I asked Peirene to accompany me. But I didn’t reckon with her ancient Greek prejudice. ‘The Turks are a wicked nation. They invade everyone and want to rule the world.’ I suggested that it’d be good for her to come, if only to realize that most modern Turks are probably peace-loving. She shrugged her shoulders: ‘If you insist. But I am sure we won’t find any Turkish literature worthy of me.’
The first day she continued to moan. I started regretting bringing her. We had to sit through a number of official speeches. She rolled her eyes. ‘This is a waste of my time,’ she whispered loudly into my ear. ‘I could have stayed at my desk and been far more productive.’ I told her to be quiet otherwise I really would put her on the next plane back to London.
In the evening we went to dinner with agents and publishers from Istanbul. The next morning our tailored programme kicked off – brunch with eight Turkish authors, followed by meetings with agents, and culminating in a classy dinner on the banks of the Bosphorus. We ended the evening at a party in the Bohemian district of Istanbul, where Peirene chatted with an author. He told her about the rich traditions of poetry and folk song in the Turkish culture. ‘And this is why” he continued, ’we may do better with novellas than long novels.’
By the time we arrived back at the hotel, Peirene’s mood had changed. ‘What a great insight into the Turkish publishing world.’ She sparkled with enthusiasm. ‘I am sure we will be able to find some truly exciting books.’
‘So, it took one good-looking author to change your mind about an entire nation?!’ I couldn’t help teasing her.
She tried to frown but smiled instead. ‘He knew what he was talking about.’
To cut a long story short: The Nymph and I are now convinced that we will discover true Turkish lit gems – perhaps not full-length novels but something shorter, something closer to poetry, with different voices and unique narratives that might offer new ways of understanding our human condition.
‘I think we Greeks have much in common with the Turks,’ Peirene asserted as we arrived back at Heathrow. ‘Perhaps we can find a Turkish writer for our 2014 list”. Perhaps we can.
Image by The Pink Princess.