Burhan Sönmez is a novelist from Turkey. He is the President of PEN International, elected at the Centennial Congress in 2021.

He is a Senior Member of Hughes Hall College and Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Born in a small village in central Turkey, he grew up speaking Kurdish, at a time when the Kurdish language was stigmatised and officially banned in education, then he was taught Turkish at school. He moved to Istanbul to study law in the years following the 1980 military coup. Due to pro-democracy activities he was suspended from university but managed to graduate after seven years and worked as a lawyer in Istanbul. He joined the Human Rights Society and founded TAKSAV, the Foundation for Social Research, Culture and Art. After he was assaulted and wounded by the police forces he ended up going to exile in Britain where he received long-term treatment with the help of Freedom from Torture Centre in London.

Even though he was interested in poetry and had won two awards for his poetry in Turkey, he turned his hand to writing novels in exile. His interest in writing is rooted in the traditional stories he was brought up with. His unique experience of growing up in a remote village with no electricity, and having a talented storyteller for a mother, has provided inspiration and material for his writing.

He is the author of six novels. His novels are North (Kuzey, 2009), Sins & Innocents (Masumlar, 2011), Istanbul Istanbul (2015), Labyrinth (Labirent, 2018), Stone and Shadow (Taş ve Gölge, 2021), Lovers of Franz K. (Evîndarên Franz K., 2024).

His novels have been translated into forty-eight languages.

He was awarded the EBRD Literature Prize in Britain (2018) and the “Disturbing the Peace” award of Vaclav Havel Foundation in the USA (2017). In Turkey, he received Orhan Kemal Novel Award (2022), BUYAZ Best Story Honour Prize (2015), the Sedat Simavi Literature Prize (2011) and Izmir St. Joseph Best Novel Award (2011).

He translated the poetry book of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake into Turkish.

He has written for various papers including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, La Repubblica.

He was a member of the judging panel for the 2014 Cevdet Kudret Literature Prize, the 2020 Geneva International Film Festival, the 2022-2023 International Hrant Dink Award and the 2023-2024 Inge Feltrinelli Prize.

He lives between Istanbul and Cambridge.