•    With your permission, I would like to begin by asking you about the kind of connection you established with writing during your childhood.

People are born with their talents. Like for example being born as a child with a singing voice. As for me, I was a child with a propensity for developing things in my imagination. It is obvious that my talent for writing came from birth. However, there remains the fact that if you do not feed your talent, it remains like the unfulfilled prediction of a seer. I first of all looked at what people like me, who had dedicated themselves to writing, imagination and fiction, had written. I read a lot. Reading has many more meanings for a child with a talent for writing. It is as if you were getting some kind of secret training in writing. In addition to this, I was lucky, because I was surrounded by women who narrated everything as if it was a story. And my grandmother most of all. I can still hear her telling me about her own grandmother being brought to Istanbul four generations before her. My grandmother would tell me how her grandmother had been kidnapped by the Tartars, and at this point she would add, “Thank God without being raped,” so as to be sold to the harem of the sultan’s palace, and that all her face had swollen from  having been transported on a horse like a sack with her head hanging down. Since she was thought to be ill she could not be sold to the palace, and the assistant at the apothecary took pity on her and brought her to his own home. One night, while going swimming during a visit to a seaside mansion, the other wives of her husband, who were envious of her, tried to drown her. That’s what my grandmother told me, but the other female members of the family objected to this version. The great-aunt of my father for example, who was angry with her for claiming nobility, would say, “No! Your grandmother swam ashore and eloped with her lover!” And in this way, stories would get more and more complicated.
          -Well, how did they react when they saw your first book?
At this point, I have to say that my grandmother had a point when she said, “I would have become a writer too if people had told me so many nice stories.” You see; the witches of my family turned me into a writer! This is similar to their claim that we were all as black as the bottom of a burned out pan, and that they turned us into lily white girls with their elixirs. It seems also that our fingers were swollen and short like sausages and that by rubbing them with their elixirs and pulling them, they lengthened our fingers, providing our hands with a statuary beauty.
          -So what would you like to say about the interaction you established with tradition?
Even if I am facing the West, the tradition of the East is right behind me. I learned how to write from the West. But my capacity to narrate and present in a different way from the usual derives from the East. Mentioning this intermediate status between the East and West reminds me of another family story.
       -What is that?
The great-uncle of my father was born in 1905 on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Even though our Uncle Rıza was born somewhere in between the East and the West, he was not a freak. I do not consider myself or my novels to be squeezed in between the East and the West, but rather as if I was taking flight from exactly that point. The wind that pushes my wings comes from the East, but I am flying to the West and the rest of the world. But even though I am flying towards the West, I realise that both the East and the West belong to us novel writers.
    -    It is exactly at this point that I would like to ask you how the sources of the East that feed you and the fact that you are looking towards the West have affected the way you write.
This is like the abilities that children inherit from their mothers and fathers. It is as if I was novelist girl, created by the West, and born out of the East. If I was stretching on a couch being subjected to psychoanalysis, I would describe the feelings that the West evokes for me as an endless horizon. The West is freedom and comfort. The East on the other hand is like that aspect of myself that leads me to write: closed, inward looking, dark, full of secrets, solitary, silent, and mysterious. When I write, it is as if the East were my inner world. As for the West, it is the capacity itself to write novels. The East is like my narrative side, while the West is like my side that listens and turns everything into writing.

-I would like you to continue now by looking at the kind of connection you establish with writing. How does Şebnem İşigüzel write her novels?
I write just like I feel. Just like my grandmothers, who believed in miracles, when I am at my desk, I believe in my history. As in the case of my novel titled Çöplük (Rubbish) (in German, Am Rand, Berlin, Verlag), where I have one of my protagonists say: ‘I myself believe in my story and that is enough!’ It is from there that a novel finds its strength. From its writer, who lives in a land not bigger than her desk. A person either writes, or undergoes experiences. You have either had an extraordinary life and you feed out of it, or, as in my case, nothing extraordinary has happened to you. Whatever the case, you are against tradition and society. I am rebellious!

