an added advantage: the fact that the images are static frames permits sustained focus on a limited number of features. These images can be used to develop the ability to describe persons, places, conditions (weather), gestures and sounds.

In addition, this novel presents standard Turkish in real-life situations and so covers in context most of the essential communicative functions, such as greetings, leave takings, apologies and so on, featured in modern textbooks for the study of Turkish.

The dialogue is in the typical, standard, high-frequency, natural, everyday conversational Turkish used at almost all levels of Turkish urban society. It includes almost no rare terms or unusual slang, so that a student can profitably memorize phrases and sentences for his own use. Aside from the dialogue, the narrative elements are simple and straightforward. The language of the novel as a whole is of more or less uniform difficulty throughout, with very few truly problematic sentences. Where these occur, our notes and translations will come to the rescue. The novel provides a useful review of essential sentence patterns and can serve as a basis for activities to teach all skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing. Being a complete, self-contained work, it is also a valuable corpus for linguistic study and concordance-based teaching.

Our experience shows that the story line of Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup captures interest on the very first page and sustains it to the very last. Most pages end with a scene begging for resolution that encourages students to forge ahead on their own, outside of class, to find out what happens next.

Appearing on this web site page by page as it was originally serialized, Almanya’dan Gelecek Mektup is easily subdivided for class assignments or individual study sessions. A single page can often be covered in a class hour or less. Larger selections of pages can be assigned as homework.

Who This Adaptation Is For

This adaptation is mainly for students with a knowledge of basic Turkish grammar and vocabulary who have learned the short, useful dialogues usually featured in elementary and intermediate courses. This may make it most appropriate for students in their second or third year of Turkish as it is taught at the university level. More advanced students and even Turks who are not students may also enjoy it just as its original newspaper readers did. We expect it to stimulate lively class conversations about the issues it raises and provide occasions for creative summarizing and retelling. It is also suitable as supplementary course material and for self-study and review.

Strategies for Using This Adaptation

The following are just a few of many possibilities. We welcome suggestions for others.

Approach 1

§  Look at a single page of the original novel and read through it without looking up any words or resorting to any aids. Try to get the drift. Don’t worry about the details. At first you may have to get accustomed to the all-capital font used in the text. Read the page together with one or more fellow students. Discuss what you were able to figure out. Two heads may be more fun and better than one!

§  Read the page again. What more do you understand now? Take your time and don’t give up if you don’t get the meaning right away.

§  Now look up the words you don’t know in the Turkish-English Vocabulary and write them down. Write out the translation of the difficult sentences. Read the page again and see how much more you can understand.

§  Check your understanding against the English translation. To access it, hover the cursor over the text. A box appears with the original Turkish in standard upper- and lower-case letters followed by the English translation. In some cases the more idiomatic translation is followed by a literal translation that shows how the Turkish conveys its meaning and makes it easier to understand and memorize a complex or idiomatic sentence. It will also help you translate the English back into Turkish. For a native Turkish speaker instructing native English speakers, the literal translations flag potential student difficulties.

§  Note those places where your first understanding was incorrect. If you wrote a translation, how is it different from the translation provided? What might account for the differences? What errors did you make? Why?

§  Re-read the original page without referring to the aids. When working with a fellow student, why not perform the page together as if it were a play?

§  Memorize the sentences you find useful.

§  Have your teacher or another student question you in Turkish about the events or conditions depicted on the page.

§  If working alone, make up questions yourself. Use a wide variety of question-word patterns. For ideas, consult the Sample Questions following the first page of the novel. Have a native speaker or your teacher help you formulate any additional questions you may wish to ask. Write them down; they may be useful models for questions related to the following pages.

§  While looking at the original page, tell the story of the action as a narrative. Have your instructor correct you. Write down the corrected narrative. Have your instructor correct this version too. Underline the differences between the original dialogue and your narrative version, especially the verb forms and the sentence connectors. Practice reciting the corrected narrative. This exercise will help you master the use of clauses and the connectors they require. For ideas on narrative construction, see the Sample Narrative Retelling of the first page of the novel.

§  Go to the same page with the speech and narrative balloons blotted out. Test yourself: first try filling in the balloons using your own Turkish, then check it against the original text. Have your teacher correct your attempts and write down the corrected versions.


Approach 2

§  Instead of starting out with the original page of the novel, look at the page with the balloons blotted out. Try to catch the drift of the events portrayed. Jot down your observations in English or Turkish. As a class activity, your teacher may project a page and call upon students for suggestions as to what it shows. Don’t spend much time on this step: it is only to help you anticipate the means of expression you may need to relate the action. After this step, go to Approach 1 above.


Other Approaches

§  An instructor may select a sequence of frames with the text blotted out and assign students to act out the events. These frames should exemplify common functions the students still need to learn.

