Monday, December 15, 2008

Hopeful Apology

Academics Prof. Ahmet İnsel, Prof. Baskın Oran, Dr. Cengiz Aktar and journalist Ali Bayramoğlu have started an online petition aimed at all Turkish people to sign and affirm their feelings of injustice about the negation of the Armenian massacres of 1915.

Here is a translation of the statement that you can read in Turkish on the homepage of the website ("özür diliyoruz" means "we apologize"):
My conscience does not allow me to deny and be insensitive to the Great Catastrophe experienced by the Ottoman Armenians in 1915. I reject this injustice, for my own part share my fellow Armenian brothers and sisters' feelings and pain, and apologize from them.
After you enter your name and other relevant details, you have to click on "özür diliyorum" (I apoligize) to sign the petition.

Among the supporters of this hopeful initiative are famous writers, activists, artists and more like Cem Özdemir, Nilüfer Göle, Murathan Mungan, Nedim Gürsel, Perihan Magden ...(see the complete list under "Destekleyenler" on the homepage of Ozur Diliyorum).
I can only applaud such an initiative but do acknowledge that the way to reach real understanding and reconciliation between the two nations has been extremely slow and full of denials during the last 90 years. There is still a lot to do, and if signing the online petition can help taking a step forward, I have no other choice than taking action and start with an apology.

Also read Sarah Rainsford article on BBC news and the Turkish newspaper Radikal's short report.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sinterklaas arrives to Amsterdam!

I was sitting in my living room on this nice and quiet Sunday morning, when I suddenly heard boat horns and music arriving from far. The entertaining sounds started approaching quickly, and I couldn't let my curiosity sleep and jumped out of the comfy couch to have a look out from the window. Loads of boats with people dancing on it were passing on the "Nieuwe Herengracht" canal next to my apartment, with excited kids and adults on the street hailing at them. On the boats (dancing) and in the streets (running, dancing and cycling), there were plenty of people with their faces painted in black and wearing colorfoul costumes who were distributing candies to the kids: these were Zwarte Pieten! Only then had I finally understood what was happening: "Sinterklaas is coming!", have I shouted in the living room. My partner gave a suprising glance at me: "Sinter who?" "Look at the Zwarte Pieten! Sinterklaas is coming!" My excitement wasn't convincing to him: "What Pitt?".
I remember celebrations of Saint-Nicholas when I was living in Belgium. As a kid, I loved the fact that we could eat loads of marzipan (I even thought we could only find marzipan at this time of the year, which fortunately isn't true), I never really believed in Saint-Nicholas (or in Santa Claus), but I still liked the celebrations (what kind of kid wouldn't like receiving gifts and candies?). Every year on 6 December, the Dutch and the Belgian celebrate Sinterklaas in honour of Saint-Nicholas (klaas is a nickname for Nicolaas), the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, pawnbrokers and Amsterdam, which I honestly didn't know until I read it in the Lonely Planet Amsterdam. The white-bearded man dressed as a bishop arrives to Amsterdam every year in mid-November (I didn't know it would be today) by ship from "Spain" and enters the city on a horse to receive the keys of the city from the mayor (Mayor Cohen did it in front of the Scheepvaartmuseum today).
He is of course followed by his Zwarte Pieten who, apart from throwing candies to the kids are also carrying sacks to take the naughty ones away (which they of course never do during the parade). The idea is that well-behaved kids receive gifts in a shoe they've placed next to the chimney with a carrot for the patron's horse. One Zwarte Piet climbs down the chimney and puts the gift in the shoe, and I suppose takes the carrot away for the horse, since I cannot imagine the horse climbing down the chimney (as if I could imagine a man with a face painted in black doing the same!). The North American Santa Claus evolved from the Sinterklaas celebrations at the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (today's New York).
I've seen Amsterdammers going crazy celebrating New Year and the Queen's Birthday on 30 April, and today the arrival of Sinterklaas to their city. I have been amazed again by their capacity of getting together and celebrate. Today's party goers were the kids, the young ones and old ones!
Photos taken on the Prins Hendrikkade, Amsterdam

Friday, October 31, 2008

Literature and Identities

I was just reading an article about contemporary German literature in the French newspaper Le Monde. It basically explains how much richness and diversity immigrants living in Germany and writing in German have brought to contemporary German literature. In addition to talking about immigrants, I would have added that many writers whose parents were immigrants and whose first language might be other than German, have now chosen to write in German. Anyway, I must admit that I am a bit difficult about the use of terminologies like "immigrant" or "mother tongue", so let's say it's fair enough to use it broadly in this case. But what I don't understand is the parenthesis in the following sentence, where the author reports from the Frankfurt international book fair, in which Turkey was the guest country of honor this year:à des écrivains turcs invités, bien d'autres, qui vivent en Allemagne et ont choisi d'écrire en allemand (le pays compte 3,4 millions de musulmans dont une majorité de Turcs), occupent désormais une place de choix dans le paysage littéraire : Feridun Zaimoglu, Emine Sevgi Ozdamar ou Hatice Akyün, notamment, ont enrichi ces dernières années la littérature germanophone de leur imaginaire et de leurs trouvailles stylistiques.