“Courage is just as important as the writing itself.”
-Well, what lies in the origins of this feeling of ‘rebellion’? What are you rebelling against?
My rebellion is against bad politics, a bad system, fascism and a corrupt society, because it is all these that either create or blunt everything. The fact that literature lets you express every kind of subject is something wonderful. What counts is your style. And it is my style that lets me advance with dexterity through the most vital matters. In my first book I had taken up matters like incest, which society considers repugnant. Problematic things that happen to women and children. These are things that occur secretly in society, but which are not then recounted. Courage is actually as important as the writing itself. I know that society can do very bad things, but  I am not afraid to curse at it and its tradition. If the whole world were a community of cowards, we would have no other books save for our sacred texts. A writer is not someone who blends with society and tradition. A writer is someone who opposes society, and tradition.
    -    You have mentioned your first book of short stories Hanene Ay Doğacak, which was published in 1993. That book was awarded the Yunus Nadi Prize in that same year. But its copies were then also confiscated. Even by today’s standards, describing this kind of a social pathology was a courageous act. I would like to know your feelings as these events unfolded, your feelings both when writing that book and after its publication.
After they made it illegal for anyone under 18 years of age to read my book, I thought to myself, ‘This means that if I had written it two years earlier, I would not have been able to read it myself.’ And it was really like that, because as all these events were unfolding, I was only 19 years old. I had written Hanene Ay Doğacak with a strange feeling similar to dizziness. What is strange is that I was this young woman freshly arrived from a small sea-shore town to Istanbul for her university studies, with such a book in her head. My family was definitely not conservative or repressive, but the life surrounding me was not all that wonderful either. What was important was that I had that kind of a free world within my mind. When the book was published, they said, ‘What a tremendous act of courage!’ But I do not think that this has anything to do with courage. We all carry all sorts of worlds and states of mind inside us. As I see it, Hanene Ay Doğacak is a reflection of this. The fact that Nabokov, who lived ordinarily with his wife, his butterflies, his son and his regular academic life, should have written Lolita, has always made me think of this. I am after our deepest feelings, those which we are afraid to face. My only skill consists in having written all this in a truly spontaneous and sincere way. This being the case, the controversies that later enveloped my book did affect me much, also because I had found and fell in love with the father of my daughter, my companion of the last 16 years. Anyway, that feeling of love helped me to rise above everything. I can say that I survived unscathed that period thanks to my being in love. Besides, I have always been someone capable of consoling herself. And for me, that has meant writing.

    •    Urban life together with its inherent chaos and corruption is one element of your novels that has struck me as being particularly dominant. As a writer, how do you define the this sense of belonging and the ways in which it has marked you?
It is without doubt that this is where I belong: Istanbul. Even though I have renounced tradition, this is the land that feeds me. During a foreign trip I dropped a piece of bread in the aeroplane. I do not eat bread, but dropping bread is considered a sin according to Islamic rules. Bread is sacred and if it falls, it has to be picked up and kissed and rubbed on the forehead three times for amends. Since I had not seen where the piece had fallen, I did not try to pick it up. But I kept feeling that at any moment one of the elderly ladies who looked after me during my childhood, would jump out from between the seats and scold me, wagging her finger. It means that this was what tradition had instilled in me. In other words, whatever happens, things that we have refuted continue to flow in our veins. To nevertheless be able to be open minded, progressive and modern is what is interesting. A great show of strength. Consider that when I was a child, I was sent to Qur’an courses. They would teach us the Arabic alphabet to make it possible for us to read the Holy Qur’an. At the end of classes we would go to the sea-side and the lady teaching us, who was covered up down to her finger-nails, would run after us to the beach shouting, “You will all burn in hell!”
-Could you provide us with an example of how this has been reflected in your novels?