§  The instructor or a fellow student may select certain scenes at random and ask you to recall what happens at those points in the story.

§  The instructor may select random scenes and ask you to put them in sequence and tell the story in a connected narrative.

Sample Questions

These sample questions, based on the first page of the novel, are intended as models for questions that can be constructed for the following pages.

1. Bu resimli romanın {başlığı/ismi} nedir?

2. Bu resimli romanı kim yazmış?

3. Bu sayfada kaç resim var?

4. Bu sayfada anlatılan/tarif edilen olaylar ne zaman oldu?

5. Kapı çalındığında, Emine ne yapıyordu?

6. Kapı çalındığında, Emine ne ile meşguldü?

7. Kapı çalındığında, Elif ve Mehmet ne yapıyorlardı?

8. Kim geldi?

9. Gelen kim?

10. Emine kızı Elif’in ne yapmasını istiyordu?

11. Elif babasına ne dedi?

12. Elif’in babasının cevabı neydi? 

13. Çocukların babası odaya girdiğinde elinde ne vardı?

14. Emine Elif’in ne yapmasını istiyordu?

15. Elif babasının terliklerini getirdi mi getirmedi mi?

16. Daha sonra aile hep beraber ne yaptı?

17. Pakyol ailesinde kaç kişi var?

18. Elifler kaç kardeş? Adları ne?

19. Pakyol ailesindeki kişilerin yaşlarını tahmin edebilir misiniz?

20. Mehmet Emine’den küçük mü büyük mü?

21. Oturdukları masa nasıldı?

22. {Masa/Sofra} etrafında [or başında] kimler oturuyor?

23. {Masada/Sofrada} Emine Hanımın karşısında kim oturuyordu?

24. Hakkı Beyin {sağında/solunda} oturan çocuğunun adı ne?

25. Masa {.ya/üzerine/üstüne} neler konulmuş?

26. Masa {.da/üzerinde/üstünde} neler vardı?

27. Emine kocasına ne sordu?

29. Emine kocasına bu soruyu neden sordu?

Sample Narrative Retelling

The following summary of the events and situations depicted on the first page of the graphic novel is by an educated native speaker and suggests one possible narrative. Because this retelling turns direct into indirect speech and describes items, events and moods pictured but not verbalized in the original, it includes some vocabulary and grammar not present in the novel.

First read through the summary, look at the pictures and try to grasp the meaning and function of the new elements without consulting any aids. Underline the segments you cannot figure out. Then consult your dictionary and grammar. Try putting the summary into the past tense. Have a native speaker or your teacher check the results.

Hikâye Özeti (örnek) or Story Summary (example)

Frame 1

Bir akşam vakti Emine Hanım mutfakta akşam yemeğini hazırlamakla meşguldür. Kapı çalınır. Emine küçük kardeşi Mehmet ile oynamakta olan kızına babasının geldiğini söyleyerek kapıyı açmasını ister.

Frame 2

Mehmet de babasını karşılamak için ablası Elif’in peşinden kapıya koşar. Hakkı Beyin elinde büyükçe bir karpuz vardır. Çocuklar babalarına “hoşgeldin,” Hakkı da onlara “hoş bulduk” der.

Frame 3

Ayaküstü bu kısa hoşbeşten sonra Hakkı karısı Emine’yle de selamlaşır. Emine bu arada hemen kızından Hakkı’nın terliklerini getirmesini ister.

Frame 4

Akşam yemeğini yemek için hep beraber masaya otururlar. Hakkı biraz düşünceli olduğundan ve pek de iştahlı görünmediğinden olsa gerek Emine onun neden yemek yemediğini, rahatsız olup olmadığını sorar. Hakkı kısa bir şaşkınlıktan sonra “Ben mi?” der, “Yoo.. Bir şeyim yok.”

The Novel

Cast of Characters in Order of Appearance

Emine, the wife and mother

Elif, her daughter

Mehmet, her son

Hakkı, the husband and father

Hüseyin Efendi, the neighborhood grocer

Esma Hanım, a neighbor

A postman, unnamed

A man, unnamed, who delivers a letter and package from Hakkı

A man, unnamed, who delivers firewood

Hatice, a friend and confidante of Emine

Kamuran Bey, a factory owner

Bülent Bey, his son

Nesrin, Kamuran Bey’s wife

Jale, Bülent Bey’s sister

Tanju, her fiancé

Hüsnü, Hatice’s husband

A man, unnamed, who delivers Hakkı’s effects

The Original Graphic Novel with Mouse-Over Access to the Translation

The Graphic Novel Without the Text

(Each page of the novel has a double with the text blotted out. Use the double as a preview before looking at the original or as a test after studying the original.)

Turkish-English Vocabulary

Turkish-English Concordance

English to Turkish Translation Tests (PDF)