Utpal Borpujari

June 14, 2010

Indians will connect with my book: Serdar Özkan

It’s not very often that a debutant novelist finds his book compared with The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach or Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. But Turkish writer Serdar Özkan’s The Missing Rose has not only been compared to these classics by critics across the globe but also been translated into 35 languages worldwide, including Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu in India. The book, whose English version has been released here by Wisdom Tree, has been able to connect with readers so widely because of its universal theme, transcending the barriers of race, culture, religion and all that, says the 1975-born Özkan, who studied Business Administration and Psychology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, USA, followed by further studies in Psychology at Istanbul’s Bogazici University. He speaks with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on what drives his writing:

How does it feel to get your debut novel translated into 35 languages worldwide?

I feel fortunate, because my novel has been published in so many languages in over 40 countries and I have had 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 with a universal theme. The journey for this success began with the story, and it took several years. First, a few foreign publishers believed in the story, then as readers loved the book it went onto bestseller lists internationally, triggering more publishers in other countries. 

In India too, it is being translated into Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu. What kind of reception do you expect to your book in India, a country of multitudes of languages?

I believe there is something in The Missing Rose which makes it appealing for readers from every culture. I expect a similar reaction from the Indian readers. And they may react to it even more strongly because of the mystical background of India. This expectation is already met to an extent given that the English version of The Missing Rose has entered bestseller lists in India as well. 

When did the idea for the book come to you? Is there any element of real-life in it?

I began writing fiction full time in 2002 when I was 26. As the idea of The Missing Rose started to shape within me, I turned to writing fiction full time. The story is pure fiction. But I believe that some stories are more real than reality. Likewise, fiction can be more real than real life. I believe and hope that this is one such story. 

Your writing draws heavily from mysticism of the East. Was it a conscious effort to do that?

There was no conscious effort, but I am interested in mysticism, the unseen face of life. So naturally, the stories I write are influenced by that.   

As an author, how important is it for you to talk about humanism in your writing, as you have done in your novel?

There are so many thoughts and ideas in The Missing Rose as well as my second novel (When Life Lights Up) which is already out in nine countries.  But I never make any conscious intention to express or talk about them. When I write a book, I just try to see the story, and that’s it. I don’t intend to give any message through them. I intend to write books which provide taste, not advice, and stories which go to the heart, not to the intellect. So, if the reader extracts anything from my books, it comes from the story itself and not the author. I believe the best stories are the ones in which the reader forgets the author.    
 
Among Turkish authors, the world till now knew mainly Orhan Pamuk. How would you describe the standards of Turkish literature in English at present?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much international interest in the Turkish literature except a few authors. But it is getting better. And the international success of The Missing Rose is a sign of that. I believe in the future, literature of Turkey as well as other nations will be more widely appreciated.   
 

Why did you choose to write in English rather than your native language?

I write in Turkish first, and translate it into English myself with professional translators. So I do write in my native language, but also greatly involved in the writing and translation of the English edition as I would like at least the English edition to be 100 per cent representative of my style.   

Your book has received quite an encouraging response in India. Have you not thought of visiting India to talk about the idea behind it, particularly as it is getting translated into several Indian languages?

I think there is such an effort by my Indian publisher to design an extensive book tour in India for the book. I am also hoping to be able to meet with the Indian readers in person as I have already received wonderful reader e-mails from them. 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 13-06-2010)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/74992/indian-readers-identify-my-book.html

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