It is that child, me, who in my last novel, Resmigeçit, has the Archangel Gabriel sit near the hero Hocaefendi during his aeroplane trip! It is again me, who turns the Archangel Gabriel into a human form, and haves him say, ‘If we had known that the mind and sense placed in the human brain would lead to so many troubles, and that ideas would be banned as if they were sins, we would have denied them to you!’  It means that being both a rebellious child going to the beach to swim, and a child who deep inside worries of burning in hell, fed my creativity. Tradition and identity are a sour medicine that can be similar to a poison. I silently drank and regurgitated it. In nations that do not know how to understand the pains of others, absorbing the common identity to a high degree will turn you into a rabid nationalist. This is what scares me. I have created my own identity using more naïf elements. Sounds, smells, views. I have criticised the other side of my identity, its history, its politics.
    •    In connection to my question a little while ago concerning the influence of the urban phenomenon on your novels, Istanbul must have a special significance and its own signs, as far as writing is concerned, isn’t that so?
Yes. Because all my novels are set in Istanbul. During a reading in Germany a moderator had told me, ‘The people in this hall are curious about Istanbul, and they would like to visit Istanbul, but you have written terrible things. How are they supposed to go to Istanbul, after having read your work?’ And I had answered, ‘I came to Germany after having read Thomas Mann, but I never thought that I would find myself in a sanatorium, among people with tuberculosis.’ Undoubtedly, novels give us some feeling about a city. But novels are not a city guide, just like they are not a phone book. I wonder about Petersburg because of Dostoyevsky. It is this kind of a feeling that Istanbul creates in my novels. Istanbul is present in my novels, in just the same way as I live it and see it. I like Istanbul. Where else in the world is there a train station with the steps going down to the sea? All the frightful urban interventions notwithstanding, Istanbul has an innate beauty. In addition to this, there is the fact that it is with our memories that cities become beautiful and exist. The square where we had our first kiss, the street where we went through the first separation, and all the avenues full of moments remembered with sadness… Istanbul is like that in my case. What is more, it is literature that has turned Istanbul into an enchanted place. Not the state, not politics; it is Orhan Pamuk who has turned Istanbul into a brand. Let us not forget this. This power that literature has over humans has always excited me.

‘I would sacrifice my life for the sake of writing a novel.’
    •    Have you ever worried about not being able to write?
I have trained myself very strictly.  ‘I am writing and that is all that I need!’ I am always afraid that I am not going to be able to write again. I finish a novel and I start moodily thinking: ‘I had a room full of gun powder and I blew it up all at once. I am finished!’ The fear of not being able to write again is like an illness in my case. There is no other logical explanation. But then after all, I am very deeply attached to writing.
    •    In general what do you feel when you look at your novels?
I have dedicated my life to my novels. I would sacrifice my life for the sake of writing a novel. My dependency on writing and setting fictional plots is that serious of an illness. When the situation is like this, you cannot wait for the rest. Or in other words, I cannot wait, because I know that it is the future of novels that exists, rather than its present. Once I have painfully extracted my novels from myself, the rest does not exist. I become so feeble that I cannot even answer the question, ‘What is the novel about?’. I have written those novels. They exist. Consequently, I also exist. My novels and I are attached to each other by our tails.

‘Even if I have given great pain to the protagonists of my novels, I have made them unforgettable.’
    •    How do you perceive your protagonists from the same perspective?
Undoubtedly, if my protagonists had been the protagonists of other novelists they might have been happier, but I felt like creating these sad and problematic lives for them. Even if I have given great pain to the protagonists of my novels, I have nevertheless made them unforgettable. My protagonists are always remembered. They are not forgotten easily. And this places them in a privileged position in comparison to other, happy novel protagonists. When I am writing a novel, I find myself in an extraordinary world. Think of it! You are in an area that consists of your desk, and all by yourself you are creating all sorts of chaos… There is no better feeling than that. And it must be for this reason that I remember the joyous lit up moments when I wrote my novels rather than the moment when my daughter was born. Even though when I am writing about them they are the world’s worst things, and the greatest sorrows and pains, I feel happy, very truly happy for being able to write. I enjoy a breathless game with my protagonists. I am not happy when I have finished writing my novels, because as I see it, at that moment a world promising games and happiness closes its doors. In other words, I love my protagonists. If I had to measure this love with a comparison I would say that the person I love most is my daughter, and I love my protagonists as much as I love my daughter. Nevertheless, I do not feel like creating sweet lives for them. I just can’t help it.
