Nermin Yildirim’s fifth letter

Dear Jenn,

I wrote this letter to you the day I arrived at my home in Barcelona after a long journey which lasted more than a month and took me through Barcelona-Istanbul-Ankara-Yalova-Istanbul-Manchester- Lancaster-Preston-Manchester-Barcelona-Londra-Barcelona. After so much running around, I’m finally here in the room where I wrote my first letter to you. Do you think there is a connection between where we are and what we write? Maybe the past, by which I mean memories. But those only exist because they have already been gone through, finished and belong to a different time and space. Don’t they?

Do you remember, at the Manchester Literature Festival panel in which we both participated they asked us a question about the place of cities and locations in our novels? While giving my example I mentioned how powerful a character Istanbul was. In my second novel, Dreams Are Untold, Pilar, a Spanish woman, comes to Istanbul for the first time in order to search for her missing husband and finds herself in an unexpected adventure. As I mentioned on that day, as I was trying to write Pilar’s adventure, Istanbul was always all smiles and moving about like an actor trying to steal the scene. If I had let myself into its arms, it would have gotten a much bigger role than I intended to give it and would have stolen scenes from my poor characters. But I didn’t fall for any of its tricks and whenever it tried to put itself in centre stage I patiently and reverently directed it towards its spot. After all, Pilar hadn’t come to Istanbul as a tourist, but as a desperate woman in search of her missing husband. She was in no shape to take in the majesty of Istanbul. Therefore Istanbul’s place in the novel was limited, it had to be. But to write about such strong cities or stories that take place in them could sometimes have this danger lurking about. Their characters could dominate over the characters we try to create. I guess one has to always keep that in mind while writing.

The characters of the cities… Yes, to liken cities to people is an old game most of us like to play. For me, Istanbul is a cheerful, yet just as sad fisherman who sets out to sea before sunrise to cast his nets with his calloused hands while singing to himself a folk song; husband to the same woman for twenty eight years and father to a son for twenty five years. He’s always on the lookout for whatever is to suddenly turn up as if he has lost what he was looking for in life to the sea and what’s he was looking for in the sea to life. In the evenings he has a drink or two and when he overdoes it he peels away at the scabs of his wounds and silently cries.

I’ve said this before; Istanbul has too many layers to be a single person. It could easily be a prostitute. A broken-hearted beautiful prostitute, who has seen it all, who is distrustful of everyone. Or it could be a quiet young girl with big eyes and a small mouth who likes Wednesdays, daisies, cherries, sycamore trees and lemon yellow, who draws a family with two children and a house with a garden on pieces of paper as wishes on Hidrellez, and wishes happy days from the future… There are so many people in Istanbul’s multi-voiced lives chorus… Believe me when I say don’t know which one to choose…

When I first came to Manchester (I was watching the city through the windscreen of Charlotte’s, one of the festival officials, car, just like you did in Istanbul when you were going from the airport to the hotel) I asked myself, what kind of person would this city be if it were a person? Before I had left for Manchester, everyone warned me “it is the city of rain, don’t you dare go there without an umbrella, a raincoat”, however when I was there I only saw a couple of raindrops, and the sun rays that filled the sky licked my face generously like playful cats. Who was this Manchester, who could it be? I knew so little about it. Things everybody knew… I already loved the city even if it were only for The Smiths and Joy Division, for the sake of Morrisey and Ian Curtis. At the end of the six days I spent in the city, I finally found a character I could dress it up in. Surely, there is more than one protagonist hidden in it, a different one waiting in every corner. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to meet them all. All that I have learned was in six short days… And now, with your permission, I’d like to introduce to you the Manchester in me:

It could be called Paul. Manchester, I mean, Paul, is a seventeen year old young man. While everybody thinks that he’s into football, girls with pretty smiles and walking in the rain, he actually is interested in writing poems that he never shows and never will show to anyone. He is going through tough times where he believes no one understands him. He’s struggling to find new meanings of life. Because he grew up in a world where wounds are considered ugly, he hides his from everyone. Paul doesn’t want to be like anyone around him. But one day he will see that he is becoming more and more like the others. The realization is going to pain him. He is going to drink a lot because he won’t be able to think of anything better to do. In his moccasins which he wears without socks, he is going to walk in the rain. Neither girls with pretty smiles nor falling in love is going to alleviate his pain. Despite all the people surrounding him, his family, his friends, he won’t be able to dissipate the void that he grew inside himself. Every morning he will wake up in that void, and every night he will curl up in the middle of the same void. But when probed, he will never mention his sorrow, he might wave the question away saying “I’m drunk.” Because in his world… the wounds are always kept a secret. The wounds have to be kept a secret…

