The Naïve and the Sentimentalist Novelist by Orhan Pamuk

I must confess… I did it again. I started reading a book in one language and finished it in another one with lots of swapping between the two along the way. I did it with George Elliot’s The Mill on the Floss as with Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. But this time, it’s Orhan Pamuk’s The Naïve and The Sentimentalist Novelist.

Orhan Pamuk

The problem is I’m not that comfortable with writing terminology in Turkish. All the books I read about writing so far are in English. I can safely say that I may have filled the gap a little by reading The Naïve and The Sentimentalist Novelist. And when I look back, I notice that I actually took more notes in Turkish than in English.

The book is a selection of Orhan Pamuk’s talks he delivered at Harvard as part of the Norton Lecture series and it’s about understanding what happens when we write and read novels—as it says on the cover. However, The Naïve and the Sentimentalist Novelist reveals a number of secrets of novel writing. And, that on its own is a total gem.

Before I get to the part of my highlights from the book—although it’s a bit tricky with this one as I have some highlights in Turkish and some in English—I have a list of books, plays and essays mentioned in the book.

Arabian Nights (Thousand and One Nights)
Old Masters by Thomas Bernard
The Red and The Black by Stendhal
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Ulysses by James Joyce
Swann in Love by Marcel Proust
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
Nana by Emile Zola
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Golden Bowl by Henry James
Confessions by Jean-Jacque Rousseau
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Miser by Molière
The Miraculous Years by Joseph Frank
Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster
Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec
Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne
The Novel as a Spectacle (essay from The Uses of Literature) by Italo Calvino
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
The Son of a Servant by August Strindberg
Sylvie by Gérard de Nerval
The Theory of the Novel by György Lukács
Three Trapped Tigers by Cabrera Infante
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
Naomi by Junichito Tanizaki
The Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar

Books by Dostoyevsky:
Brothers Karamazov

Books by Lev Tolstoy:
Anna Karenina
War and Peace

Books by Charles Dickens:
Oliver Twist
David Copperfield

Books by Virginia Woolf:
The Waves
Mrs. Dalloway

Books by William Faulkner:
Old Man
The Sound and The Fury
The White Palms
As I Lay Dying

Books by Thomas Mann:
The Magic Mountain
Buddenbrooks

And my highlights from the book:
I would like to reveal to you two of my beliefs, which are firm and strong, as well as contradictory. But first allow me to set the context. In 2008, I published in Turkey a novel entitled The Museum of Innocence. This novel is concerned with (among other things) the actions and feelings of a man called Kemal, who is deeply and obsessively in love. It wasn’t long before I began receiving the following question from a number of readers, who apparently thought that his love was described in a highly realistic manner: “Mr. Pamuk, did all this actually happen to you? Mr. Pamuk, are you Kemal?”
So now let me give you my two contradictory answers, both of which I believe sincerely:
1. “No, I am not my hero Kemal.”
2. “But it would be impossible for me to ever convince readers of my novel that I am not Kemal.”

I wouldn’t want these words to suggest that I hope such agreement will be reached. On the contrary, the art of the novel draws its power from the absence of a perfect consensus between writer and reader on the understanding of fiction. Readers and authors acknowledge and agree on the fact that novels are neither completely imaginary nor completely factual.

Wondering about which parts are based on real-life experience and which parts are imagined is but one of the pleasures we find in reading a novel.

To read a novel is to wonder constantly, even at moments when we lose ourselves most deeply in the book: How much of this is fantasy, and how much is real?

At the heart of the novelist’s craft lies an optimism which thinks that the knowledge we gather from our everyday experience, if given proper form, can become valuable knowledge about reality.

Eventually, we come to love certain novels because we have expended so much imaginative labour on them. This is why we hang on to those novels, whose pages are creased and dog-eared.

In order to find meaning and readerly pleasure in the universe the writer reveals to us, we feel we must search for the novel’s secret centre, and we therefore try to embed every detail of the novel in our memory, as if learning each leaf of a tree by heart.

…the task of writing a novel is to imagine a world–a world that first exists as a picture before it eventually takes the form of words. Only later do we express through words the picture we imagine, so that readers can share this product of the imagination.

To derive pleasure from a novel is to enjoy the act of departing from words and transforming these things into images in our mind.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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I’ve been wanting to read The Rosie Project for some time. I even got myself a library card for the sake of reading it but I just didn’t. When I found a second-hand copy of it at Salvation Army shop, … Continue reading

Book Journal: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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Book Journal: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Read on April 29 2017 I absolutely loved this book: the title, characters, transformation they all go through as a family after Gregor’s illness which transforms him from a useful bread winner to … Continue reading

Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler by Nazım Hikmet

I have recently read/listened Nazım Hikmet’s Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler which lead me to write this post.