    •    Let us now talk about the character-location relations in your stories and novels. What kind of a connection do you establish at this point?
I write what is in my mind, rather than what I see. Places I know provide me only with a feeling. I create the places where I have my protagonists live their lives. At times, they chance upon places I know very well. It is just like life; they stumble upon the place that my story has taken them to... For example, when she is sent away from her garbage dump, Leyla comes to Taksim Square. The giant barcovision was something at which I also always looked at and was impressed by. In a similar way, a stone fountain I had seen years ago in the park of the summer residence of the German Consulate reappeared years later when I was writing Sarmaşık. Or the Florya Marine Kiosk in the Resmigeçit novel. This is a rather enchanted place, which was built over the sea in forty days, thinking that sea air would have been beneficial for Atatürk’s illness. I have seen it only from a distance. If I go and visit it and see that it is exactly as I have described it, I shall really believe that I am a witch!

    •    What kind of a responsibility does being a writer entail in the specific case of Turkey?
I do not like personal complaints. This country being what it is, I am not expecting fame as an author or an abundance of readers. Everybody likes to be patted on the back and to be told, ‘How well you write dear!’ It is difficult for a writer to attain this without compromises, and without taking the side of the system.
    •    Why?
I certainly cannot expect any loving attention from this society, which has not come to terms with its past, its history, its coup, its coups, and which is excessively nationalist. However, I would like to see before me a society that has not been made inimical to writers and to people who write.
    •    I think that this is the worst feeling for a writer.
Absolutely. Writers have always been a source of worry for the state and for the system. They have been considered enemies. I bitterly noticed this when in 1994 Yaşar Kemal expressed his thoughts about the Kurdish problem. We have seen the kind of image of Aziz Nesin that was imposed on society. And finally we have witnessed the inimical attitude towards Orhan Pamuk. During a public debate titled, ‘The City and Literature’ held recently in Istanbul, and in which I took part, I was asked a question about ‘changes in the names of streets and squares.’ And I said, ‘If a street or square has been named after General Kenan Evren, who was responsible for the coup of 1980, or after Talat Pasha, then I think it’s a good idea to change its name.’ And then I added, ‘Is it really such a bad idea to name a Bosphorus ferry after Orhan Pamuk?’ This caused was great commotion in the hall. I kept calm. But most of the spectators booed me. Writing a novel is a crime, carrying out a coup and promising sorrow to the people is a right. This is how I interpret the views of a society that does not want a ferry named after Orhan Pamuk. How can such a society like me, or like other writers similar to me? It might even be said that being liked by a society that has been pushed into such a dead end, is like an insult. Nevertheless, my anger is absolutely not directed at the people. What I am criticising is the system that has corrupted the perceptions of this well-meaning society, which believes everything it is told.
    •    How do you feel about this conclusion that you have just reached?
I feel like a girl who has not been loved and who has been refuted by her father, because what I am doing is saying things that people do not like to hear. People who know what a novel is, will in any case open up their hearts to me. 

‘Literature is the beautiful voice of countries.’
    •    Turkey has undergone three coups. As Murat Belge expressed it, these coups turned the mind of the Turkish society into hard concrete. At this point, how do you interpret the political debates and changes in Turkey?
Turkey is a country with things to be ashamed of, where coups have happened one after the other, which even in 2009 fails to be fully democratic, and which is attached to a history poisoned by lies. Everyone who is busy writing in such a country is the secret paradise of that country. To be a hero you do not need to march in front of great crowds. In such a country, writing continuously, without getting discouraged, is also an act of heroism. Our country emits unpleasant sounds. Its sorrows and problems are never ending. We are like a house where there are constant quarrels and noise. But this house contains also children like me writing novels. We are the nice sound of our country. Literature is the nice sound of countries. It is thanks to their literature that I get to know and love countries that I have never seen. Novelists love their countries more than politicians and soldiers do, because novelists wish the good of countries and people. It is not novelists that carry out the coups that bring so much disaster to societies. In other words, writers love their countries with feelings that are much more genuine than those of all others.
