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Ece Temelkuran

Women who Blow on Knots

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Winner of the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award

Winner of an English PEN Translates Award

Translated from Turkish by Alexander Dawe


‘Temelkuran has zest, and heart, and guts, to spare... a beach-read with brains and bounce’ Boyd Tonkin

‘If you can’t think of a better road story than Thelma and Louise, you should read this novel’ Özlem Ezer

‘A feminist, magic-realist trip through the Arab Spring’ The Spectator


A literary phenomenon in Turkey with more than 120,000 copies sold, Women Who Blow on Knots is an engaging, funny and fast-paced book about four women hitting the road during the Arab Spring.

Three young women and the extraordinary Madam Lilla embark on a road trip from Tunisia to Lebanon as the Arab Spring breaks around them. The novel’s title is taken from a sura in the Koran that warns to beware of those ‘women who blow on knots’ because they do witchcraft.

The women all set out for different reasons but each holds a secret that drives them forward. It is only as they travel further across the desert that Madam Lilla’s dark intentions become clear and their quest begins hurtling towards an unimaginable end.

Unique and controversial in its country of origin for its political rhetoric and atypical Muslim female characters, Ece Temelkuran weaves an empowering tale that challenges us to ponder not only the social questions of politics, religion and women in the Middle East, but also the universal bonds of sister- and motherhood.


Ece Temelkuran is one of Turkey’s best known novelists and political commentators. She has lived in several countries such as Lebanon and Tunisia to write her novels. Her investigative journalism books broach subjects that are highly controversial in Turkey, such as the Kurdish and Armenian issues and freedom of expression. She was a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford Saint Anthony’s College, and has given the ‘Freedom Lecture’ as a guest of Amnesty International and the Prince Claus Foundation. In 2017 she has been a regular guest on Radio 4 and also appeared on Channel 4 news, while her journalism has recently featured in Der Spiegel, The Guardian and the New York Times. In 2016 Zed Books released a translation of her collection of essays, Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy, which was reviewed widely and internationally. Her novel Du gu mlere Ufleyen Kadinlar (Women who Blow on Knots) won the English PEN Translates award. She currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia.

Alexander Dawe graduated from Oberlin College in 1996 with degrees in French and Classical Guitar Performance. He has translated several contemporary Turkish novels, including Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s The Time Regulation Institute with Maureen Freely. In 2010, he received the PEN Translation Fund to translate a collection of short stories by Tanpınar. He lives and works in Istanbul.