What can I say? I have visited Turkey many times, but with “Yollarda” I experienced a sense of the cultural integration (or rather interaction!?) of Europe that I had previously regarded with suspicion as merely a utopian fable. As I travelled through the different stages of this project - from the booming Anatolian tiger of Kayseri to the tamed chocolate tiger of Brussels - I felt the reality behind the concept. For me Europe has always been something like a huge translation project. It goes beyond the languages themselves, because writers are trying to convey not only words, but their specific understanding of life and the human situation.
In our more or less open times, literature and culture in general have remained a relatively closed domain where protectionism and national prejudices still hold ground. We communicate through labels rather than through texts, despite the lofty vows we make. Economy has somehow managed to outrun culture. Creating a common cultural space means focusing on individual characteristics at the expense of stereotypes and clichés. This is essential if the arts are going to prosper, especially in this part of Europe, where culture is often a matter of state patronage. The most interesting aspect of my Yollarda experience was the opportunity to observe how the local labels melted and vanished in the course of communication. I was able to sense the formation of another layer of identity, even though it was still fragile and vague - a shared European identity. The audience is changing. Authors are changing. As a result, a whole new perspective is being created.
For an artist, having a broader audience means being freer, richer and more independent. However, before going for globalisation, let’s first try for regionalisation. Although I believe in the universal value of art, reality has somehow taught me that cultural similarities matter. The world is so big, and there are so many things all around us, that it is simply impossible to encompass everything. And in most cases the attempt is useless. The paradox is that often the closest things are the most unknown. My understanding is that works of art advance through the world as waves rather than meteors. That is why we talk so often of influences when we speak of culture. It is hard to jump into the center of the world just like that. It may happen, of course, but usually literature spreads out like a wave. It’s better not to skip certain stages if you want to have sustainable growth. I simply cannot imagine my career as a writer without having translations of my work in the neighbourhood! I would have thought that something must be wrong. “Yollarda” was like a wave: it brought us like a rising tide to Turkey and then returned, carrying back into Europe all the diverse and beautiful voices of modern Turkish literature and culture.