Nermin Yildirim’s second letter

Dear Jenn,

I eagerly awaited your letter, and read it with pleasure. Let me begin by answering your first question. No, I don’t write my novels thinking that one day, they might be translated into another language. I believe that when writing, having future related plans and preoccupations would hurt the sincerity of the text by turning it into an overly calculated effort. However, I’m still at the beginning of the journey. Apart from my first novel which is being translated into Bulgarian, I have no other experience. Let’s note these overconfident words of mine somewhere (I think here will do) and if one day, my books are translated into more languages, let’s bring this up again!

About the concern whether local languages or dialects from different parts of the country spoken by the characters would be understood by the readers… I, on my behalf, don’t avoid regional language differences. Despite that this might occasionally inconvenience the reader a little, in order to create a realistic character, I choose to set free his or hers tongue. We should make use of the richness of languages and people rather than whittling the characters down to only two dimensions.

By the way, I think that when having a character speak, taking into account its gender, where it is from, its psychology, its socioeconomic class, its identity’s reflection in the language seems to me like a carnival to itself. How about you?

So, the family in your novel is a Mormon family. To be honest, I’m not very knowledgeable about Mormons. All I know about them consists of second hand information begging to be confirmed… Was it difficult for you to capture their tongue and soul in writing? How did you do it?

I feel strongly about writing and reading about lesser known cultures and societies, especially those we are prejudiced against. Because I believe that the only way to fight the hate culture which keeps spreading across the world is to know and understand each other. In short, I already love the topic of your new novel, Jenn! I look forward to reading it.

You asked in your letter if I travel frequently. In recent years, I’ve often been going on the road on the trail of various curiosities. Most of the time, the instigating factor behind these curiosities are the books I read or write. For example, two years ago, I went to Budapest in pursuit of The Paul Street Boys. I found the street where my childhood friends lived, the terrain they fought for, even the house where my dear Ernö Nemecsek died. Last year, I was in Saint Petersburg, following the trail of Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov. I don’t know if it makes any sense, but I love these literary detective games. The moment I breathe in the air, I feel as if I’m gliding through the opening pages of novels which have left their marks on my soul.

Regarding the travels about the books I write… Last week, I was in Poland doing research for my new novel. I went to Warsaw, to Krakow, and finally, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. I mentioned before that I was writing a novel consisting of letters that two sisters living in different countries wrote each other. The background of these letters is the first half of the 20th Century. Therefore I have the opportunity to touch upon many subjects such as the cultural separation experienced in Turkey during the first years of the republic, established after the Ottoman Empire, and the war ridden dark civilisation of the Europe of that period. I visited Auschwitz before I began the chapter on WWII. This is something I often do, or try to do, placing all the history, culture, social conditions of the period in which my novel takes place into the background of the story. Because I believe that in order to understand people, one has to look at the period they live in.

Back to Auschwitz, the remains of the concentration camp were more than enough to send shivers down my spine. Also, I interviewed old people who lived through those times, and the grandchildren who grew up listening to the horrifying stories. I might have even convinced one of the grandchildren to write a book on his grandmother. One has to keep alive these social memories of such atrocities, regardless of wherever they took place, of the religion, race, people they were aimed at, in order to avoid similar sufferings happening. I’m planning on publishing an article on some of the things I saw and heard there, in Poland, in a newspaper on the 72nd anniversary of the beginning of WWII, on September 1st. We’ll see…

In my previous letter, as I mentioned that writing among daily responsibilities, and having a room of your own, in a physical sense as well as psychological sense, was more difficult especially for women, I was trying to remark on a kind inequality that exists outside of literature as well. I believe that having that room has to do with financial conditions which allow living independently from others, as much as it does with politico-cultural reflexes, habits, social roles and patterns. Generally, when a man is in his room in intellectual production, he doesn’t have to concern himself with cooking nor washing. The housewife would have already told the children, “Hush! Your father’s working,” and has already quietly completed the daily chores of the house. But when it’s a woman in intellectual production, I don’t know how many men there are who would make the same sacrifices for his wife working in her room (At this point, I would like to express my sincerest respects to your husband who is feeding little Aiden downstairs while you’re writing me a letter.)

Ursula K. Le Guin says that women can write at the kitchen table when it’s necessary. And if there are women who can write at kitchen tables today, this goes to prove not the ordinariness of what they do, but their genius.

Writing a letter is like making a fair copy of what’s in your head. It makes your thoughts clearer. Thank you very much for your lovely letters that give me the opportunity to organize the inside of my head and to think together with you. I look forward to your next letter.


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

    Thanks for your wonderful letter Nermin. I also believe that good literature can play an important role in combatting hate culture – keep up the good work!

  2. Ashley says:

    It’s good reading your letter, it makes me address some of my own issues about writing. However, I would go beyond writing to include any creative activity; it does still need a space in which to be formed. Whether that space is im my study or as with Jenn driving her car, or even sitting at the kitchen table it depends on the individual’s needs. Can I just add that I would encourage any one to write or draw or be creative; I think it has something to do with my parents never discouraging me. I’ve not always had a study in which to write & the kitchen table was indeed my usual writing place, now perhaps it has something to do with being older, further down the road of life. Love the letters.

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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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