Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Edinburgh Showcase 2009

I'm in Edinburgh the whole week and I will be blogging about performances and events I will attend from 24 to 29 August. Follow My Week at the Edinburgh Showcase blog if you are interested in performing arts!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Remember 17 August 1999

Ten years ago Turkey was living a tragedy. Official figures say 17,480 died, 23,781 were wounded and 285,211 residences were damaged (see the earthquake's wikipedia page in Turkish). Unofficial sources talk about 50,000 deaths and more than 100,000 wounded. Whichever are the right figures, the reality was that hundreds of thousands people lost way too much during the big Marmara Earthquake on 17 August 1999: their lives, their loved ones, their homes, parts of their body, their work, their trust...

Another big earthquake is expected in the same region, it can happen today, tomorrow or any time within the next decades. Yes, it is a natural disaster human beings cannot fight against. But we should be prepared. We should start by not building houses made of sand (shells were found in the building wreck at the time!!!). Government regulations on building need to be stronger and more importantly, it needs to be followed. Rescue teams should be ready at any time. Hospitals should be ready to host everyone. It is too easy to say that nature or God had its say and that there is nothing we can do about it. That's just too easy. We cannot stop an earthquake, but we can make sure that we don't lose hundreds of thousands of lives when one comes our way. And we must not forget the tragedy of ten years ago, not to cry our souls out and feel good about it, but to make sure every single citizen remembers when time comes to vote that they choose the ones that will care about their citizens' well being. And if you wonder what might happen next time, read Mine G. Kirikkanat's novel Bir gün, gece (translated into French as La malédiction de Constantin). Because reality can be scary doesn't mean we don't have to face it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Novel that Waxes Off Stereotypes

Three young women are meeting once a month to get their legs (and other parts of their body) waxed. They live in the Netherlands, they have a strong friendship and they talk freely about their choices in life: about their career, their lifestyle, their fears, their love stories and about sex. No, it's not the story of Carrie and her friends teleported to the land of the wooden shoes, and it's not an orientalist depiction of an escape from the Harem. De Harsclub, translating literally as "The Wax Club" is the story of Bahar -single girl living with her parents, Arzu -independent flight attendant living alone, and Yelda -married to the "perfect" husband. Stereotypes? No.

Senay Özdemir's novel goes far beyond its "Mediterranean Chick lit" label and its unoriginal cover. De Harsclub is a sincere novel and it is why it's such a pleasure to read. The author doesn't try to manipulate your thoughts about a certain community. In this novel, like in real life, Mediterranean/Turkish/Muslim women do care about and have a life full of fun, love, success and sex, and that is just ... natural. No stereotypical depiction of the "non Western" woman caught in the terrible-web-of-her-so-thought-doomed-culture. Being herself of Turkish descent, Senay Özdemir has a legitimate voice to tell the story of these three young women of Turkish origin living in the Netherlands. Because indeed, having Turkish roots does influence their thoughts and action, and it does shape their identity. But it does not ipso facto imply that they are trying to escape from an-OTHER world. These women are perfectly feeling in harmony with their identity, because it is composed by more than just nationality or tradition. Arzu, Bahar and Yelda are before everything else women, and Özdemir does not feel she needs to justify their needs, their passions, their stories, in any way. She doesn't have to and it feels so good. I recognized myself in these characters, I also recognized my mother, my aunt and my girlfriends, all with their own backgrounds, all with their own identities, all sharing stories of life as women, in their own way. I enjoyed their company and moreover, I enjoyed not having been put in a box again.

De Harsclub, by Senay Özdemir (Archipel Amsterdam - Antwerpen, 185 pages). In Dutch.
Senay Özdemir's blog: http://senayozdemir.blogspot.com/