Life

Discovering my Father’s Secret Passion: How Reading his Notebooks Helped Me Understand Him as a Writer

  Two years before his death, my father gave me a small suitcase filled with his manuscripts and notebooks. In his usual joking tone, he asked me to read it after he left, which meant that he passed away.
  ”Just take a look,” he said, looking a little embarrassed, “and see if there’s anything you can use in it. Maybe when I leave, you can pick something to publish.”
  We are here in my In the study room, surrounded by books. My father was looking for a place to put his suitcase down, walking back and forth like a man eager to get rid of some painful baggage. Finally, he quietly placed the box in an uncovered corner.
  It’s an embarrassing moment that none of us will ever forget, but once it passes and we return to our usual roles, life becomes easy and our fun-loving and playful personalities return, there’s no tension anymore. We talked like we used to, talking about everyday things, Turkey’s endless political troubles, and my father’s nearly failed business, without feeling too sad.
  I remember that after my father left, I walked around the suitcase for several days without touching it. I am already very familiar with this small black leather suitcase, its lock, and its rounded corners. My father often took it with him when he was not traveling for short distances, and sometimes used it to carry documents to work.
  I remember that when my father came back from traveling when I was young, I would open this small suitcase and go through his things, smelling the perfume that foreign countries brought to the box. This box is an old acquaintance to me, a souvenir that evokes vivid memories of my childhood, but now I dare not even touch it. Why? No doubt this was due to the mysterious weight of its contents.
  Now I come to the significance of these weights. This is something created by a person who closes himself in a room and sits at a desk. It is a person who retreats to a corner to express his thoughts – this is the meaning of literature.
  I was almost afraid to touch my father’s suitcase or open it, but I knew what was written in some of the notebooks inside. I had seen my father writing something in some of these notebooks. This was not the first time I was aware of the heavy contents of this suitcase.
  My father had a large study room. When he was young, in Istanbul in the late 1940s, he hoped to become a poet and translated the French poet Valery into Turkish. However, in a The life of a writer who writes poetry in a poor country with few readers is not the life my father wanted to live.
  My grandfather was a wealthy businessman, so my father lived a comfortable life as a young man during his childhood and adolescence. He did not want to endure hardship for the sake of literature and writing. He loves a glamorous life, and I can understand that.
  There was an uneasiness that kept me at a distance from the contents of my father’s suitcase, starting with the fear that I wouldn’t like what I read. My father had anticipated this and deliberately acted as if he didn’t care about the contents of the box.
  It saddens me to see this after twenty-five years of writing. But I didn’t want to be angry with my father, blaming him for not taking literature seriously… My real fear, the key thing I didn’t want to know or discover, was that my father might become a good writer. Because of this fear I was afraid to open my father’s suitcase. What’s worse is that I can’t admit it publicly to myself.
  If true and great literature emerged from my father’s suitcase, I would have to admit that in my father there existed a very different man. This is a frightening possibility. Because even when I reach adulthood, I still want my father to be just my father, not a writer.
  To be a writer means for me the patient attempt, over many years, to discover another secret being within myself, an inner world that makes me who I am:
  when I think of writing, the first thing that comes to my mind is not a novel, not a novel. A poem, or literary tradition, is about a person closing himself in a room, sitting at a table, alone, and turning inwards. In the shadow of his heart, he built a world with words. This man or woman may be using a typewriter, or taking advantage of the comfort and convenience of a computer, or putting pen to paper, as I have been doing for thirty years.
  He could drink tea and coffee while writing, or smoke while writing. Sometimes he would get up from the table and look through the window at the children playing in the street, or if he was lucky, he would see the woods, the scenery, or he would just witness a black wall. He can write poetry, he can write plays, or he can write novels, just like me. All of these differences begin with the difficult task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inward.
  To write is to turn inward and gaze at words, to study the world into which one retreats and through which one passes, and this requires patience, perseverance, and enjoyment.
  As I sit at my desk, slowly adding new words to the blank page for days, months, and years, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing myself into my The presence of another person within is like one building a bridge or a vault, stone by stone. And the stones we writers use are words. We hold words in our hands, feel the way their stones connect to each other, sometimes observe them from a distance, weigh their weight, change their position, and year after year, patiently and hopefully, we create A new world emerges.
