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Language & Literature

An Author Close to the People

Visiting Emrah Serbes

Our favourite publishing house binooki is celebrating its fourth birthday with special guests such as the Turkish author Emrah Serbes. For the birthday party, both publishers Selma Wels and Inci Bürhaniye chose the wonderful PUTTENSAAL in the Luisenbad Library, which was completely full.

binooki was founded in 2011 with the intention to publish Turkish Literature in German, and thereby make it accessible to the German-speaking audience. Selma described the start four years ago on this evening in three words “Jump. Water. Cold.” But the two sisters’ business idea was welcomed with open arms and they won three prizes in the first two years, including the well-known Kurt-Wolff-Förderpreis (2013). Today, their publishing list comprises 25 sophisticated books of Turkish literature, reaching from mystery to fiction to fantasy.
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They brought their youngest and most successful author with them on this evening: Emrah Serbes, the enfant terrible of the Turkish literature scene. Serbes decided to become an author at age fourteen, and published his first volume at age 25 about the stubborn detective Behzat Ç. His socio-critical stories were also broadcast as a television series. The series was soon cancelled and Serbes was charged with making comments critical of the government. Serbes was active during the Gezi Protests at Taksim Square in Istanbul two years ago. A year later, binooki published the anthology Gezi, which wasn’t consequence-free for the young publishing house: binooki lost important funding from the EU as well as Turkey. ”Publishing work unfortunately doesn’t just mean making great books, it also means sometimes getting tied up in politics,” Selma soberly declares on this evening.

Together with Emrah, Selma is currently on a 10-day long reading tour across Germany and Switzerland, which they took a break from for the birthday. Taking turns reading in German and Turkish, the two read passages from Emrah’s work Fragments, which was published in German by binooki last March. The translation originally was done by Selma, and when one experiences the publisher and author together, it’s immediately clear: the chemistry is simply there. The young author reminds one a little bit of Charles Bukowski, as he sits there and drinks his beer, relaxed and friendly. While Selma translates his answers to her questions into German, Emrah opens his next beer. When he gets up in the middle of it to smoke a cigarette, Selma asks her nephew, Inci’s son, Kaan, to come on stage and summarise binooki at four years in his own words: “It is a nice feeling that my mother and aunt have become small celebrities.”

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Back from his smoke break, Selma and Emrah read a passage from Emrah’s newest work deliduman (engl: wild smoke), which will be published by binooki on 2 October in German. Told from the perspective of a pair of siblings, Serbes dealt with his personal impressions of the Gezi Park Protests two years ago in this book. “Sometimes authors experience something that they have to write about,” says the author. “When I saw the street barricades on Taksim Square on the night of 31 May 2013, I knew I had to write about it,” explains Emrah. “My best book thus far,” he dryly states. And also his most successful: In Turkey, deliduman has sold over 100,000 copies. At the end of the reading, an older Turkish audience member thanks the young writer: Emrah poured his heart out for us today.

Later on in the courtyard, the celebration continues. In the foyer there are Turkish delicacies from Meyan restaurant, which is owned by Selma and Inci’s sister Çiğdem. Emrah smokes and patiently signs one book after the other. Photos are also allowed, of course. An author close to the people.

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Photos: binooki

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