When talking about the Turkish authors living in Germany and who have chosen to write in German, she feels the need to tell us that Germany counts 3.4 million Muslims, from which a majority are Turkish. Can someone explain to me what this information has to do with writing in German or being Turkish? What does it add to our understanding of contemporary writing in Germany? It doesn't even tell us how many people from Turkish origin live in the country, so it doesn't add any relevant information, except that the author is making a serious amalgam here between country of origin and religion! Personally, I don't mind being called "Turkish", because among many others, it's one of the adjectives that indeed adds relevant information to who I am. I would accept "Muslim" to some extend, but even there I might find it odd to chose it as a first way of describing myself. As for "immigrant", it is a word that certainly wouldn't help describing me. It could even be misleading because I haven't really emigrated from anywhere, my parents did. They didn't ask for my opinion when I was in my mother's belly. The only thing that being called an immigrant would do to me is, alienating me from my parents country (because I have supposedly left it) and from the place where I live, and where I am supposed to feel home. How would you like to be called then, will you say? Don't call me one thing, I am from Turkish descent, yes, and I am a Turkish citizen. I am also a Belgian citizen and a resident of the Netherlands. I am speaking five languages, and mastering writing in at least three. So no, if I am going to be published one day, supposedly in French, I would not like to be called an immigrant writer! I had enough of that. Everyday life is narrow enough to put people into boxes, so I do believe we can do better in the literary, and in any artistic and creative domains for that matter. Of course ethnic, religious and cultural frameworks can influence creativity, and it does add a lot to the overall picture, but literature gives so much more space to writers and their readers. It's an immense area where we can move beyond frontiers, go much further than everyday life.

I would like to end with a quote from 2000 Nobel Laureate for Literature Gao Xingjian, from a speech given at the inauguration of the last edition of Kosmopolis, an international Literature festival held from 22 to 26 October in Barcelona:
"When literature becomes a hymn of praise for a country, the flag of a nation, the voice of a political party or mouthpiece of a class or group, it can be used as a powerful and crushing instrument of propaganda, but it loses its intrinsic nature ..."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Love story between a Fairy and a Wizard

Author Laurel Snyder asked of the blogosphere, "What is your favorite book from childhood?", and following Amy Guth's post on her blog I am now telling you about one of my favorite childhood books: L'Enchanteur by René Barjavel. I think I must have read that book four times. It was one of our French class reading assignment and it luckily came in during my I'm-crazy-about-Arthurian-legend period. I would definitely suggest it to anyone who reads French (I'm afraid it has never been translated into English, please correct me if I'm wrong).

Written in 1984, L'Enchanteur could be seen as yet another novel based on the Arthurian legend, but Barjavel manages to make much more of it. He freely transforms the story into a romance: one between Merlin the Wizard (L'Enchanteur) and the Lady of the Lake Vivian. I still vividly remember the tenderness that links both characters (I can still hear Viviane's soft voice in my head). The main theme remains of course the quest for the Graal, and many other well known heroes appear in the novel: King Arthur, Perceval, Queen Guenièvre and Lancelot, whose love story is also quite powerful in Barjavel's narrative. The author plays a lot with conventions through voluntary anacronysms as well, introducing for instance tin cans and an electric chimney into the medieval story. Nevertheless, the main theme of this magical novel remains LOVE. The love story between kings and queens, knights and queens, between Vivian and Merlin, the Fairy who could see the human in the Wizard.

Photo: Cover of the Paperback edition - Collection FOLIO

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sincerity of Margo Rabb

Remember I wrote about Margo Rabb and her essay about Young Adult literature in the New York Times this summer. I have finally had the chance to read her latest novel “Cures for Heartbreak” (better later than never!). I had searched for it in several bookshops in Amsterdam and in Brussels, and since I couldn’t find it I simply ordered it online. After being away for a month, I was back home and “Cures for Heartbreak” was waiting for me…

The only family grief I have ever experienced was the loss of my grandfather four years ago. It was sad but in no way comparable to loosing one’s parent. So I had absolutely no idea how it must be like to lose one’s mum at the age of 15. I still don’t have a clue of course and I will never; because I am 29 and my mother is still alive and in good health. The day she will be gone, I will experience grief, but not like a 15 year old girl. I have been deeply touched by Margo Rabb’s narrative. I am not going to discuss why it is a YA novel or why it should or shouldn’t be, simply because I am no specialist in the field and also because no matter on what shelve the book has been placed, I am only interested in sharing my feelings about its content and not about its label. But the subject in itself is quite fascinating and really interesting. Many writers and reviewers have discussed the subject of YA literature on the blogosphere (check Colleen Mondor’s blog Chasing Ray among many others and of course Margo Rabb's essay on the NYT).

