"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


Serdar Ozkan‘s Istanbul
By Claudia Tani

Serdar Ozkan

His book,
The Missing Rose, has been translated into 25 languages in more than 30 countries worldwide. Thanks to this undisputed success, Serdar Ozkan represents the main exponent of contemporary Turkish literature, becoming the 3rd most translated novelist in the history of Turkish Literature, after Orhan Pamuk and Yasar Kemal. Moleskinecity has met him and asked him a few questions about his novel, his future projects and the relationship with his city: Istanbul .

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Ortakoy Mosque & Bosphorus Bridge © Dan
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Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) with some morning seagulls. © Oberazzi
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Main entrance of the Topkapi Palace © vtbrak

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New Mosque Sultanahmet© cactusbones
What attracts your attention when you walk through the streets of Istanbul?

Istanbul is a very big and a very diverse city, so when I walk in different parts of the city, I notice totally different things. In some places it is the buildings, in some places it is the people, and in other places it is pure natural beauty, the sparkling sea and the hills covered with pine tress for instance. Unfortunately this is not the case when I am driving, as one can only notice hundreds of cars sitting in the traffic.

Which are the places in Istanbul that are most meaningful to you?

Kirecburnu, where I currently live. It is a relatively quiet and calm coastal area of Istanbul, looking at the entrance of the Black Sea. Dolphins come to the bay in front of my apartment, which have given inspiration for my second novel. But to be honest, because I love the sea so much, I can say that most places along the Bosphorous is special for me.

And also, the old city, in other words Sultanahmet area with the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace is very meaningful to me. These places I mentioned are also the setting of The Missing Rose. Sultanahmet area was special for me because of the ancient and spiritual air it carries. Plus, thousands of people from so many different cultures visit there every day, making it even more special, making it a place of unification. And when I used this place as the setting of my novel, it became even more special for me. I am delighted that my novel went on to be translated into 25 languages, so that people from so many cultures visiting this ancient part of Istanbul could find it in a story which, like this place, brings different cultures together.

If you were to take a friend (to visit Istanbul for the very first time) which itinerary would you follow?

First I would take them to the Sultanahmet Area, showing them the Blue Mosque , St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace. But instead of showing the physical aspect of these places, I would suggest that we could perhaps try to focus on the soul of these places. To try to touch the unseen. Not just the history, culture and art, but something else which is present there. And I can't put this into words, but the people who have visited these places with such an intention and vision will know exactly what I am talking about. After the old city, I would take my friend to all the beautiful places along the shore, followed by a cruise on the Bosphorous, which I believe is the best way to see the mesmerizing beauty of Istanbul. And if one cruises in the last two weeks of April, one can see the wonderful purple blossoms of Judas Trees which are only seen in that time of year.

What does a novelist look for when visiting a city?

I don't know about other novelists as I suspect that each novelist may look at a city in a different way. But I personally look for the people of that city. I look for what is alive, and I believe that any city is only alive with its people; their thoughts, their emotions, beliefs, desires, worries, fears, etc. And the best way to experience this is to interact with the people. I feel fortunate in this respect that, because my novel is published in over 30 countries worldwide, I have the chance to interact with many people from so many different cultures, and also see how differently or similarly they react to the same story, The Missing Rose which carries universal themes. And I get so happy when people of different cities verify my belief that regardless of race, culture and religion, we have a huge meeting point and that our similarities are far more important than our differences.

“The missing rose” can be considered a unique novel of self-discovery that emphasizes the universal side of man, why, in your opinion, is self-discovery so important in the modern world?

Self-discovery is very important in every age because it is necessary if one is ever to dream of living in a peaceful world. Both outer peace and inner peace. I believe that all wars, all injustice, all unhappiness are, some way or another, related to not knowing ourselves.

Self-discovery becomes even more important in the modern world because cultural conflict is constantly on the rise, and there is a lot of separation and clash. As the egos strengthen, the separation between us increases. Self-discovery has many levels, and if we go deeper, we realize that we are actually one -regardless of race, culture, social status and religion. So self-discovery is especially important to bring us together; to nourish peace and understanding between us. And also to nourish peace within, and to forgive ourselves.

Serdar Ozkan

At the same time, it represents a bridge between East and West, it stresses the meeting points between various cultures and traditions rather than the differences…
I believe deep within us we all meet at the same place, regardless of where we are from physically, East or West. Our heart has no geography and we all belong to the same culture in the depths of our hearts.

I feel that as long as a story focuses on the universal aspects, it is inevitable for the East and West to merge, and it is such a great joy for a writer to notice and bring together the connections between the two.

What can you tell us about your future novel?

My second novel which is already completed is again related to self-discovery on a different level. It is a novel about hope, unconditional love and the miracle of life. The story is about a unique little boy; the special friendship he enters into with a dolphin and his experience with the Angel of Death twenty years later.

Hopefully, it will reach readers after all the international publications of The Missing Rose.

© images are subject to copyright
November, 27th 2008

Successfully representing contemporary Turkish literature in the international arena, The Missing Rose has been translated into 14 languages to date. Entering bestseller lists as the No.1
bestselling foreign fiction in Canada,
The Missing Rose has remained on bestseller lists there for weeks. The Missing Rose, often compared and alikened to all-time favorites The Little Prince by St. Exupery and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is a unique novel of self-discovery.

The Missing Rose, like The Little Prince and The Alchemist, emphasizes the universal side of man. The young author Serdar Özkan believes that it is for this reason that a first novel has been translated into so many languages and gained the approval and appreciation of readers from so many different cultures.

Visit Serdar Ozkan's website

1 comment:

sultanahmet said...

Ah...Sultanahmet was great...