  The secret of a writer is not inspiration, because no one can tell where inspiration comes from. The secret of a writer is stubbornness and patience. In my novel “My Name is Red”, when I wrote about the ancient Persian miniaturists who painted the same horse with unchanging enthusiasm for many years, remembering every stroke accurately, they could even recreate the beauty with their eyes closed. Horses, actually I was talking about my writing career and my own life.
  If a writer is telling his or her own story—tell it slowly and as if she is telling stories about other people. If he is feeling this story coming from within him, if he sits down at the table and devotes himself patiently to this art – this craft – he should first be endowed with some hope.
  Angels of inspiration (angels who visit some people regularly and seldom visit others) prefer those who are full of hope and confidence, and this happens when the writer feels most lonely, when the writer is obsessed with his own efforts and dreams. The moment when he is most doubtful about the value of his writing, when he thinks his story is just his story, it is at this moment that the angels choose him to reveal to him stories, images, dreams that can describe him The world that hope creates.
  If I look back at the books I have devoted my whole life to writing, what surprises me the most are those moments when I felt that the sentences, dreams, manuscripts, etc. that made me so crazy and joyful were not my own. Imagination, but another power found them and presented them to me generously.
  I’m afraid to open my father’s suitcase, afraid to read his notebooks, because I know that he will not endure the hardships that I have endured. What he loves is not being alone, but being surrounded by friends, mingling with people, going in and out of salons, joking and having someone to accompany him. . But then my thoughts took a different turn. These ideas, these dreams of renunciation and patience, are my biases drawn from my own life, my own experiences as a writer.
  There are many outstanding writers who write when surrounded by crowds and warm family life, in warm communication and pleasant conversations. Furthermore, when we were still young, my father, tired of the monotony of family life, left us alone and went to Paris. There, like many writers, he sat in a hotel room filling out his notebooks.
  I also know that some of the notebooks from that time are in this suitcase. Because in the years before he gave me the box, my father began to talk to me about that period of life. He spoke of those years when I was a child, but he was reluctant to mention his vulnerability, his dream of becoming a writer, or the cultural identity issues that had him sitting in his hotel room agonizing over it. Instead of talking about these things, he would always tell me how he saw Sartre on the sidewalk in Paris, tell me what books he had read and what movies he had watched, and he would always be proud and serious, as if he wanted me to share some big news.
  After I became a writer, I never forgot that I was partly grateful to the fact that I had a father who told me so much about the world’s writers, far more than the noble pashas or the great Religious leaders.
  So, with this gratitude in my heart, and remembering that I was indebted to my father’s huge study, I might have to read my father’s notebooks. I must remember that when he lived with us, my father, like me, preferred to be alone with his books and meditate, and did not care much for the literary quality of his writing.
  My father had a nice library with 1,500 books in total, which was plenty for a writer.
  When I was 22, I might not have read them all, but I was familiar with every book. I know which books are important, which are less important but easy to read, which are classics, which are an indispensable part of any education, which are not necessary to remember but are interesting illustrations of local history, and which French authors are My dad rated it the highest.
  Sometimes I look at this study from a distance and dream that one day I will build my own study in another house, or even a better study, and build a world for myself.
  When I look at my father’s study from a distance, it seems to me like a microcosm of the real world. But this is a world viewed from our own corner, from Istanbul.
  The study is proof of that. My father built his library from his frequent travels abroad. Most of the books were from France and the United States, but there were also books from bookstores and booksellers in Istanbul that sold foreign books in the 1940s and 1950s. Books, I know all those booksellers. My world is such a mix—some local, ethnic, and some Western.
  In the 1970s, I became somewhat ambitious and started to build my own study room. I haven’t fully decided whether I want to be a writer, and as I mentioned in my book “Istanbul,” I already feel like I won’t end up being a painter, but I’m not sure yet what path my life will take. On the one hand, there is always an uncontrollable restless curiosity and an optimistic hunger for reading and learning in my heart. But at the same time, I also feel that there will be “shortcomings” in my life. I cannot be like other people. People live like that.
  It was the same feeling I had when I gazed into my father’s study—somewhat related to the feeling of being far away from the center of the world, that feeling of living in the countryside that all of us who lived in Istanbul had at that time.