"Cures for Heartbreak" starts with Mia, her sister Alex and their father choosing a coffin for their mother’s funeral. “We’re in a play in which the funeral is the last act” says the father for the fifth time in two days. It all indeed looks so surreal: one day, Mia’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, “If she dies, I’ll die” writes the young 15 year old girl in her diary, and twelve days later, she dies But Mia doesn’t. She carries her grief everywhere, because this kind of love never dies but it hurts deeply. Throughout the novel, I was immersed in Mia’s world, in her fears, her doubts, her wishes, her friendships, her laughs and even her grief. Michael Chabon puts it absolutely right when he writes that the novel is “(…) sad, funny, smart, (and) endlessly poignant (…)” As she explains in the afterword, Margo Rabb has based herself on her own experience to write this novel. However, what makes the book magical and real is not that it contains autobiographical elements, but the sincerity of the narrative voice. Mia is not Margo, she is a fictional character and she has a life on her own, she is free from any psychological therapy many authors are unfortunately producing throughout their characters. This why I loved “Cures for Heartbreak” and I strongly recommend it to everyone, no matter how old. The still unconvinced ones can start having a look at Margo Rabb’s original and really enriching blog Books, Chocolate, Sundries where you will meet plenty of other fascinating authors presented through Margo's eyes. Again, always in a very sincere way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Erykah Badu The Enchantress

Erykah Badu is unique. She has proved it once again tonight on the stage of Paradiso in Amsterdam. I had the chance to see her perform at the Cactus Festival in Bruges two years ago and there already I was amazed. But tonight's concert was divine. Paradiso is of course a great place to listen to good music, it's not too big (it has a capacity of just over thousand people) and is one of Amsterdam's most beautiful concert venues. Right from her entrée, Ms Badu set the atmosphere: it was going to be an explosive night. Erykah Badu has the allure, the voice, the charisma, the humility, the talent, the humour, the beauty, the humanity... and I believe a lot more. Erykah Badu is a Diva. Erykah Badu is an Enchantress. Dressed to kill, super sexy yet classy, Ms Badu sang to us from her last album "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)" without forgetting some songs from her beautiful "Mama's Gun", "Baduizm" or "World Wide Underground". Two hours and a half of outstanding vibes made the whole audience rise. At one point, Ms Badu stepped down of the stage to walk among the crowd. The Diva is close to the people, "not black people, not white people, not latinos, not asian... not blue, not green, not purple, all people!", constantly inviting it to rise higher and higher. So we all did, and I myself got so high that I can't get down yet. Some little voice inside me says I will stay under the enchantment for quite a long time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Margo Rabb, she's YA and she's OK!

Thanks to a very well written essay about Young Adult literature published in the New York Times Books Update of 21 July, I have discovered an even nicer author. Her name is Margo Rabb, she is a writer of YA books ... and more (she also writes for adults). If you want to know more about YA and her work, read her essay entitled "I'm Y.A., and I'm OK" and visit her website. She also has a blog called "Books, Chocolate, Sundries" (it's about books and food... a delight!). She has only started blogging in the end of June, so it's not too late to catch up! Her last book Cures for Heartbreak (pictured above) has received praise from Michael Chabon (you can read it on Margo Rabb's homepage), and I hope to review it on this blog soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cuento Illustrado

Here's a very nice illustrated story I found today. The author of the work is Angela Davila and you can follow her on Issuu. Enjoy!

Festival of Early Music in Utrecht

From 29 August to 7 September the Oudemuziek Festival will take place in Utrecht. Check their website to see the full programme. Great ensembles like Le Poème Harmonique, Huelgas Ensemble and Capilla Flamenca will enchant the festival.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

When the Rivers of the World lead to the North Sea...

... they gather almost 70,000 jazz lovers to their shores. The marathonesque programme of this year's North Sea Jazz Festival has been almost perfect, despite the badly controlled heat (not a single artist could get on stage without pointing out the almost unbearable heat in the different rooms!). This is not such a small detail of course but not big enough to spoil the high quality of this internationally reknown festival. Held since 2006 at the Ahoy complex in Rotterdam, it had its home in The Hague during 30 years. A bigger venue was indeed necessary to host the hundreds of artists performing for 3 days in the different rooms named after the world's most impressive rivers.

The main focus of t
his year's North Sea Jazz Festival has been on vocal interpretation, with Bobby McFerrin (photo above) as artist in residence. My Friday evening started with a nice performance by Cassandra Wilson on the DARLING, followed by a not-so-jazz-but-still-able-to-be-jazz illustration of Fink's amazing talent on the YUKON and ended with an energetic Angie Stone on the NILE. I was in the meantime swimming on other rivers discovering new sounds, like the very surprising Esra Dalfidan who also gave an interview and acoustic performance in the NRC Media Café.

"We're not really a jazz band" says Fink (photo above) sitting on his chair, guitar in hand, looking at his bassist and laughing, "but we'll do our
best to be jazz tonight". I'd discovered Fink through his album Biscuits for Breakfast in a small restaurant in Brussels called La Cuisine -which is unfortunately closed now. Its owner, inviting up to 18 guests in his kitchen, was listening to Fink every time I was eating there. "I'm going to ask him a percentage on his album sales" he was saying "everyone eating here wants to get his album!" Whenever I listen to Fink, I think of the nice and cosy Cuisine. So Fink at the North Sea Jazz was kind of unmissable for me and it reminded me of some nice and warm Foccacia's plenty of good Bresaola... (speaking of food, the catering at the Festival was really something). It was an amazing concert with an incredibly open and generous audience, which made Fink feel even more at ease and generous. Altogether with his drummer and bassist, they've interpreted songs from Biscuits for Breakfast and some new I still have to discover. Friday night ended with some dancing on Angie Stone's good vibes.

