Through the Night program
on TRT Radio 1
13 June 2011
“I have written Fall Scented Sins to salute my favorite 19th century novelists and to pay my debt of gratitude to them.”
Hakan Yaman, the author of Fall Scented Sins is our guest on Through the Night program tonight. Welcome!
Fall Scented Sins is Hakan Yaman’s third novel. First one was The Wings of Israfel, and the second one was The Woman in the Photograph.
Yes, Fall Scented Sins which had been published in April is my last novel.
Let’s advise to our listeners that you won the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize with The Woman in the Photograph in 2009. Fall Scented Sins is expressed Levantine life in Izmir in 1870s. How did this idea come to your mind? I know that it is fiction. You haven’t written it with the inspiration of a true story. But why that period and why those people?
This was in fact a novel that I have thought over for a long time. I think that this is neither similar to my previous novels nor to the future ones. I used to read very much the 19th century novelists before I started to write and I had been influenced very deeply by them.
Who were they?
In the first instance, authors such as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Balzac, Andre Gidé… I can say that I have written this novel to salute them, to pay my debt of gratitude. Yes, there are Levantines, and Izmir as a back ground but I also have chosen one of the most popular topics of the 19th century for my novel.
What is it?
The betrayal of a married woman is one of the most well known topics of the 19th century novel as you know.
Yes, Madame Bovary is the most popular one. Anna Karenina of Tolstoy and the third one less know comparing to these is Effi Briest by German author, Thedore Fontane. First common trait of these three is the titles. Titles of the three are all the names of the woman protagonists. Second is that the protagonists all die at the end. Madame Bovary commits suicide, Anna Karenina does the same and Effi Briest dies by an illness at the end of the novel. While I was trying to salute 19th century novelists I have especially chosen this topic and tried to make a contemporary interpretation of it. I don’t how much I have been successful on this. Izmir was a city, very similar to Europe in those years. Life styles of the inhabitants of the city, their dresses and the architecture of the city… Therefore I have used Turkey and Izmir as a background to my novel. This novel will stay anomalistic among my other novel. I have written it to the 19th century novelist whom I believe that I have a debt to pay to.
“This novel will stay anomalistic among my other novels.”
It is a very clear reason. I thought while you explained. Why the topic of betrayal of a woman was so popular for the novels of that period?
Yes indeed. It was very popular in the nineteenth century. I guess the betrayal of man was a common phenomenon. Therefore it might not have been found worthy to write. And betrayal of a woman is always more attracting. Same topic is also used today. I just tried to make a contemporary interpretation of this 19th century topic.
How long did it take to complete the novel?
Three years. I needed to make many researches. Izmir city in those years, ruins of the Seven Churches… There is an English traveler who went on a trip to Seven Churches in those years. His name is Arundell. I have also read his books about his trips to Seven Churches. I had written my novel by making very deep researches. I can say that one year of the total three had passed with these researches.
These churches are Ephesus…
Yes, Smyrna (Izmir), Ephesus, Laodicea, Thyatira, Pergamum, Sardis and Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is very interesting. We have discovered in another “Through the Night” program that there is also a Philadelphia in Turkey. We used to know only the one in USA until that day.
Yes, but the eponym of Philadelphia in USA is the Philadelphia in Turkey.
It is a name from the Bible. Moreover, all the seven churches are the places mentioned in the New Testament.
Can you tell us a bit about the story of the Seven Churches? What are the historical facts related with these churches?
These churches are still holy places of visit. Some Christians still come as pilgrims to visit these places. These trips hadn’t been made only in the past. Our people do not know much about this but the pilgrimage is still continuing. These churches which are mentioned in Revelation of the New Testament are holy churches of the early Christianity. When we say the churches, we mean the communities not the buildings in these regions. These churches are all very venerable places for the Christianity.
We probably may not be wrong if we say that there is a group of friends who goes on pilgrimage to the Seven Churches in the Fall Scented Sins.
It is a journey of a group, educated in Catholic system though they live their lives in a very modern ways. They go on a trip with leadership of Alfredo Vitelli, the protagonist of the novel. Alfredo’s friend, a French archeologist guides them during the journey. A priest, father
“In fact, the novel starts and ends in one second.”
Francesco, Alfredo’s partner, his wife, his poet friend and his girlfriend Gabriella are with them al through the journey. A crowded group of people…
And it’s a very colorful group…
Yes indeed. Many different characters are together. They go on this trip starting from Izmir. And then Ephesus…A part of the trip can be made by the train in those days. But they continue on horseback and by horse carts after that. It is a very hard and tiring trip. Events take place during this trip. Novel in fact starts with the day when Alfredo gets to know about the betrayal of his wife and ends within the same day.