  There is another reason why I feel uneasy and “missing” in my life, because I know too well that the country I live in has no interest in its own artists, whether they are painters or writers, and this country does not give them any encouragement or hope. .
  In the 1970s, in order to make up for the “shortcomings” in my life, I used the money my father gave me to buy those faded, yellowed, dusty, dog-eared and wrinkled old books at old book stalls in Istanbul, but they made me emotional. It’s not just these books that I’m worried about, but also the pitiful condition of these old bookstalls. The booksellers set up their bookstalls on the roadside, in the courtyard of the mosque, and at the foot of the street are in a mess, and their poor and ragged appearance also shocked me. .
  As for my own place in the world, whether in life or literature, my basic feeling is that I am “not at the center.” In the center of the world there is a life richer and more attractive than our own, and I, with my Istanbul, with my Turkey, are outside this center.
  Today, I think I share this feeling with much of the world. Likewise, there is a world of literature, and the center of this world is also far away from me. In fact, I had in mind Western rather than world literature, and we Turks are outside this world. My father’s study is proof of this.
  At one end, there are books from Istanbul – our literature, our local world, with all its details that I love endlessly, and at the other end, there are books from another world, books from the Western world, our own Books cannot match, and because we cannot match, they give us both pain and hope.
  Writing and reading are like leaving one world to seek comfort in the otherness, strangeness and strangeness of another world. I feel like my father read novels to escape his own life, to escape to the West – just as I later did. Or, to me, books in those days were what we used to escape our own culture, because we discovered that it was our culture that was lacking. Nor was it just through reading that we left our own lives in Istanbul to travel to the West – we also through writing.
  To fill these notebooks, my father went to Paris, shut himself up in a hotel room, and then brought his writing back to Turkey. When I stare at my dad’s suitcase, that’s what makes me uneasy for me.
  To be able to survive as a writer in Turkey after twenty-five years of working in a room, to see my father bury his thoughts deep inside this suitcase, as if writing could only be work done in secret, away from society , the country, the people’s sight, this irritates me. Perhaps this was the main reason for my anger at my father, who did not take literature as seriously as I did.
  In fact, I was angry with my father because he did not live a life like mine, because he never argued with his life, but spent it happily, laughing with his friends and the people he loved. But I know in my heart to some extent that I am not “angry” but “jealous”, and the latter word is more accurate. This also makes me uneasy.
  At this time I would ask myself in my usual cursed and angry tone: “What is happiness?”
  Is happiness just sitting alone in a room thinking that I am living a profound life? Or live a happy and comfortable life in social circles, believing the same things that everyone else believes or pretending to believe? Could it be that happiness means living in harmony with everyone around you on the surface, but spending your life writing secretly? Is this happiness or misfortune? These questions are so annoying. Where did I get the idea that the measure of a good life is happiness?
  Many people and many newspapers regard happiness as the most important criterion for measuring a good life. Does that alone make it worth doing some research to see if the opposite is true? At the end of the day, how well do I know my dad, having been away from his family so many times? To what extent can I say that I understand his troubles?
  It was these thoughts that drove me to finally open my father’s suitcase. Was there something unfortunate in my father’s life that I knew nothing about, a secret that he could only reveal through his writing? As soon as I opened the suitcase, I recalled the smell of its travels and recognized several notebooks that I had seen, my father had shown me many years before but had not talked about their contents in more detail.
  Most of the notebooks I have in hand now were filled with notes when my father left us for Paris when he was still young. And I, as I read a lot of the writers I admire—writers whose lives I read, I wanted to read what my father was writing and thinking when he was my age.
  I soon discovered that I couldn’t find anything like that in my suitcase. What disturbs me most is that in my father’s notebooks, I can hear the voice of a writer in some places. I told myself that this was not my father’s voice, that it was not real, or at least that it did not belong to the voice of a man I considered a father.
  I was afraid that my father might not be my father when he wrote, and underneath that fear was a deeper fear: the fear that deep down inside of me I wasn’t real. My fear that I would not find anything good in my father’s writing also increased my fear that I would find that my father was too influenced by other writers, leading me to the despair that had caused me so much pain in my youth. Putting my life, my authenticity, my desires into writing. Making my job a problem.