I have started my Saturday jazz parcours, again at the DARLING, with Bobby McFerrin, Richard Bona and Cyro Baptista, three monsters of improvisation gathered for a one hour performance! That concert was the kind that shakes you to the core. I could feel the tears running on my cheeks! McFerrin even stepped down the stage to get closer to his audience and make three women sing with him. An unforgettable experience! Leaving that river full of emotions has been hard, but the next musician who was waiting for us in the HUDSON was also one of a kind... Michel Camilo (photo above)! What a piano master! I cannot say anything more here, just look at his hands on the photo above and judge for yourself. Together with his trio, they have delivered one terrific music moment.
After such an apocalyptic jazz exploit, I could only afford myself to take short glimpses of Chaka Khan and Toto Bona Lokua and hit the road back to Amsterdam.
Sunday, the last day of the festival had arrived. But no mourning, it has been a greatly enjoyable adventure, starting with Yael Naim, getting some Brad Meldhau in-between and ending with a kingly Youssou n'Dour (photo below).

I must say that I have been impressed by Yael Naim's performance in the very cosy MURRAY room. Luckily, I found myself a seat one hour before the concert even started, and the room quickly got full (and too warm, again). She might have been on the American charts thanks to her song that appears on the MacBook Air commercial, together with her friendly band, she proved that she could do some more. A talented new soul! Brad Meldhau has been a completely different experience, which I will certainly renew (especially if they decide to come to the Bimhuis very soon). The festival marathon has ended on a musically rich tone with Mr Youssou n'Dour: "Africa is not only about AIDS or poverty, Africa is also about happiness and joy!" he said while making the thousands of people gathered on the NILE dancing like crazy. For that night, and during the whole festival, it was all about great rhythm, good food, a lot of dancing, unexpected discoveries and true emotions.

All photos taken during the North Sea Jazz Festival (c)Erinç Salor

North Sea Jazz Festival took place from 11 to 13 July 2008 at the Ahoy in Rotterdam
Next Year's festival will take place from 10 to 12 July 2009

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Le Petit Parachutiste

For those of you who can read French, here's my prize winning short story "Le Petit Parachutiste"
I hope you'll enjoy it!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Visa for You!

What a shame... it happened again! Great artists have been denied a Schengen visa and are forced to cancel their European tour. Konono nr 1, headliners of the Couleur Café Festival, will stay in Kinshasa and no one in Brussels will have the chance to hear their great music. What an irony when you know what values Couleur Café stands for! A Belga article in La Libre explains that their new passports not being ready (thank you oh bureaucray!), they've been allocated diplomatic passports so they could ask for visas to travel... but even with that, they've been refused entry to the oh so magnificient European soil! As if it weren't enough that people get humiliated waiting in front of unwelcoming consulates so proudly treating people like shit. Sharing my life with a non EU citizen, we now choose our leisure/holiday destinations according to visa requirements. That's how we will prefer to spend our summer in Andalucia, Spain rather than Scotland, UK. And that's how one great friend of mine living in Sarajevo, also an artist by the way (what could happen if artists were invading Europe?!), cannot come and visit me whenever she likes -she's been denied a visa twice despite the fact that she lived in Belgium and Japan for many years. Go on like that dear EU states, but don't forget that the world does not belong to you!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sex and the City: too many unfair reviews for a very much enjoyable movie

Like most of the series lovers, I've been waiting for "Sex and the City: the Movie" for quite some time. There's been the whole talk about it, then the shooting gossips and finally the reviews. Too many people, including cinema critics I like to read in different newspapers from different countries, almost made me want not to spend 10 euros to go and see the movie in a cinema and wait for it until it gets out on DVD- which by the way shows I still wanted to see it. Then I heard some of my very good friends talking about it in a much better way than the so-called professionals. So I thought, I liked the series and even my boyfriend wanted to see it! So we jumped on our bikes at 8.10pm to get to the 8.30pm show. 2 hours later I can tell you... we had a great time! The four NYC gals were there making me laugh and happy. They were all good, faithful to themselves and not boring at all. I enjoyed watching them, and when I got out of the cinema I just thought of the different reviews I read and they all made nonsense to me -not to say crap. Well, I will sound cliché but it's much better to listen to your friends' advice, at least when it comes to "Sex and the City". It may also be because I absolutely love the series (I got the Shoe Box edition!!). If you still hesitate to go and see the movie, just go. Even if you're not as enthusiastic as I was, you will still spend a nice time with four fabulous girls and a magnificent city! So don't bother waiting for what's not there and just enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Le Petit Parachutiste is a Winner!