    •    In that case, what should the duty of a writer be?
In a country like Turkey, which has still not descended from the summit of history’s trash heap and has not yet cleansed itself, a writer can and should be political. The first thing that a novelist learns is to delve into other people’s sorrows. Looking at others’ sorrows and apologising for the past is not a humiliation for nations. On the contrary, it makes them stronger. A novelist has the power to prove this.

    •    With your permission, let us now talk about coincidence, bad luck and evil, which are concepts taken up in your novels.
I am a writer who loves to play tricks on her readers. What I want is for my readers to get lost in the world I have created while they are reading, just as I have been happy while writing and setting up the plot. A novel has to evoke very strong emotions in the reader. If this happens, that novel will become part of your life. You will never forget it. This is what I try to accomplish. I want to create a spell. I want to cast a spell on my readers. The ingredients of my spell are not sweet and nice things. I take up as my subjects evil, terror, violence, dirt, unhappiness, and bad luck. Stressing the theme of coincidence, I play tricks on my readers. Why do I always tend to write about evil? Especially considering that in real life I cannot even stand the sight of blood.
    •    Could you give us a few clues about this?
The following event I lived through might provide clues as to why evil is always my main theme. When my daughter was a small child, we were on holiday along the Aegean shores just across the sea from the isle of Mytilene. Suddenly, a wind began to blow and whisked away my daughter’s blow-up sea toys. My daughter was terrified. Later she refused to eat her food. And I took the opportunity, and told her, ‘If you do not eat your food, you will be whisked away just like your toys.’ Seeing that she literally attacked her food, I continued with the story, ‘You will fly away and alight on the isle of Mytilene. They will give you a few goats, and you will become a goat herder. You will look towards this side and you will tell them I had a mother and father on the other side, but since you will not know their language, you will not be able to explain.’ As my daughter was finishing her meal in a state of terror, a friend of ours said, ‘But what if she happens to alight on the park of the mansion of the Onassis family? And what if she begins to live amidst pools, yachts, governesses, jets and she forgets about you?’ This is my short story. I tell a story full of evil even to my daughter, who is the person I love most. I cannot help it. Because happiness, joy, contentment are vacuous feelings. They gain significance only if they have been preceded by unhappiness, suffering and problems.

    •    When I reflect on the city phenomenon in your novels, Istanbul becomes visible as a strong image and metaphor.
The plots of my novels could take place in any part of the world. Even though my protagonists belong to a certain land, and have an identity, their existence is based on feelings that are basically shared by all humanity. They exist not because of their identities, but because of their most basic feelings. Take Leyla of Çöplük, for example. Wherever she might be in the world, she would have ended up on the street and she would have become the Queen of Garbage Dump. Whatever her identity, Yıldız would not have been able to free herself from the cruelty of the ghost of her mother. The underground band of Çöplük could have existed in any part of the world. The same goes also for Sarmaşık. The two strange men in the novel would have given rise to the same striking history even if they had existed in Berlin.
    •    What kind of a sense of belonging have the writers who have been with you in your spiritual world, created within you?
