Literature has long been an important component of Turkish cultural life, reflecting the history of the people, their legends, their mysticism, and the political and social changes that affected this land throughout its long history. The oldest literary legacy of the pre-Islamic period are the Orhon inscriptions in northern Mongolia, written in 735 on two large stones in honour of a Turkish king and his brother. During the Ottoman period, the prevailing literary form was poetry, the dominant dialect was Anatolian or Ottoman, and the main subject beauty and romance. The Ottoman Divan literature was highly influenced by Persian culture and written in a dialect, which combined Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Separate from the aristocratic Divan literature, folk literature continued to dominate Anatolia where troubadour-like poets celebrated nature, love and God in simple Turkish language. Towards the 20th century, the language of Turkish literature became simpler and more political and social in substance. The great and politically controversial poet, Nazım Hikmet, inspired by the Russian poet Mayakowski, introduced free verse in the late 1930s. Nowadays, the irrefutable master of the Turkish popular novel is Yaşar Kemal, with his authentic, colourful and forceful description of Anatolian life. Young Turkish writers tend to go beyond the usual social issues, preferring to tackle problems such as feminism and aspects of die East-West dichotomy that continues to fascinate Turkish intellectuals.
The most well-known and widely-read writers of the 1950-1990 period can be listed as follows: Tarık Dursun K. , Atilla lhan, Yaşar Kemal, Orhan Kemal, Kemal Tahir, Tarık Buğra, Aziz Nesin, Mustafa Necati Sepetçioglu, Firuzan, Adalet Agaoğlu, Sevgi Soysal, Tomris Uyar, Selim Ileri, Cevat Şakir (Halikarnas Balıkçısı), Necati Cumalı, Haldun Taner. Prominent poets in this period are: Behçet Kemal Çağlar, Necati Cumalı , Oktay Rıfat, Melih Cevdet Anday, Cemal Süreya, Edip Cansever, Özdemir Ince, Ataol Behramoğlu, Ismet Özel, Ece Ayhan, Turgut Uyar, Sezai Karakoç, Bahaettin Karakoç, Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan, Orhan Pamuk .
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2006 was awarded to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.