I must admit that I was really excited about receiving this prize at la Maison de la Francité last Friday. For the first time in my life, my writing was going to be acknowledge by professional people. Not that my friends' opinions don't count - it really does, especially Lise's who's always helping me doing better every time - but being rewarded is always a pleasure. My "Petit Parachutiste" is a winner and I am quite proud of him. He was stuck in that tree right in front of my current apartment in Amsterdam since New Year. He's free now!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Jazzy Rotterdam

North Sea Jazz Festival Programme is now known. I had bought my tickets already at a lower price, not a drastic difference with current sales but with the guarantee of having a three-days ticket in my possession before it gets sold out. After having meticulously checked the programme, I am really happy I did so... but still, there is one thing that I find really unfair and quite a shame actually: all headliner artists like Paul Simon, Diana Krall and Alicia Keys necessitate an extra fee of 15 to 30 euros per person. Well, I could understand when it's some of them, but all is a bit too much- especially when all communication had been focused on them the last months. Fortunately, I am not going to this internationally renown festival to listen to popular jazz and soul "stars" but to experience strong live musical moments from artists like Herbie Hancock, Michel Camilo, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Victor Wooten, Bobby McFerrin and many more to discover. So in the end I am satisfied with my purchase and can't wait for the experience, without Alicia Keys, Paul Simon and Diana Krall.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

One Ordinary Travel Anecdote

- Have you ordered a special meal? asked the stewardess
- …. (Listening to music through my iPod)
- Miss?
- Sorry, what?
- Have you ordered a Moslem meal?
- …
- ???
- Oh, yes, thank you.

She said the word “Moslem” so loud, I felt like everybody in the plane was looking at me. Nine hours and twenty minutes… how far was I going to manage not to see all those eyes staring at me? I’ve always loved to put my cultural and religious identity forward, although I didn’t practice most of what my given faith told me to. Not eating pork was one way to affirm one of my identities. You don’t chose where you come from, but you can learn to live with it and even enjoy your differences with others. Being the “other” had never been problematic for me since I’ve been lucky to grow up in a quite nice, even if not fancy, environment, with educated parents and friends. I suppose it was a luxury to affirm my Moslem identity out loud while still living like a Westerner. My “special” meal had arrived, and there is no need to be a gourmet to see that it wasn’t special at all. Chicken, potato and carrots… “Mmmmm… I hope the carrots are halal” I thought I was joking with myself when I figured out that my neighbor began to observe my apparently strange behavior. I smiled at him and took a bite of my supposedly halal chicken. I never eat halal at home, I don’t pray either, only when I got scared, like everyone I suppose. It’s my best friend who’s working at a travel agency who booked the special meal for me. He always does so. A very sensitive gesture, especially when you know that I myself wouldn’t even think of it. Anyway, I had to spend the next nine hours and sixteen minutes on this flight to the United States, having already accepted the fact that every other passenger around had tagged me as “THE MOSLEM”. Maybe I was getting paranoid, but believe me, even five years after 9/11, with all the new security rules in airports and Islamophobia in the international air, you follow the way of paranoia, Moslem or not.
After seven hours of uncomfortable flight, the same question rose again from a different stewardess, only this time, I was ready to answer.

- Have you ordered a special meal?
- Yes, yes, I did! Why all the fuss about it?
- Well, no fuss Miss. Just wanted to let you know that it’s the same meal for everyone, only that you get an extra bar of cereals.
- Hmm ‘hanks

Let’s hope it’s a halal one! This time, I didn’t say it out loud, but I could feel my neighbor hearing it anyway.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Writers who get close to you

Not so long ago, and thanks to my dear espresso bean, I have discovered a great author: Neil Gaiman. I am now religiously following his journal, checking everyday (my life is easier thanks to Google reader!) whether he has posted anything new on his blog. The man is really brilliant and still very humble. Another author's blog I really like following is French writer and philosopher Pierre Assouline's La république des livres. I'd never read any of their books, and reading their blogs makes me want to know more about their work. I wish more authors would do the same. I really applaud those who make the time to stay close to their readers and be able to write about anything they like to talk about. Thanks to their blogs, I also know where these authors are, it isn't that important to me to know that Neil Gaiman is in Tasmania now -although it is interesting- but knowing that Pierre Assouline is now in Amsterdam until 20 May is clearly relevant information. I can now catch any opportunity to go and listen to one of his lecture here in the city where I live.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


While enjoying a sunny Amsterdam Sunday cycling near the canals, I've stopped at the Athenaeum Boekhandel and the American Book Center to check some travel guides for this summer and I found a magazine -nothing to do with travel, although its writers move all around the world- called MONOCLE. The atypical, chic and easy layout just made me wanted to take it, but I also found the title of the magazine in itself attractive: MONOCLE. A Briefing on Global Affairs, Business, Culture & Design. Then I read the headline: MONOCLE reports from Ashrafieh: home to Beirut's most resilient residents and their curious community that just won't quit. I had a quick look inside and just bought the magazine. I think I'm going to follow it every month. It also has a quite complete website: with articles and video programmes. Also in this month's issue are articles about Art Dubai, the Faroe Islands and the North Cyprus Turkish Republic. Oh, and at the end of the magazine is a Japanese comic/manga Kita Koga exclusively produced for MONOCLE in a modest studio of Tokyo. The making-of pictures of the manga are quite nice. I think a found the almost perfect monthly for me!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Online Shopping

I am not really a shopping addict and I usually like to see and touch what I am buying, but I have just discovered two online shops that are really worth looking at: etsy and foof (this came from our friend Bijan who always finds out what's best on the web!).

