Friday, 7 March 2008

Selim Özdogan Double-Whammy

To start off your weekend (and mine), a link to a translation from Die Tochter des Schmieds and my translation of a text Selim read recently in Kreuzberg, with many thanks to the author. I promise to shut up about him for a while after this. Probably.

No better or worse, just different

There are people who think literature is about prizes: Bachmann, Büchner, Booker, Nobel and all the rest of them. There are people who think literature is about education, about reading the classics and referring back to them, that part of the creative process is a question of using one’s memory. There are people who think writers have to have a command of the language, have to master it, to put on a show like a lion tamer. Masterful, they call some writers, as if it were a question of power and authority. There are people who think the writer’s task is to explain the world and its conditions, society and its crises. Who think writers are capable of saying profound things about the problems of our times. Who lay greater store by the opinion of a respected scrivener than by that of someone else who happens to have a different profession. There are people who think literature is about being a somebody somewhere, becoming or being a factor, marking oneself off from the rest. There are people who think the point of literature is to change the world.

No doubt they are all right in their own way. Yet to me, these people seem to be in the majority, and they seem to have some kind of sovereignty over defining what literature is.

When you’ve reached the end of your tether, when you have no idea what’s going on in this world and why you’re here, when it looks like you understand even less than everyone else, when every day poses new riddles, when there seems to be no way out, when all your paths lead uphill and they all come to dead ends, when desperation and loneliness blend together so well that you can’t tell them apart any more, when you feel like you’re separated off from everyone else, by a wall that seems no thicker than a rizla, but you can’t break through, when you can’t manage to tell anyone what you really think, and when the only thing you find that helps is words, that’s when literature can come about as well. When you say, fuck it, I’ve got nothing to lose anyway, I’ll just hammer it all out. When you say, I don’t care about anything else, I’ll live or die with this shit, when you say, this is the only way I want to end it all, when there’s nothing else left, nothing at all, that’s when you don’t even think about mastering language, that’s when it’s your way out, no matter how thorny, steep and rocky, no matter how dead the end may be.

That doesn’t mean what you write is necessarily any good, far from it. But it does mean you’ve got a bum deal out of life, because you’ve ended up in a business where it’s the others who make up the rules.


lardunn said...

i am looking at the movie 'the edge of heaven'. i am looking at it because i enjoyed tremendously 'in july' and then saw a second film of fatih akin dealing with a young turkish woman who sought to break the marital tradition of her people. i enjoyed the movies, then toward the end of this last one saw again a book by selim ozdogan. quickly using the internet i saw he had written 'in july' and several other novels. i am a reader, a lover of words and look forward to enjoying his work. i did see mention of the work which the movie referred to. i also enjoyed your comments on why people read or write. larry in chicago. (i find interesting the portrayal of the german characters, the women. also, i felt a relief an understanding and appreciation of the two women loving each other. relieved in that i had had to place any weirdness on the activity, it was finally, to me, understanding. and appreciated. pls tell me about the other work.

kjd said...

Hi Larry,

I'm glad to hear Selim's work is getting attention. You can find out more about him on his website: - click on Bibliographie for a list of his books and audiobooks.

Sadly, none of his novels or short stories have been translated into English yet. There is a Turkish translation of Die Tochter des Schmieds and Ein Spiel, das die Götter sich leisten is currently being translated into Czech.

Interestingly, Selim's version of In July came after the film, and tells the story of what July gets up to in the section where the two characters are separated.

His most recent novel is called Zwischen zwei Träumen and is a genre-busting realistic fantasy thriller - like nothing you've ever read before. But my personal favourite has got to be Die Tochter des Schmieds. You can find reviews of both these books on this blog.

Emel said...

I have also only just come across this writer via Auf der Anderen Seite, and he seems really interesting. It is slightly odd, actually, that he has not been translated into English yet - he has published quite a lot. But it is great to see that someone has started.

Hope to see a full translation of his work out there soon!

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