Nermin Yildirim’s third letter

Dear Jenn,

Finally, after days of nauseating heat, it’s raining in Barcelona today. A perfect weather for writing a letter!

With each letter, the topics deepen and the writing process becomes more and more enjoyable. To me, trying to get to know someone through letters seems like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. At first, you think you have placed a piece in the right place, but then a single word from the other person gives you a whole new set of clues and you feel like you have to change the piece’s place. One thing is certain however, with each new piece you become more curious as to what the finished picture is going to look like.

I would like to begin with clearing a misunderstanding. It is true that I write novels based on research, but I definitely don’t write novels that are not fiction. It’s only that I like to build my fictional imaginary reality on a factual social reality. Previously, I wrote that in order to understand man, one has to look into the time he lived in and that I take care to remember this while writing my novels. Of course, a person who tries to understand and describe man (a novelist, for example) doesn’t have to be a historian, anthropologist, sociologist or a psychologist, but I believe that to do preparations and conduct research is my responsibility in order to create a text that satisfies myself and to do justice to the writing. What are your thoughts on this?

About the matter of the realistic novel… When I have a true historical period as a background and even when I make enough effort to reflect that period, I don’t believe that I write realistic novels in the classical sense. In this regard, I should point out that I try to feed off the magical realism movement of South American literature. As you have mentioned, reality and realism are quite confusing notions. Especially when we consider how many different versions there can be of “an object in its real state”…

Here is a simple example at the risk of looking to cliches for help. Let’s say we’re talking about a story about a fibre factory where thirty three workers have been discharged. Now, do we tell the reality of a worker who, when he goes home in the evening, has to explain to his pregnant wife and three school-age children that he will no longer be able to bring bread to the table or the reality of the endearing factory owner who tries to make his three year old grandson laugh at a plentiful dinner table on that same evening? Which one is the reality of this story? Of course, the reality here is the one we choose. Just for the sake of being fair, we could tell all of it with a multi-directional narrative, or choose one to reflect our own perspective, or we could choose “none of the above” because we might have a better idea. In the end, we have to make a choice. One way or another, there is always a choice to be made.

In short, when talking about realism in a literary work, we should not forget that we are talking about the writer’s reality. Under these circumstances, I don’t like to take on ethereal tasks such as delivering news from actuality or embark on didactic and pretentious endeavours teaching what I believe is right. Never do I act with the belief that I’m telling something nobody knows. But like you said, I find projecting my reality or allowing reality to be projected through my characters, having the reader ask questions, or, if could pull it off, going beyond the ordinary, just that much appealing.

By the way, let me answer your question about if there isn’t a topic I believe I can’t touch. To me, to doubt your own potential while writing while you are very much aware that there are so many magnificent writers, alive and dead, is one of the fortunate things that can happen to a writer. Moreover, to be in a contrary position is a perfect opportunity to talk about pride. We see that being aware of your potential has a different effect on different writers. Some choose to not push themselves harder, prefer to remain in safe harbors. Some strive to go beyond the limits, to discover new lands. -What I mean by limits is not literary limits but the writer’s own.- Though it isn’t the safest, I prefer the second path. But I try carefully to differentiate between the boldness to go beyond yourself and impertinence. I think this differentiation is of vital importance for us young writers.

What we can write and how much we can write about it should be related to natural talent, the feelings we grow within ourselves, the way we understand man and the world, and the effort we put in to this understanding. The potential we’re talking about could increase as well as it could decrease. In previous letters, we talked about how the writing process changed with time. The same is possible for our potential, the change could be positive or negative. After all, isn’t time where everything changes?

I also have to mention that I really liked you likening the effect that some novels have on readers to the effects of drugs or too much alcohol. You’re right, in situations like this reading is an effervescent pleasure, a temporary effect. A momentary taste that doesn’t linger. While many readers might be contented with this, many might ask for more from a good novel. Of course we can’t expect every novel to make a change in our lives, but we shouldn’t forget that great novels often come out from those which can achieve that.

PS: There is one month left to our meeting in Istanbul! It’s very exciting to know that we’re finally going meet. In my next letter, I’d like to write a little about what a writer could do in this city of fairy tales. This will be your first visit to the city of seven hills, won’t it?



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 third letter
  1. Ashley says:

    Nermin, what a wonderful letter! There is a great deal to take in & as such I will have to read the letter again possibly even a few times before I can fully grasp everything you say. Even so it excites me to know that I will return. You talk of a jigsaw & that is a good way to approach reading letters, or novels even, but I find it’s like looking through a window & seeing inside a room where there are people talking; I can’t quite make out what each is saying but I think I get the “gist” then on top of that I’m seeing my own reflection in the window, a reflection of my world in the words of the writer. Your letters & Jenn’s, have raised many questions; I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. Steve says:

    Fascinating to eavesdrop on two writers getting to know each other. Good that they start by talking about what they have in common but puzzling to see that curiosity has not lead them to explore differences. Especially cultural and geographical differences and their influences on writing.

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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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