Only twenty four hours…
No, not even twenty four hours. In fact, the novel starts and ends within one second. The novel ends between two numbers that Alfredo’s is counting to commit suicide, between forty nine and fifty.
Alfredo thinks to commit suicide after counting 50 and the whole novel is set between forty nine and fifty. Let me not explain the rest.
Yes, do not explain the rest, because there is serious surprise in the end. After Alfredo happens to know about the betrayal of his wife the novel continues with the flashbacks and with the diary of his wife.
Isabella is telling the story of trip in her diary. We start to watch the trip from her diary after a while. After leaving Alfredo at his terrace the story goes parallel with the Isabella’s diary and of course with the narration of the narrators until the end.
In the meantime, this is a kind of splitting for an author. Isn’t it? Writing the diary and also the narrator…
Yes, this is a difficulty. Novels are usually expressed by a single narrator. The first-person or the third-person singular… But I like these difficulties. I like to continue the novel in the role of a narrator while I write a diary as a woman. I also had taken over a similar difficulty in my first novel. I guess I like the novels which give me trouble. I had written a topic which goes parallel between 1950s and 1700s in my first novel, The Wings of Israfel. It had two big difficulties. It was difficult to set a harmony within the sequences. But I like these difficulties. I like to write novels by searching. I tried to select topics which give me a chance to make researches on behind.
Maybe the different doors are opening in your life with each and every novel you write.
Yes, I search for different subjects for each novel. For instance, 1800s, Izmir, books about Christianity, lives of the Levantines for this novel. We have a remarkable Levantine population in Turkey.
They were more powerful in the nineteenth century I think.
They were more crowded in those days. They live as a color with their cultures, languages in our society.
Are they pleased
They are happy. Most of them are merchants. They are the ones who taught commerce to Turks. In this respect, they have respectful statues in the society. I also would like to give place to them in this novel. There were other minorities, Greek, Armenian, Jewish citizens in my first novel, The Wings of Israfel. I like to write with all the colors of Turkey.
The Woman in the Photograph is rather different than other two I guess.
We can consider these two as historical novels in some ways. In the respect that both of them pass in the past. The Woman in the Photograph passes in today. And we listen to everything from voice of Suphi, the protagonist; it is a novel, narrated by the first-person singular. In this sense, it is naturally broken apart from others.
Now, let’s go back to the Fall Scented Sins. It is autumn in the novel. So let’s have a rest while listening to an autumn song. After the song we will of course continue our interview with Hakan Yaman about his novel and his authorship.
“I like to write with all the colors of Turkey.”
Yes, it is fall in he Fall Scented Sins. Is there any special reason?
No, the fall has no special meaning. But I like it. I actually like all the seasons. We tried to publish it in the fall. But it couldn’t be possible due to the congestion in my publisher. We could only have it published in spring.
Maybe we should do it in the beginning. Let’s introduce Hakan Yaman to our listeners; his adventure of authorship and his life besides his novels… You are also working in a different sector.
I am a sales director, working for a company in private sector. I am doing this job since a long time. My authorship began as amateur and professionalized in times.
How did it start?
It started in 1985. I was actually writing some short staff in the university days. Short stories etc., like everyone does in the beginning. Then I stopped writing in the 1990s. I almost didn’t write a single sentence but never stayed apart from literature. I always tried to be in the literature. Then I started to write again in 2000.
I graduated from Marmara University, School of Foreign Languages. My wife supported me a lot. I would like to thank her from here. With her support, in 2006 I have finished my first unfinished novel which I started in 2000. This novel was the Wings of Israfel. It had been published in 2007. You get into the professionals’ track after you got one book published. A year later my second book was published.
On top of it you had won the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize with this novel.
Yes, my second novel had won the Yunus Nadi Novel Prize in 2009. This encouraged me. And I had my new novel Fall Scented Sins published I 2011.
Not as solo but your authorship will continue with your job I guess. It is naturally so difficult.
Yes, it is not quite possible to make your living only with writing in Turkey. Especially, for the authors who do not write best-sellers, in inverted commas or who do not make popular literature. Researches, books about history and politics, popular literature and the best-seller categories are mostly sold.
How are these lists made? Do you have any critics on this? How they chose a book to a best-seller list?
These are made by the literature environments. They specify which books will be in the best-seller lists. They chose easy-reading, easy-consuming books. But this happens also in music, in cinema, in all the fields of art. Popular, easy-consuming, easy-selling books, leaving no trace behind are on one side, hard-consuming but persistent art is on the other. This is the same everywhere in the world; in USA, in UK, in France.
But only these best-sellers are read in the countries reading less like Turkey.
Certainly, more books are read in these countries comparing to Turkey. Therefore, literature works such as stories and novels are also read in USA and Europe. But only popular books are read in Turkey, because we are reading less.
I mean, books become only selling rather best-selling here.