I am a writer who has chosen her teachers in the West. Obviously, I admire the generation that preceded me, people like Orhan Pamuk or Latife Tekin. As for the generation that preceded them, I bow with respect in front of Aziz Nesin’s sense of satire, and Yaşar Kemal’s narrative enthusiasm. In a similar way I consider Adalet Ağaoğlu, Peride Celal and her Jaguar, Tezer Özlü, Sevim Burak, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, and Suat Derviş to be very precious as well. But I was raised in the hands of Nabokov, Woolf, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Salman Rushdie, Calvino, Mann, and Jelinek. I tried to have a look at all great novels and to regurgitate things similar to what I saw in them. My sense of belonging and my identity help me to create a spell. My teachers are Westerners, but the girl writing these lines is an Easterner. I think that this is a good mixture. However, I am also aware of the fact that my mind functions in a strange way. My mind has a strange way of acquiring clarity the more I write. My mind is open towards all of humanity’s conditions, all kinds of defects, sins, shameful elements, dreams and so on. While I am writing, I undergo an experience of real freedom. And this feeling is typical of the West. That rebellious, free, and headstrong language and structure are given a shape only thanks to the narrative skills of the East. I think that the best way to explain this sense of belonging is in the following way: inside every writer there is a House of Literature, in which he or she lives. He or she places the writers who have accompanied the writer in his or her spiritual world, in this house. In my House of Literature, it is as if Virginia Woolf strolled in the garden all day, Sevim Burak and Elfirede Jelinek sat around the kitchen table sipping tea, Nabokov and Orhan Pamuk joked amongst themselves at the fireplace, Dostoyevsky looked for his umbrella angrily, while a sitting Calvino slyly smiled, having seen where Dostoyevsky’s umbrella was. In this House of Literature, in which I also live, all the great writers raised both in the East and in the West, my teachers, friends, can all live together contentedly.
    •    Your novel Çöplük was translated into German and you were in Germany to mark this occasion. What kind of reactions were there towards your book in Germany? What do you think of the reactions of German readers towards your book?
I am a writer whose work has been translated later than it should have been. However, I can consider myself lucky, because a perfect translation of my best novel has been published by an excellent publishing house. Before my turn came, everybody else had been translated, or in other words, everybody had had their turn, had presented and finished their own show. Consequently, this delay turned out to be a lucky thing. Çöplük was met with great praise in Germany. I surprised them. The same thing happened for Sarmaşık, which was published in August in Italian. My novels were appreciated also in foreign languages. Germany is important in that it has a very well rooted literary tradition. What attracted the greatest attention was the plot, structure and narrative of Çöplük. It was said that it was the best novel of this autumn. What I liked most was how they called me the ‘Queen of the Garbage Dump.’
    •    You published Resmigeçit quite a while after Çöplük. The fact that such a long time elapsed makes me think that the writing of this novel strained you both in terms of its form and its content. What would you like to say about this?
There were four years between the publication of Çöplük and Resmigeçit. Considering that Resmigeçit is a rather hefty novel, that’s a reasonable amount of time really. In it, I tell the story of the last century. Writing the novel was as usual a process that gave me both happiness and contentment. Living with this novel and writing it was a wonderful experience. The real problem emerged at the publishing stage. The day I finished the novel was also the day when the armed forces had issued their e-ultimatum. In other words, the pashas (generals) were continuing to meet and conspire in the attic! There was the danger that the novel might not be published at all. And this was what shocked me. While I was writing Resmigeçit, it was as if a screen had covered my eyes. Like everything else I have written, this novel is also the light of my life.

‘In the novel Resmigeçit, there are very few protagonists for whom I feel any affection.’
    •    Apart from the fact that your novel Resmigeçit can be read as a presentation of ‘non-official and official history’, what do you think that the characteristics distinguishing this book from your other books -and in particular from your other novels- are?
In this novel, I narrated a long, grand story. I made an enormous army march in unison. I wrote about a history of which I knew the beginning and end. It had very few protagonists for whom I felt any affection. I had to switch from one identity to the next even more than usual. For the first time I took the arm of my readers and walked slowly and calmly with them. I told them the story of these times. Satire, irony, poking fun, jokes, mockery, criticism; all of these became my main ingredients. I am an enthusiastic narrator. I used this characteristic of mine for all it is worth.
    •    One thing in particular that stands out for me in the stories and novels that you have written thus far is the form and content of your fiction, which makes you one of the most notable writers of Turkish literature today. One might even say that the harshness of your fiction has enriched it by adding new dimensions to your plot and to the spiritual world of your protagonists. But in Resmigeçit, it is as if you pulled back a little in terms of your general conception of fiction, and foregrounded the plot instead. Is this because you felt the need to infuse the subject matter with a greater sense of reality? What do you think?