It’s a poetry book of Nazım Hikmet in Turkish and it comes with a CD. I remember buying it from Turkey during one of my trips.

Nazım Hikmet

There is an interesting story behind the book and its recording. Since you cannot get the book in English, I thought I would write about it for English speaking Nazım Hikmet fans out there. Kathryn Stripling Byer in particular who was one of the judges of Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival in North Carolina.

The CD contains real recording of Nazım’s voice, reading out his own poems. There are two poems in the recording which are new to Nazım’s fans one way or another. One of them has never been published before, neither in Turkish nor in Russian. The other one was published in Russian but not in Turkish.

The Story of the Tape Recording
Nazım Hikmet and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (another famous Turkish poet) got together in Paris, perhaps in 1961 to record Nazim’s voice, reading out his own poems. At the time, everything about Nazım Hikmet was banned. As a precaution, Eyüboğlu starts reading one of his own poems, Mor (Purple) in the beginning to make it sound like it’s him all the way through, not Nazım Hikmet.

The book and the CD contain fifty-eight poems by Nazım Hikmet. I must admit, his voice is nothing like I expected to a degree that I’m now struggling to match his face to his voice.

Hiding the Recording
Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu constantly changed the hiding place of the recording in his home as the place was raided and searched by the police regularly. Eventually, after Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s death, Mehmet Eyüboğlu (his son) and Hughette Eyüboğlu (daughter-in-law) inherited the reel. However, it was after Mehmet Eyüboğlu’s death, his wife decided that it was time for the recording to be published.

Because the recording was always well hidden, when Hughette Eyüboğlu finally decided that it was time to hand it over to Eyüboğlu’s publisher (İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları), it took her a week to locate it within the house. She was also looking for something else: Nazım’s portrait done by his mother, Cemile. Nazım had given it to Badri Rahmi Eyüboğlu years ago (see photo below). Now, it’s in the inner cover of this book, protecting the CD.

Nazım Hikmet

Copyright Issues
After the famous ‘Nazım Hikmet’ ban was lifted, all of his poetry was published by Yapı Kredi Yayınları. On the other hand, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s publisher was İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. Since there are poems in the book which have been published before, you would expect some copyright issues here, wouldn’t you? However, through a unique collaboration between the heirs and the publishers, it wasn’t a problem. Everyone seemed to have focused on getting the book out unconditionally. And for that reason, the book has two publishers.

Nazım Hikmet may not have been able to return to Turkey or even burried there but because of this unique book/CD, at least his voice returned to his beloved country. It just took some fifty years, that’s all.

Happy New Year!

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
― Neil Gaiman

Happy Holidays!

After NaNoWriMo 2016 (National Novel Writing Month)

NaNoWriMo 2016

On November 30, I typed in ‘The End’ and finished my new novel; Bonded in Heaven as part of NaNoWriMo 2016. We celebrated with a bottle of vintage Morton.

This year, I wasn’t well prepared—just a very big research on each character and their countries, that’s all. And yet, I managed to write 60,433 words in 30 days. Well, two of those words are ‘the end’ of course and you might like to subtract them from the total word count. But if you do, I name one of my nasty characters in my next book and kill you!

Last year, I hit 50,000 words benchmark pretty much around the same time as I did this year but the story wasn’t finished. I stopped writing. I thought I would go back and finish the manuscript during January. I didn’t. Once I was out of dangerous waters and swam to safety, I simply wanted to stay there. On top of that, I had no idea about tying up the lose ends and conclude the story. The idea of the right series of events to match the ending I had planned came to me very recently. It’s scribbled on a tiny piece of paper, waiting to be inserted into the novel now. I promised myself not to make the same mistake with my second book. So, I now have a finished shitty first draft.

Even though I wasn’t at all prepared for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I had cleared my schedule properly; I cancelled my singing lessons, didn’t go out much, didn’t even shave (much), got groceries and everything else (sometimes even meals) delivered, Olly didn’t get a bath and remained in his ‘skunk’ state till the end of NaNoWriMo 2016.

The topic of Bonded in heaven was an incredibly difficult one to write. It is the kind that makes my blood boil, shreds my insides and turn them out to expose to the outside world. On top of that, I killed six ‘darlings’ in my novel while I was carrying their load all the way through November. I lived with those imaginary people who became very real for me in the end. Actually, each one is based on a true story. It was pretty hard going, Peoples.