  During my first ten years as a writer, I had always felt this anxiety more deeply, and although I struggled to fight it and escape it, I was also sometimes afraid that one day I would have to admit failure, just as I admitted that my painting was a failure. , I was afraid that I would succumb to this uneasiness and give up writing novels.
  I have already mentioned the two main feelings I had as I closed my father’s suitcase and set it aside: the sense of loss that I was in the middle of nowhere in the provinces and from which I could not escape, and the fear of my own lack of authenticity.
  It’s certainly not the first time I’ve had these feelings. These feelings, with all their complex variations, unexpected consequences that reach my nerve endings, my inner complexes, and their many colors, I have discovered, studied, and continued to deepen in my years of reading and writing. .
  This confusion, this sensitivity, this pain that life and books brought to me certainly shook my spirit, especially when I was young. But it was only through writing books that I fully understood the issues of authenticity (as in My Name is Red and The Black Book) and of living in the backwoods of the provinces (as in Snow and The Black Book). “Istanbul”).
  To me, being a writer is about acknowledging the wounds within us that run so deep that we may not even feel them. To patiently unearth them, to understand them, to illuminate them, to possess these pains and scars and make them ourselves, a conscious part of our spirit and our writing.
  A writer talks about something that everyone knows but doesn’t know. Noticing this knowledge, developing this knowledge, and seeing this knowledge grow can provide the reader with surprises and intoxication, as if he is wandering in a world that is both familiar and novel. And in the art of using writing to reproduce this knowledge completely realistically, we can certainly experience the same surprise and the same intoxication.
  A writer hones his art by shutting himself away in a room for many years, recreating a world for himself, using his own secret scars as his starting point. Whether he meant it or not, he displayed a profound and enormous faith in humanity.
  I always gained confidence from the belief that all humans were alike and that other people had the same inner scars I had and therefore they could relate. All true literature springs from this childlike, hopeful belief that we are all alike. When a writer closes himself in a room for many years, he uses this gesture to represent a single human nature and a world without a center.
  But, as you can see in my father’s suitcase, as you can see in the pale colors of our lives in Istanbul, the world does have a center, and that center is far away from us. In my book I have described in some detail how this basic fact evoked a Chekhovian provincial bumpkin mentality and, in another way, led to questions about my own authenticity .
  I know from experience that most people on this planet live with this same feeling, and that there are many who suffer from a deeper sense of inadequacy, insecurity, and degradation than I do. Yes, the biggest dilemma facing mankind is still being without land, homelessness, and food to eat… However, today, our TV and newspapers can tell us these dilemmas quickly and simply, which literature has never been able to do. faster and easier way.
  Today, what literature most needs to speak about and investigate are basic human fears: the fear of being left behind, the fear of being looked down upon, and the feeling of worthlessness that comes with this fear; the humiliation of social groups, A fragile sense of wounded honor, all kinds of anger, sadness, imagined insults, followed by nationalistic bragging and self-aggrandizement… Whenever
  I face this emotion, As for the irrational, over-the-top language that expresses such sentiments, I know that they also tap into a darkness within me. We often witness peoples, societies and countries outside the Western world (and I can easily identify with them myself) succumbing to this fear, which sometimes leads them to do stupid things, all because they fear humiliation. Their emotional vulnerability.
  I also know that countries and peoples in the West (a world I can easily identify myself with) are overly proud of their wealth, proud of the fact that they brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modernism, and they are also succumb to the same foolish self-satisfaction from time to time.
  This means that my father was not the only one who valued a centered world; we all valued such a world too much. The force that forces us to close ourselves in our rooms and write for many years is ultimately a belief in the opposite; we believe that one day our writing will be read and understood, because everyone in the world will Similar in appearance. But I also know from my own writing and that of my father that this is a troublesome optimism, hurt by the anger of being pushed to the margins and left out.
  The love and hatred Dostoevsky felt for the West throughout his life I also felt on many occasions. But if I have grasped one basic fact, if I have a reason for optimism, it is that I have traveled with this great writer, experienced his love-hate relationship with the West, and entered into his Another world built on the other side.