It was the first time that I did not feel the need to invent a story. But as you yourself have observed, there is an intrinsic plot. The history had been written. I made a story out of it. It was the first time that I had something that I already roughly knew how it would end. In a country, first a coup happens and then a multi-party system is introduced and that sort of thing... The struggle I faced was in narrating such an gruesome and unfortunate history. Being able to narrate it properly, to have it draw the reader in, to adorn it... I did something that had not yet been done. I wrote a very different political novel. Its difference lies in that it is history told as a story, narrated via political protagonists, and told in a different language.

‘If I had not dedicated myself to writing and to my novels, I might have had a very difficult life.’
    •    In your last three novels you narrate the stories of characters who have lost or are about to lose. In Sarmaşık, Salim Abidin, Ali Ferah, Nadya, and Oleg, in Çöplük, Leyla, and Kama, in Resmigeçit, Messieur Kevork, and Şehmuz. These characters, who are tough, but who still have many breaking points and weaknesses, are placed along the axis of your novels. Could we say that as a writer you have a weakness for characters with weaknesses?
I have always had a special interest in the cripple from birth, the unfortunate, the perennially unhappy, and the unlucky. As for characters with weaknesses... They drift through life in such a way that they think that their weaknesses will console and save them. But that is not how things go. I think that somewhere deep inside, I am afraid of becoming like them. If I had not showed great strength and had not dedicated myself to writing and to my novels, I might have had a difficult life. If I had not had faith in what I wrote, I would again have had difficulties. I saved my neck thanks to the truth that having been able to write these novels was the most important thing. In the case of my poor protagonists, there is no question of such a faith. They do not have any faith. Life has not been kind to them.
    •    In your novels there are houses of change and transformation that disturb, hurt and shake the reader. When you have decided to write a novel, as far as both structure and content are concerned, how do you evaluate the houses of change and transformation within yourself in the particular case of your books?
I am someone who can easily console herself. When I fall down, I get up quickly and continue on my way. I am strong in faith and I am stubborn. And what is more, I am very patient. It is only until I get started on my next novel that troubles plague me. The moment I get a grasp of the novel I’m about to work on, that’s it. After that, my troubles are over. However, I have only recently attained the following state of maturity: I wait for the moment when the novel itself will let itself be written, without torturing myself in the meantime. The story, which is the essence of all, will turn and turn in my mind. I don’t torture myself anymore though, saying, ‘Begin, begin, write, but then what if I can’t do it?’ I tell myself, ‘I am strong enough to extract these novels from inside me, with force if need be.’ It would be enough for me even if only a drop of that strength was left inside me! Nowadays, I am more relaxed while waiting for my next novel.
    •    During a talk about your novel Şarmaşık, you said, ‘The strength and faith of a novel derives from its surprises. I first have the readers follow me, and then I make them believe me. And then after an excuse of not much more than a single sentence, without having to explain myself for long, I have them change their minds and make them believe something else entirely.’ With this in mind, I would like to ask you the following question: What is it that you want to make your readers believe with your novel Resmigeçit?
That the history that they think has happened consists of lies. There is a past that is not very easy to digest. But we ate it up and it is gone. We did not get stomach aches. I believe that my readers, or more precisely Turkish society, has remained stuck in its adolescence. It is very naïve, very childish. They believe everything they are told, they fall for everything they are shown. We have to find a way to make this child grow up. What is more important, a history that nobody wants to be unveiled has to be drunk by the people, in little sips like a bitter medicine. In an affectionate way this child should be made to face its horrible history; the child should be consoled, and be made to understand. In the case of our aspects that the West has difficulty in understanding, I say, ‘To understand them, you have to be Turkish.’ I dream of a society for which I shall not have to use this expression.
