I had the vague feeling that the reception was being held for someone else and that I did not deserve all this. At the same time, the untamed enthusiasm touched me and made me happy, so much so that you could read it in my eyes, according to a local newspaper. That newspaper also said that I spoke Bulgarian! Well, at least the part about the happiness was true.
“It’s really something,“ one of the two Claudias told me. The way they, and the other members of the Goethe- Institut, are spreading translated European literature around in Turkey is noble and more than welcome. “Yollarda”, it reads on their bookbus. On the road. Building bridges together. Fine by me.
On the other hand, it is a question of making the most of it. While the Goethe members are efficiently building cultural bridges, Europe makes it more and more difficult for Turkish people to enter the continent. Travelling is something most people here can merely dream about, needing to obtain visas as well. Many youngsters in Turkey don’t have the feeling they are on the road at all. They feel trapped.
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that during my readings many students wanted to know what a European author thinks about Turkey and the Turks, and which Turkish authors I had read. The authors Ohran Pamuk and Elif Shafak make tension and discord visible, or at least tangible. Europeans are expected to love Pamuk and Shafak so much just because both writers are so critical about Turkey. Other students nodded in silent assent when I said that an outsider does not so much get the impression that these authors are hanging out the dirty linen, but rather that they give a voice to all communities living in Turkey.
“Literature helps to build bridges between different cultures, leading us together to become global citizens of the world,“ says my shining memento in both Turkish and English. I tend to believe that. The only thing left to do is to open up all kinds of borders.