Nermin Yildirim’s fourth letter

Dear Jenn,

Ever since speed became a goal rather than the means to achieve it, many of our old habits such as writing letters have been put away after being tagged as nostalgic, even romantic. Now we prefer to spend as little time as possible on all our needs, including communication. We think that as our mobility and speed increase, life becomes easier, but can’t be sure if it’s getting any better.

Doesn’t a letter have functions other than carrying news? Taking care in handwriting, choosing colourful envelopes and stamps, going to the post office to send it, then waiting excitedly for the reply, isn’t all this more than just communicating? I believe it is.

Obviously I make use of the practical convenience of the internet. But in these last years, as I think about the never ending rush we are in, I cannot help but question the distance between “speed” and us. And not just when we’re communicating; while we speak, eat, read, even while we think… Don’t you think we have become a little too impatient?

If life is a journey, we seem to be running, covered in sweat, towards the destination without taking time to enjoy view. So much that we only notice our surroundings when we stumble and fall. That’s why falling down once in a while is good for us (at least I think it is).

I think I’m one of those who are for “slowing down”. I’m not saying that I’m rejecting the benefits of technology, but that I’m of those who is trying hard not to sacrifice all the niceties that are good for our souls to speeds which occasionally become pointless and to never ending rushes.

Your question on social media is really a delicate matter. I’ll try to answer it at length in one of the future letters. But for now, let us give priority to an old friend, to Istanbul.

In my last letter, I said that I was going to give you a taste of this beautiful city. But first I have to mention two ways that many writers choose to describe Istanbul, a city which is considered to be a bridge between East and West, to foreigners. Ways I don’t care much for. The first is to embellish the city, turning it into a mysterious eastern fairy tale. The second is doing the complete opposite and tell stories of damnification. Whereas the Istanbul I know, a city (cities) within a city, is too large to fit in any single story, too precious to be washed in the waters of orientalism. It truly is much more than that.

Of course there could be differences between talking about Istanbul to tourist who has come to see it, and trying to reflect it into a novel with the good and the bad. In short, just like I would prefer talking to a friend of mine visiting me in Barcelona about Gaudi, the Sagrada Familia instead of talking about the financial crisis, the unemployment rate among teenagers nearing forty four percent, I will now tell you about the countless beauties that Istanbul harbours. Therefore, I have to talk not about Küçük Armutlu which has witnessed death fasts, but about Arnavutköy which looks out on the cool waters of the Bosphorus; not about the tearing down of Sulukule, where gypsies have lived for generations, in name of urban transformation, but about the legendary Maiden’s Tower that rises out of the middle of the deep blue sea, about the mesmerising Hagia Sophia that has been standing for one thousand and five hundred years, about the magnificent domes of the Süleymaniye Mosque, built by Mimar Sinan and has survived many earthquakes, about the grandiose treasure room of the Topkapı palace. However, Istanbul is such a big city and so full that it is impossible to squeeze it into this letter. So for now I chose a single locale to tell you about: Pierre Loti.

Pierre Loti is a French writer and an officer who came to Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire’s final decades and wrote about the city. The name of the appreciative Istanbulite was eventually given to a street and a wonderful coffee house located at the top of the town of Eyüp. There you have it, one of the places I love most in Istanbul (it appears in both of my novels) is this beautiful coffee house carrying the name of Pierre Loti. To get to this place, you have to climb a narrow slope located between graveyards full of enchanting gravestones remaining from the Ottoman days. You have to walk a little unsettled, a little scared, most certainly full of thoughts, and slowly so you don’t run out of breath. When you go past the deathly silence and reach the top of the hill, you come face to face with the noise of life, its cheeping, its irresistible charm. Then you sit at one of the tables covered with square textured tablecloths and order tea in a thin waisted glass. While watching the captivating view of Haliç (better known as the Golden Horn over there. Although Europeans relate the name to Greek mythology, the tradesmen of the Grand Bazaar say that it is called so because the dust from the processed gold runs down here with rainwater and because it resembles a horn) you will feel not like drinking tea, but a whole river. To me, this is one of the most magnificent Istanbul locales that one writer could recommend to another. I used the word ‘writer’ to tie up the subject. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not at Pierre Loti, that scenery will make you one anyway!

See you soon in Istanbul, Jenn! When we finally meet, we’ll have many more stories to tell, and places to see…

Lots of love,


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

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One comment on “Nermin Yildirim’s fourth letter
  1. Ashley says:

    Nermin, what a wonderful letter. I have not travelled much in my life but I think if I was to travel somewhere that would exhilarate me it would be to Istanbul! More please!

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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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