    •    There is another thing that has caught my attention in your novel Resmigeçit. With your permission, I would like to talk about it. Resmigeçit is a novel that fluctuates between an absence of thought dominated by political (deriving from the authorities) evil, and an ethical way of acting. It is exactly at this point that I should like to ask you the following question: While in the stories and novels you have written up to now there is a very clear sense of ‘play’ or ‘trickery’, in this novel you have not used this feeling. Could you tell us the reasons why you have not used it in this case?
This time, all I wanted to do was to narrate. I wanted to show. I hid my tricks within the surprises in the narrative: my representing Keje, the events while having Messieur Kevork look for his home, and the way Bülent Paye and Banu Ballı infiltrated the world of politics. Actually, having so many characters all together is a trick in itself. The way the parade in Resmigeçit does not suffer any glitch, and the way they all march in unison, is the greatest trick. The fact that at the end of the novel Messieur Kevork does and says something that could be considered to my signature move could be proof that I have not stopped being a trickster, but only that I am exhibiting a different type of skill.
    •    In an interview for your novel you say that, ‘History should be read from the correct perspective.’ Could you explain this a little?
If we had been able to read history from the correct perspective, we would by now have a well rooted democracy. We have all turned into freaks as a result of such promiscuous contact with such a grotequely distorted history. Novels have the strength to show us things in all their clarity. They encourage us to see and to hear. I would like a novel of myself to do this in my country, and to have its people face their shameful past, which they have not been able to face, and to console them.
    •    In Resmigeçit there are many interwoven plots, but in addition to this, you also stress elements like irony, tragicomedy, fantasy, dream and reality, and the unconsciousness that has seeped into the subconscious of society. I think that it is for the first time in your novel writing that you face off with official and unofficial history. When you think of the reasons and results of this, what could you say in conclusion?
We have reached the point at which more of the same would simply be unbearable. In this country, instead of democratising and taking a path lined by rose gardens, we have been trudging through a marsh, and we have all fallen ill. It is as if this illness has seeped into everything. Into personal relations, the media, literature, urban planning, social life, everything... I came to the conclusion that all this destruction and vandalism needed to be described. When will this country be happy? Perhaps when it perceives correctly what has happened? For example, when it says, ‘The people behind the coups have done a terrible, dirty deed and need to be punished.’ If a society fails to perceive events in this way, then that country will always be ruled by evil people. My most basic protest is this. This novel is the novel of this protest, of a rebellion.

‘Even having to live on avenues and squares named after people who have committed crimes against humanity, is in itself a source of inspiration for this novel.’
-    Undoubtedly, for a historian it is a great success to be able to delve into the private lives of characters, whose lives ‘are so long as to be a history within history.’ This is what I am curious about: what did you read so as to be able to write about all these characters?
I realised that I have been gaping at all of them in wonder for years. I remember the portraits of leaders in the years before 1980, when I was a tiny child. The house of supporters of Demirel, the house of supporters of Ecevit, those who supported Türkeş... I realised that as a result of my curiosity, for years I had been reading a lot of stuff that might be called rubbish. Luckily, all this material ended up serving a purpose. When fascists write their memoirs, they are patriots, while when others talk about rights, legality, justice, and equality they become traitors.  Even having to live on avenues and squares named after people who have committed crimes against humanity, is in itself a source of inspiration for this novel.
We lived through dirty historical events like the pogrom of 6th - 7th September, and the massacres of Maraş and Sivas. I consider your novel to be a protest against official history, a wish to use your right of response. What would you like to say about this?
Yes. I object to a dirty history written by evil people, and to which good people have been subjected! I have an objection to having to forget, and to ignore. I object to having to live in promiscuous vicinity with shameful events accepted by the whole world, but which we do not see. I think that all the witnesses of the country’s dirty history should talk and be made to talk. I did this in the country suspended between dream and reality described in Resmigeçit. I wrote a history that would have been written in the same way by anyone possessing a conscience. I wrote the history that cannot be told in this country of those who went through hell in Diyarbakır Prison, of Armenians, and of Kurds.
And finally, what is Şebnem İşigüzel planning to write after this novel?
I am telling the story of a 12 year old girl who kills her mother.