Father’s Sea
Vaters Meer

Suhrkamp Verlag
August 2023 / 384pp
  • Bayerischer Buchpreis 2023 (Nomination)
  • Special Mention European Union Prize for Literature 2024


A novel about memory and migration set between Germany and Turkey, Father’s Sea is a gentle and moving portrait of a family within the framework of a father–son relationship. Even as it explores political and social issues specific to its dual setting, this is a novel that focuses on the human aspect and as such will have broad appeal.

First-person narrator Yunus grows up as an only child in Hanover, but visits Turkey with his parents every summer. He is thirteen when his father, Zeki, has two strokes that leave him almost entirely paralysed – unable to speak or move beyond blinking, he has “locked-in syndrome”. Zeki is looked after in a care home before being transferred back to the family house, where Yunus’ mother cares for him until his death ten years later.

Thematically engaged with memory, Father’s Sea is structured as Yunus’ attempts to retrace his father’s life and remember the man he was before he became paralysed. Like the titular sea, his memories flow into one another, with a few distinct moments standing out for their emotional significance. In a reflection of memory’s non-linear nature, Utlu makes large chronological leaps; however, these are interwoven skilfully so as never to interrupt the narrative. From start to finish, we see how Yunus develops from a self-centred teenager to a thoughtful young man, struggling to hold on to his father and re-evaluate what he knows of the past.

Other family members and friends play more of a supporting role – even Yunus’ mother, Senem, is a comparatively minor figure in the novel. This close perspective allows us to see how Yunus slowly changes, and also allows Utlu to explore related themes such as masculinity, identity and belonging. While Zeki’s condition is very specific, the experience of coming to terms with a close relative’s serious medical diagnosis is one that will sadly be familiar to many readers, lending the novel emotional weight and relatability.

Unflinching when it comes to complex emotions and the effect that profound loss can have on a life, Father’s Sea is a melancholic yet compelling work that demonstrates Utlu’s great skill as a storyteller. 

Find out more: https://www.suhrkamp.de/buch/deniz-utlu-vaters-meer-t-9783518431443, https://www.suhrkamp.de/rights/book/deniz-utlu-father-s-sea-fr-9783518431443

about the author

© Heike Steinweg/Suhrkamp Verlag

Deniz Utlu was born in Hannover in 1983 and studied Economics at the Free University of Berlin and at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. His debut novel Die Ungehaltenen [The Indignant] was published in 2014 and was adapted for the stage at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin in 2015. His second novel, Gegen Morgen [Towards Morning], was published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2019. He is also the author of plays, poetry and essays and conducts research at the German Institute for Human Rights. In 2021 he won the Alfred-Döblin Prize for an extract from Vaters Meer [Father’s Ocean]. Utlu lives in Berlin.

Previous works: Gegen Morgen (2019)

rights information

Suhrkamp Verlag

Contact: Nora Mercurio
Tel: +49 30 740744 231


translation assistance

Applications should be made to the Goethe-Institut.

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