NaNoWriMo 2016

Now that I finished my shitty first draft, I can shelve the manuscript for at least 6 weeks before I go back and edit and rewrite (you know how it works). In the meantime, I need to shave, give Olly a bath, clean the house, book a hair appointment, mail Xmas cards and put the tree up or even order my NaNoWriMo winner t-shirt. While I’m doing all of that, I will also be visiting my last year’s manuscript and finally finish it. Promise.

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo and panicking

NaNoWriMo

It is that time of the year again and I am preparing myself for another writing marathon during NaNoWriMo. This time with another story, another theme, different to what I wrote last year.

What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who don’t know. It is pronounced as “na-no-rye-moh” however, I pronounce it as “nah-no-wree-moh” because I’m me. It’s a one month challenge of writing a complete novel from start to finish. And you are expected to write 50,000 or more. Yes, in just 30 days!

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the process. The NaNoWriMo website provides participants all kinds of support. At this point of novel writing, you are not expected to write well; you just need to hit the mark. So, this is the time for shitty first drafts; not literary fantabulousim.

NaNoWriMo comes around every year and asks you to write your novel. For me, last year was my first time. And I did write over 50,000 words —got the t-shirt which I am wearing now.

This year I am a little behind my preparations, to be honest. Although, I have been planning on writing a book about crimes against women in Middle East and Africa for a long time, it took me ages to come up with an idea around how I was going to structure or present the book. When I finally figured it out, I also started to panic. Because, at that time NaNoWriMo was just around the corner.

Is it easy to write 50,000 words in a month, you may ask? I’m not going to lie; it is absolutely not easy. It’s just possible with a little bit of planning, preparation and Scrivener.

Now, if you please excuse me, I have some planning to do. My Scrivener awaits…

Evening Class: The very first book I read in English

Evening Class

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy: The Very First Book I read in English.

I remember making an attempt to read The Outsiders in the 80s and after several trips to my dictionary while reading the first page, I decided to give up. Years later, I made another attempt to read Misery or Insomnia —can’t remember—by Stephen King and that didn’t get me anywhere either. The truth is, my English wasn’t good enough at the time and it wasn’t going to be good enough until year 2000. It was only then did I manage to read a book in English. And that book was Evening Class by Maeve Binchy.

Evening Class was also the first book I had read by Maeve Binchy. A friend of mine recommended and lent it to me at the same time. Of course, I didn’t know that the author actually carried several characters from her books into other novels.

The Plot
Evening Class is story about a bunch of Dubliners who come together two evenings a week to study Italian and the culture of Italy. Each chapter in the book is narrated by a different character, revealing their backstories, secrets, hopes and dreams. And the story flows like you wouldn’t believe. I couldn’t put the book down although it was written in a foreighn language.

Maeve Binchy is, without a doubt, one of the best story-tellers of our time. Her characters are so alive and well developed. Her stories have layers, richness, depth and her style wraps you up like a warm blanket.

Years later, after I had read Evening Class, I read several of Maeve Binchy books like Nights of Rain and Stars, The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club and Tara Road —the movie was a disappointment, don’t you think? But, Evening Class was my first love and will always be my favourite.

Scrivener Writing Software; using it, loving it

Scrivener

I use Scrivener and I am absolutely loving it! It is the coolest, sexiest writing software ever!

I came into this writing business late. Very late. One of the reasons why it took me ages to start writing is this: a novel is a very large piece of writing and if you’re new in this game —like me —there is a very good chance of creating a pile of “unflushable” mess. I’m Virgo Peoples; I hate clutter: I hate disorganised work or anything for that matter: I can’t even function in a cluttered environment. Just by typing these words of disorder, disarray, unorganised, I can feel that my heart is pounding, my mouth is dry, absolutely can’t breathe. And I haven’t even typed my first “once upon a time” yet!

Luckily, Scrivener came into my life at the right time. I stopped procrastinating and started writing. It helped me tidy up my research, develop my plot and characters and during NaNoWriMo last year, I even managed to write over 50,000 words. All because of Scrivener.

Yes, I know the fact that I bought Scrivener before I even started to write and it’s a bit like trying on shoes before you actually learn to walk but Scrivener was the one for me. It was love at first free trial. Especially, after trying out yWrite. Although yWrite is a free application and it is relatively easy to learn, I thought it was clunky. In the end yWrite and I didn’t gel. So I broke up with yWrite and decided to take up on a younger software. 🙂

Most writers would tell you how drastically Scrivener had changed their writing. Well, I can’t say that for myself because before Scrivener, I didn’t have a writing practice. But now, I do have one because of it.

Scrivener may look quite intimidating at first although it has many useful, cool features. Ask anyone; they will all tell you that there is a steep learning curve. However, there are books and courses. I will talk about that and more in my next post on the topic.