Etsy - "Your place to buy and sell all hand made" - proposes a wide range of very nice accessories, all handmade by people from all around the world (check Morelle for Amsterdam based designer for instance). I fell in love with a flower brooch made by Monda (I collect broochs) and a very nice every day use bag by Morelle (I have too many but it's never enough).

All MacBook and iPod users should check foofshop ASAP! The cable turtles are really a must have, together with great MacBook and iPod sleeves. And if you still hesitate, here's another good reason to purchase from them: foof products are all ethically hand made in Australia.

So what are you still waiting for? Go shopping!


I hope you will like the blog's new layout. I thought I should get rid of the black background, not because I didn't like it -I love black!- but mostly because it isn't so easy to read light gray letter fonts on black. And the photograph called "Rotterdam Wind" - it was taken on Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam on a very very windy evening late fall 2006 (photo by Erinc Salor) - is now fully part of the blog's title.


Friday, April 4, 2008


Imagine a man surrounded by three laptops and one extra monitor in front of him, one earphone linked to his cellphone, one hand on the land line phone and the other hand ready to grasp his blackberry at any time. What a horrible view of a workaholic drowned in modern technology you might say. Well don't go that fast presuming, because when you look at the man's face, you can see an enormous smile, eyes shining with creativity and brightness and energy bursting out of his whole body. I see much more in this man: hope, ambition, passion, love and tuns of respect. That man is my father and I am deeply touched by the way he handles his life. He didn't always take the right decisions and made a lot of mistakes towards his ex-wife and his children, but it has also been the other way around. He is 54 years old and has a quite sensitive and weak health, but he goes on no matter what. He runs after his dreams, even if sometimes I think he goes a bit too fast. I can't tell him to slow down but I just keep on hoping he never forgets to put on his safety belt.

Seni Seviyorum Babacim

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Polar Fox

I was doing some research about whales when I dropped into this magnificent animal on google. It is an Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus), also known as the White Fox, and lives in the cold Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It makes you say "I want one!" So these pictures are just for consolation... But after all, it is sure happier in its environment and therefore even more beautiful.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm an Entertainer!

This test has qualified me as "Entertainer".

"Radiates attractive warmth and optimism. Smooth, witty, charming, clever. Fun to be with. Very generous. 8.5% of the total population."

I usually don't like tests but here strongly tend to agree!

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Ode to Women

After her internationally acclaimed The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak is back in the book shelves since the end of November 2007 with a new work in Turkish: Siyah Süt. It has not been translated yet but I am sure it will in a short while. And if no editor has already thought about publishing an English or French version, I can hereby state that I am very much open to work on it in French.

Siyah Süt -Turkish for "Black Milk"- is Shafak's first autobiographical novel, as clearly stated on the cover (see right side bottom). It subtitle says: "Yeni baslayanlar için Postpartum depresyon" -Postpartum depression for beginners. At first view, it wasn't a book for me I thought. I am not a mother and I have no wish to be one, even though I stay open to change my current vision on my life is baby-less. But then I really like Elif Shafak's work, especially her English written novels The Saint of Incipient Insanities and The Bastard of Istanbul - I have to be honest, I have difficulty reading the language she uses in her Turkish novels. I wanted to know more about this writer, because I was sure, no matter what, that she was going to tell her readers about her writing and not about her baby splitting on her nightgown only. And I have been impressed, even more than expected. Black Milk is a brilliant work. During 200 pages and even more, Shafak specifically writes about herself and the many voices inside of her before her pregnancy, enabling her readers to really understand the postnatal depression she went through. Inviting her readers to reflection, Shafak tells about her fears, her wishes, her doubts and moves to the wider theme of being a woman in society. She describes women writer's lives and vision on motherhood and feminism, making parallels with her own states of mind. She gives voice to the different women within her, and talks to herself through these six different characters throughout her story. Artist Latif Demirci's drawings also add another dimension to her storytelling, allowing an outside eye to draw the author's experience.

Shafak thought that she could never write again, but she intelligently and movingly transforms her black-turned maternity milk into ink. However, she wants this ink to be ephemeral as she tells her readers right from the beginning that this book has been written so it could be forgotten as soon as it has been read. "Suya yazi yazar gibi..." - as if you would write on water.
I don't know if it had been designed on purpose, but the ink of the title on the cover of my book has vanished after I read the novel... No matter what, I will not forget this book because for me, it is above all an ode to women.

Elif Safak
Siyah Süt
Dogan Kitapçilik
303 pages
Published November 2007 in Turkish

Friday, March 21, 2008

After winter comes...

...festival season!

Spring might have started with snow this year but the sun has not waited very long to show its rays. As I am typing now, it warms my Amsterdam apartment through the large windows of my living room, where I was watching the snow covering the streets not as long as an hour ago.