Unfortunately, this is the situation in Turkey today.
It seems that it is difficult to carry out authorship and also your job in another sector but we have a very serious sample on our hands which had been written in 3 years. Can it be better if you can be able to focus only on writing?
I don’t know. It may affect my creativity negatively. I didn’t write only by focusing on writing so far. Writing was always one of the two of my occupations.
Do you write more at nights?
I especially use the late hours of the nights. I think that there is a romance at these hours. I also love nights very much. I like to write when it is quite in the dead of the night.
Do you have a plan, a regular program between certain hours to write ever night?
No, I do not have such a discipline. But every week I try to complete the number of the pages I plan previously, but only in the period of writing my novels. For instance, I write nothing nowadays. My last novel had been published in April. I will rest until the autumn.
Do you have a novel in mind?
There is a rough draft. I take some notes. I didn’t start to write yet. I definitely find some time to myself to write in week days during my writing periods. And try to match the number of pages I plan to write. I drive a long way between my office and the house. The traffic jam in Istanbul during the rush hours is inevitable. So, I think I turn this negativity to a positive result by myself. I plan my novels while I am driving my car in the traffic. I take notes to my voice recorder. I create the installation, the characters of the novels in the car, because I find much time to think in my car.
Do you drive the car?
Yes, but the traffic doesn’t move so much. Stop-and-go… You know the traffic in Istanbul.
Do you cross the bridge?
I cross the bridge. But when you cross it from European side to the Asian you don’t really drive the car. The car goes by it self
I use the traffic jam in the mornings and evenings.
Then I gather my notes at home and write. Maybe this tempo is helping me to create the novels. I don’t know whether I can be so creative if I only write in the future.
Don’t quit your job then. You are also reading on one hand. Are there any preferences of Hakan Yaman?
I try to read as many books as I can from the contemporary writers to the classics. I read both Turkish and foreign authors. I have no specific authors who I follow.
But you don’t read best-seller, do you?
No, not the best-sellers of course… I try to stay out of them. I try to read the novels of the qualified authors. I am a good reader in the same time.
Are you a good observer? Because I believe that an author must look around seeing the details and keep all what he has seen in mind like the actors.
I think I am, because if you are not a good or even an average observer you can hardly write. Literature is the abstraction of real life. You have to observe life quite good to abstract it. People like the fictions because somebody is cleaning up their lives from all the confusions and re-present them. They like to read their lives as a book, watch as film or a drama in theatre.
You mean we find ourselves in them, our own stories, personalities…
Definitely, this attracts people. They are attracted when somebody presents their own lives more comprehensively by abstracting it, because life is chaotic. We don’t really understand what’s happening while we are living in this chaos. When somebody who recognizes what really is going on comes and says, “Look, this is what’s happening around you.” he becomes author and we the reader..
We have mentioned in the first part of our interview. Isabella’s diary has an important place in the Fall Scented Sins. How did you manage to write this diary like a woman? Not only splitting up, but also regarding everything as a woman must be difficult. I guess it is a different talent in the adventure of your authorship to narrate the feelings of an opposite sex to the readers.
Yes, as I have previously mentioned, this was one of the difficulties I have put in front of me before I start this novel. I have read the diaries, written by the woman travelers who have visited Turkey in those years to be able to do this.
Yes, I have benefited these diaries pretty much.
How did you reach them?
You can find some of these books in the market. Some are translated into Turkish, some are in English. Most of the writes of these diaries are English. I have also benefited from other diaries, written by French woman writers and by English authors like Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. I had to read these diaries again and again to write like a woman. This wasn’t so easy.
It is a style that turns Alfredo off, isn’t it? “What a long she has written.” he says.
Yes, it is not easy for a man. In fact, there is a very recent and still continuing dispute about it. Naipaul has made a statement which has saddened women.
Yes, he has stated that women can not write as deep as the men can. I do not agree his idea. I think there are many women writers who can do it. I benefited from woman writers for the diary. But besides I tried to use the style of 19th century novel for the narrator while I tried to salute 19th century novelists who influenced me, who had burned my first sparkles to write.
I tried to do a kind of contemporary interpretation but also to give the taste of the 19th century novel. I hope I succeeded.
What are the features of that style or taste?
It is not so easy to express this. Let me tell you this way. It is a taste that the reader of French and Russian classics can enjoy.
Then, to the fans of that taste… And let us also remind that the Fall Scented Sins had been published by Dogan Kitap. Finally, is there any clue for the next novel? Can you share it with us if you have any new story in your mind?
I can not share the story but I can only say that it will be a novel similar to my second novel.
Similar to the Woman in the Photograph?
Yes, it will have some similarities to it I guess.
Well, then we will wait impatiently. Thank you again.
I thank you to give me this opportunity.