  What I feel now is exactly the opposite of what I felt as a child and young adult: for me, the center of the world is Istanbul. Not just because I have lived there all my life, but because, for the past 33 years, I have been describing her streets, her bridges, her people, her dogs, her houses, her mosques, Her fountains, her strange heroes, her shops, her famous people, her dark spots, her days and nights, made them all a part of me, made me own them all.
  When I build this world with my own hands, which only exists in my mind, I come to a starting point, which is more real than the city I actually live in. This is when all these residents and streets, objects and buildings seemed to start speaking for themselves, they interacted in ways I hadn’t thought of, as if they weren’t living in my imagination or my book, but in their own right. I have created this world like a needle digging a well, and it is more real than all other worlds.
  My father may have also discovered the pleasure that writers derive from long years of writing. I told myself I shouldn’t be prejudicial when I looked through his suitcase. In the final analysis, I am very grateful to my father: he has never been an ordinary father who is overly demanding, strict in discipline, overwhelming, and prone to punishment. Instead, he is a father who always takes into account my freedom and always shows me the greatest respect.
  I often think that if I have ever been able to gain anything from my imagination, whether in a free or childish way, it is because unlike many of my friends from my childhood and youth, I never had to fear my father. I am sometimes convinced that I became a writer because my father wanted to be a writer himself when he was young. I had to be willing to read his stuff and try to understand what he was writing in those hotel rooms.
  With these hopeful thoughts in my mind, I walked over to his suitcase. It still stands where my father left it days ago. I read some manuscripts and notebooks with all my will.

  What did my father write? What I can still remember now is some scenery from a Paris hotel room, some poetry, some paradoxes, some analysis… When I write these, I feel like a person who has just experienced a traffic accident and is trying to remember the end. How it happened without being afraid of remembering too much. When I was a kid, my parents would fall into an awkward dead silence after an argument, and my dad would turn on the radio and listen to music to change the mood and help us forget faster.
  A week after my father came to my office and left the suitcase, he came to see me again. As usual, he brought me a piece of chocolate (he forgot that I was 48 years old). As usual, we chatted casually, laughing about life, politics and family matters. Finally, the moment came when my father’s eyes moved to the corner where he had left his suitcase and he saw that I had touched his suitcase. We looked at each other. An oppressive silence followed.
  I did not tell him that I had already opened the suitcase and had tried to read its contents. Instead, I looked away. But he understands. Just as I understood that he understood. Just as he understood that I understood that he understood. But all understanding only goes deep for a few seconds. Because my father was an optimist, an easy-going man, and he had confidence in himself: he smiled at me in his usual way. When he left my house, he was nagging all those cute, uplifting things, being such a dad.
  But there’s a symmetry to my story that makes me understand that thinking about other things that day brings about a deeper sense of guilt. Twenty-three years before my father left me his suitcase, four years after my determination at the age of 22 to become a novelist and to give up everything else, shutting myself in my room to write, I completed my My first novel was “Mr. Jawad and His Sons”. With trembling hands, I showed my father the unpublished manuscript of the novel that I typed out on a typewriter, so that he could read it first and tell me. his thoughts.
  Not only did his opinion matter to me because I had confidence in his literary taste and his intelligence, but also because, unlike my mother, he never objected to my becoming a writer. At that time, my father was no longer with us and was traveling far away. I looked forward to his return anxiously, almost losing my patience. Two weeks later he came back. I ran to open the door for him. My father said nothing, but he immediately put his arms around me and in that way he let me know how much he loved my novel.
  Then, for a moment, we fell into an awkward silence, the kind that often accompanies major emotional ups and downs. Then, when we calmed down and began to talk, my father began to express his confidence in me and my novel in highly emotionally charged and exaggerated language: One day, he said, I would win the victory that I am here today with such tremendous Joyful acceptance of the award.
  He did not say these words to try to convince me of his favorable opinion of me, or to regard this award as my goal: he said these words, like a typical Turkish father, in order to give his son the strength to support him. Encouraging his son, saying “One day you will become a pasha!” For many years, whenever he saw me, he encouraged me with the same words.
  My father died in December 2002.
  Today, when I stand in front of the Swedish Academy, in front of the distinguished academicians who have bestowed upon me the great honor of this great prize, and in front of the distinguished guests, I do sincerely hope that my father can be with us.

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