Snow or not, winter is now giving its place to spring, and for me, spring goes along with the start of a very long and rich festival season. After the launch of the Iceland on the Edge Festival, going on at BOZAR until 15 June, starts Ars Musica, again in Brussels, celebrating contemporary music. Those of you who are in Brussels in April, I would suggest you to go listen to Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, a magnificent pianist who also happens to be the husband of a precious friend of mine and the father of a beautiful Antoinette, on 19 April at Flagey. You can also hear his Boulez recording in the exhibition around Paul Klee at BOZAR: Theatre here, there and everywhere.

More theatre and dance in two performing arts festival in Brussels and Amsterdam: kunstenFestivaldesArts and Holland Festival, both offering a very rich international programme. I've spotted several performances: Aydin Teker's HarS and Zan Yamashita's It is written there at the kunstenFestivaldesArts, Amir Reza Koohestani's Quartet: A Journey to North both at the kunstenFestivaldesArts and Holland Festival, Samuel Becket's Happy Days with Fiona Shaw, William Forsythe's Kammer/Kammer and Decreation, the latter based on Anne Carson's eponymous work and Calliope Tsoupaki's brand new oratorio presented in World Premiere at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, all at the Holland Festival.

After Spring comes Summer... and with it even more festivals... But for the moment, let's enjoy Spring, it's only the beginning!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


One rainy Sunday afternoon, with no will to go out even to get some groceries, ordering food in and watching Kate, Sawyer and Jack's adventures on a faraway island. It sounds silly right? Well, that's what I thought, enough of these silly stories, what the f... is that black smoke on the island, and why the hell are these "Others" treating our nice heroes so badly? So I just stopped the DVD of the third season of LOST to get something to eat and to read some news... and guess what, the real world sounds even sillier! EL PAIS and The Guardian are writing about the possibility to make primary school children eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behavior indicating they may become criminals in later life. If that's the way it was working in Belgium when I was a kid, my parents would for sure be in serious trouble since I had a kind of hobby knocking guys out in the schoolyard (I stopped soon enough, don't worry, I loved to play the fearless garçon manqué). Anyway, I thought I might read about what was happening in my native country and moved to Turkish paper Radikal where I read a short article entitled: "Alkolsüz türkü üretildi!". It can be translated as: Alcohol free türkü (a type of Turkish folk song) has been created and it explains how during the celebration of "Health/Medicine Day" the members of the Choir, coordinated by the Ministry of Health, have avoided the words "alcohol" or "drunk" in all the türkü's they sang, replacing them by the word "doctor". So the line 'Sarhoşlar geliyor eli şişeli'/ "The drunk are coming bottles in hand" have turned into 'Doktorlar geliyor eli şişeli' / "The doctors are coming bottles in hand".
I'm just going to leave my international-online-newspaper-tour to watch some tattooed doc' kept prisoner on a faraway island.
Some people really don't need to get drunk to get LOST.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stay switched on

Since the last 3 years, I have been living without a television. My parents both have TVs home and I used to live with its sound when I was sharing their house. I must say that I even enjoyed watching it a lot... all the series, cultural programmes, news broadcast, documentaries, movies... But let's face it, most of what's on TV is... JUNK. And now that I am spending the week in a TV friendly environment, I just feel I get more headaches. Only the sound of it is disturbing me. I feel like my head is full of unnecessary noises, no matter what they are. Music, commercials, series... I don't need the television to know about what's happening in the world or to watch a good movie. Here I have experienced once again how happy I am not to have a television. It's a personal choice, one that gives me more space to read, write, enjoy the company of my lover, converse, go out, meet people, discover the world. I'm glad I can do it all without having a TV. I intend to keep it that way. And I don't feel I know less about the world. I'm always switched on so I can better see what's around me and far beyond.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Angels in Amsterdam

The beautiful play by Tony Kushner, Angels in America, has moved the whole world already. I had missed the French version, with the music of genius composer and conductor Peter Eötvös, staged in Paris in November 2004, which I still cannot forgive myself for! So I thought I would get some consolation with the TV version on DVD, which has actually been a revelation (I agree that with actors like Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, it can hardly not be good). So I kept on dreaming about someday when I could experience the stage performance of the stunning play. I would never have thought I would be so motivated to see a 5 hour play in Dutch! Indeed, toneelgroepamsterdam is preparing to tour Angels, starting from the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. You can either go for a marathon performance or split it into two parts, which I will certainly do since my Dutch will not permit me to focus on 5 hours of strong text in a row. First thing tomorrow, I will head to the Leidseplein and buy my tickets. I will go on dreaming until I see it for real... the Angels will soon be in Amsterdam.