As I was leaving Manchester, I said to Paul “farewell, until I see you again.” Yes, I will return…

So there you have it, Jenn. Here we are at the end of a letter written a little trivially. I confess, I went near many things I wanted to talk about, however I touched upon none of them. We had so much to talk about, didn’t we? After so many letters we wrote without knowing each other, we met in Istanbul, then in Lancaster and in Manchester. We came face to face. Together, we participated in literature festivals, went around cities. We put into voice all that we had been stuffing into words and had long chats. But I didn’t mention any of this in my letter. Since the day we started corresponding, I wrote to you everything candidly, managing to forget about everyone else who would get to read these letters. I wrote everything honestly, just as they popped in my head, without planning, editing, in its most natural state… However, this is the first time that I make use of my novelist side and add a little editing trick into our letters. To be more precise, I am participating in the game you started with your latest letter which you had written after our first meeting but in which you hadn’t mentioned about our meeting. I leave our meeting and all that followed to our last letters (the ones after this) so that we could have a nice, strong finale. Just like the ones we like having in novels…



Born in Bursa in 1980. Became interested in literature at a young age. Wrote her first poems and stories during her years in primary school, won awards. When her uncle typed these writings, reproduced them by photocopy and bound them as books she had her first unofficial book at the age of nine. In 2002, she graduated from Eskisehir Anatolian University Faculty of Communication Sciences Department of Press. Then she worked as journalist, editor and columnist for various newspapers and magazines, and as copywriter for advertisement agencies. In 2010, she moved to Barcelona. Her first novel The Forget-Me-Not Building was published in 2011 by Doğan Kitap, one of the most important publishing houses in Turkey. The same year, the book garnered much acclaim in literature circles and was awarded “Novel of the Year” award by the French high schools in Istanbul and Izmir. Yıldırım’s second novel “Dreams Are Untold” was published once again by Doğan Kitap in 2012, on March 7th which is also the author’s birthday.
1980 yılında Bursa’da doğdu. Edebiyata ilgisi küçük yaşlarda başladı. İlk şiir ve hikayelerini ilkokul yıllarında yazdı, yarışmalarda ödüller aldı. Bu yazılar amcası tarafından daktiloya çekilip fotokopiyle çoğaltılarak kitap formuna sokulunca, gayri resmi ilk kitabını 9 yaşında iken eline almış oldu. 2002 yılında Eskişehir Anadolu Üniversitesi İletişim Bilimleri Fakültesi Basın Yayın Bölümü’nden mezun oldu. Sonrasında İstanbul’da çeşitli gazete ve dergilerde muhabir, editör ve köşe yazarı olarak çalıştı; reklam ajanslarında metin yazarlığı yaptı. 2010 senesinde Barselona’ya yerleşti. İlk romanı Unutma Beni Apartmanı, 2011 senesinde Türkiye’nin en önemli yayınevlerinden Doğan Kitap tarafından yayınlandı. Edebiyat çevrelerinde büyük ilgiyle karşılanan eser, aynı yıl İstanbul ve İzmir’deki Fransız Liseleri’nden “Yılın Romanı” ödülünü aldı. Yıldırım’ın yine Doğan Kitap tarafından yayımlanan ikinci romanı “Rüyalar Anlatılmaz” ise 2012 yılında, yazarın doğum gününe denk gelen 7 Mart günü kitap raflarına çıktı.

Read an extract of The Forget-Me-Not Building – English | Turkish

Posted in Letters
2 comments on “Nermin Yildirim’s fifth letter
  1. MANSOUR says:



  2. Ashley says:

    Wonderful, Nermin! I read a book & I see images of the people & places described in that book & they are mine, they touch my imagination, just as you see Paul in Manchester. I hope you will use him in a story, in a book so that I can relate to him there as well. I wish you luck for the future. Ashley.

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About Manchester Letters

Manchester Letters features an online correspondence between UK author Jenn Ashworth and Turkish writer Nermin Yildirim. Over the course of the next few months, they will be sharing insights into their working lives; discussing current works in progress, sources of inspiration and how their social and political environments impacts on their creativity.

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