Today’s Zaman talks to two of the team’s veterans, Serbia’s Vladislav Bajac and Finland’s Antti Tuuri about food, travelling on the road and well, books.
Bajac, a well-known face on the İstanbul literature scene, launched the Turkish translation of his award-winning novel, “Hamam Balkania,” a gripping 16th century tale with an unlikely cast featuring Süleyman the Magnificent and Turkey’s own wordsmith, Orhan Pamuk, as well as crooner Leonard Cohen, in Turkey in June.
“It was marvelous,” he says recalling the occasions, “Though what really struck me at the launches was how many people, including the deputy director of culture and tourism, [Ümit Yaşar Gözüm], had already read the book! I think this says a lot about the Turkish readers. The Kalem Agency, the organizers of the festival, who I have worked with before, have a very vivid human touch -- this festival is not about fame or egos -- it has very original and genuine reasons for getting writers together. ”
What about food and literature as a double act? Is this a combination he has ever explored? “I am currently writing a book of short stories on food which will connect topographical places with the food I eat there. I am considering calling it ‘Gastro Erotic Short Stories’,” he reveals with a chuckle. “Admittedly I’m not a good cook, but I’m good at praising food. ... My wife always says it’s nice to cook for me as I am so grateful. Usually I travel by car, which I like because it takes me off the beaten tourist track and places me in forgotten, undiscovered corners, which always produce the most interesting of everything, people, food...”
Tuuri, a literary mastermind who has churned out 60 books in the last 40 years, explains that he is also a fan of journeys on the road, “I have never liked airplanes, in fact I always joke that it is more difficult to get a plane than it was in the old times to get into the Soviet Union!” he tells Today’s Zaman at the event opening on Sunday evening. Having embarked on a European train-track extravaganza to reach İstanbul he explains that as a writer watching the world pass by from a window is a pastime he will never tire of “as the train from Belgrade was passing into İstanbul this morning the farmers in the fields waved as we were going by. This was wonderful -- people don’t really do this anymore.”
With the festival marking his first visit to İstanbul, what does Tuuri feel such festivals offer to writers? “Well of course discussion with other authors is always interesting, but for me writing is such a solitary profession that really the best inspiration is the basic components of everyday life. I always say that a writer has only two things to do -- write books and keep a living. What is odd is that a lot of the writers here are so young. But this is how it is, different generations come and go; after 20 or 30 years, though, you see which books are truly living. It is so interesting and wonderful that the best books live so long. You can pluck Charles Dickens’ works and place them in the modern day and they fit, and one would hope, always will. I have written 60 books,” he muses, “But of course the paper is always white when you begin.”
For more information on the authors and the festival see http://www.itef.com.tr.en