From 1 to 8 March and from 26 to 29 March 2008 in Amsterdam
More tour dates on

Monday, February 18, 2008

Images Moving

I have been deeply moved by a work of art a few minutes ago. A book of drawings, images talking to me without using a single printed word, except for its title: The Arrival, and the name of its author: Shaun Tan. One artist to discover for certain. The Arrival has won the prize for best comic book of the year at the Angoûleme Comics Festival. One immigration story among billions one might say, so what makes Shaun Tan's story so original? Without spoiling your pleasure to discover the book by yourself, I will just tell you how I felt when I started to watch and read the images one frame after the other. The absence of written language just made me feel as lost as the central character of the story, I could follow and experience each one of his feelings: the arrival to the foreign land, the tasting of new food, the meeting with people, the search for a job, the loneliness... And the awkward need to belong. Frame after frame, I was trying to decipher each drawing as the character tried to decipher his new environment. I could write pages and pages about the technique Shaun Tan uses, comparing his work with other graphic novels... But I will not break the spell: I have been deeply moved by the story of a man who leaves his daughter and wife to search for a better life on an unknown land. Nothing new, same old story for hundreds of years. And I am still moved by the humanity in it, only this time was the feeling even stronger.

Photo: 'Four Seasons' Shaun Tan, pencil on paper

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flying up on an Air Balloon, bis

The 'bis' part of a concert is usually one of the best moments of it, I think. It is sometimes the case in everyday life too, when you see something for a second time, especially when you didn't expect it. Well... today, on my way back from Zutphen to Amsterdam, I saw the air balloon with the purple and green stripes again. And this time, it was flying even higher...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flying up on an Air Balloon

Today, I have become a Japanese, Israeli, Polish, Romanian and even Russian young woman in the mind of several young people involved in a training about diversity. During an exercise about prejudices, I have experienced others' perception of me. Yes, I have an unusual name, and yes, it isn't clear rightaway where it comes from, and yes, I have quite a pale skin, eventhough I can easily get tanned under the sun. And to make it more confusing, I speak good English, and Dutch, my Spanish is correct and my mother tongues are French and Turkish. But these kids didn't have all that information (they just knew I spoke English and Dutch and they knew my name), so they thought of me as everything but Turkish or Belgian. I understand it pretty well, and furthermore I don't like to identify myself with a nation in the first place- it is part of my identity, not my whole self to be a Turkish-Belgian. But I still couldn't understand why suddenly I have become Japanese or Israeli? I thought of it a bit, and on my way back home to Amsterdam from this little town where the training was held, I saw a huge air balloon with green and purple stripes starting its ascendancy to the bright blue sky. I forgot about being Polish, Romanian, Japanese, Belgian, Turkish... I just thought how beautiful it was to be a free human being.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Do you know Iceland?

You will say that you know Björk and maybe also 1955's Literature Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness. You might even know about the Hofdi House, built in 1909, one of the most beautiful buildings in Reykjavik, best known as the location for the 1986 summit meeting of presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbatsjov, that effectively marked the end of the Cold War. And of course, you might have heard about the Sagas, the trolls, the harsh and breathtaking nature, the geysers and the blue lagoon... And if none of these ring any bell to you, don't worry, it's never late to learn! And if you live in Brussels or not too far from the city, don't miss the Iceland on the Edge festival that will take place at BOZAR from 15 February to 15 June. They also have a blog where artists and Iceland lovers (including me) write everyday:
I will make the trip from Amsterdam, at least for the opening AIRWAVES concerts on 15 February. I admit that I am not only go for that event only, but while around, there's no reason why I should miss it.

John Eliot, Nick and Beth

What do the Monteverdi Choir, Bach, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and Portishead have in common?


And moreover, they are all coming to Amsterdam in the following months and I will be there, from the Concertgebouw to the Heineken Music Hall.

So they will also have me in common, at least in Amsterdam!

Check their websites for additional tour dates:

Monday, February 4, 2008

Stuck between two scenes

I'm literally stuck between two scenes in my play. I shouldn't think of it now but I just can't help it. It's just words on paper for the moment (and might stay so if no one gets any interest in what I'm writing), but I can't stop thinking "what if"... What if it takes too long to move from one background to the other, will the play lose its dynamic right from the start? What if I move the first scene to the second part, would it then lose its impact and strength? What if I can't get the rights to use any music I want... and it goes on.
I should stop, really... I'm gonna try something new: what if I could just go on writing and then I'll see. If any director gets interested in my text... then only will we see.
Well, it feels good to talk sometimes, just talk, even if it's nonsense to most of the people hearing or reading about it. Even to me it sounds like nonsense, put I'm gonna post it anyway.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Enjoying Amsterdam

This is my first post of the year 2008. Not that I've been sleeping, lazy or didn't have anything interesting to say, I've just been busy changing my life! Some great changes actually, new city, new job and new apartment... All have gone so fast that I didn't even realize the huge step I made in such a short time, and moreover, I am really happy about all these changes. Ok, I admit it, Amsterdam is not so far from Brussels, I moved from a 38M2 studio to a 80M2 real apartment, and I didn't leave BOZAR for an unknown association but for the British Council... and, last but not least, I'm here with the love of my life, so nothing really difficult when you see it from this side... Still, in order to get all this, I had to make up my mind before I knew all this would work out. Life on a bycicle is actually great, the canals just make everything look more beautiful. So yes, I'm happy here. Amsterdam is the city where I belong for now. I don't know where I will go in the future, but for the moment, I'm here and I will let you know about life, concerts, expos, people and more here...