Monday, 7 April 2008

Overly Excitable

I'm feeling tired and emotional after a weekend with too little sleep. Why? Because I decided to jet over to London for the amazing Free the Word! festival organised by International PEN this coming weekend. And that decision left me rather emotionally drained. But never fear - thanks to Grandma's Best Babysitting and School Collection Service (love ya mum!), my family will be in safe hands while I'm away.

What convinced me was the event featuring Emine Sevgi Özdamar. In conversation with the translator Maureen Freely and the writer Elif Shafak, no less. I have to admit, I've seen Ms Özdamar (or is it Ms Sevgi Özdamar - correct me if I'm wrong) reading in Berlin before. She's incredibly entertaining. An experienced actress, she knows how to keep an audience's attention. And she's one of those wonderful authors who have the guts to say, "Please don't take photos while I'm reading, I have a double chin and half-moon glasses. But you're welcome to take some of me posing nicely afterwards."

Her novel The Bridge of the Golden Horn is available in English from Serpent's Tail, translated by Martin Chalmers. She has been one of the few women writing on the "guest worker" experience that so many Turkish immigrants went through in the 1960s, although from an unusual perspective, as she comes from a more educated background than many of those who signed contracts for manual jobs in booming 60s and 70s Germany. And I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Unfortunately, I read it too long ago to tell you anything remotely relevant about it. But what I remember most is the way it captured West Berlin and named names, from the factory where both the protagonist and my mother-in-law worked to the road where the protagonist and my father-in-law lived. But the German and Turkish worlds in those days were so far apart that they almost certainly never met. In the first section, at least, Berlin is a cold, dark place with empty streets swathed in perpetual snow.

So I'll definitely be rereading it over the next few days. Oh, and I'll be going to a couple of seminars at the London Book Fair. But more on those after the fact.

No comments: