Arama Sonucu:

Are two out of every ten questions foreign publishers ask you still related to what is happening in Türkiye? Does the passion for Orientalism continue to direct their view of Turkish literature?

With Salman Rushdie and Burhan Sönmez    Frankfurt 2023

It does. I think we will not be able to break this, but I am not as upset as I used to be. It should not be forgotten that as a country, we are much better than many other countries in getting our own literature read to the world. TEDA, which we have just mentioned, has a crucial role in this. Of course, to make sales, I am talking about something else beyond literary values: trade. In order to make trade, you need to promote what you have. The better and more effective you are in promoting what you have, the more buyers it will attract. Türkiye has come a long way in this promotion process, which started in 2008, and now it is reaping the rewards. Yes, there are and will always be questions about Türkiye and what is happening in Türkiye. But I realised something: When we talk about other countries, we talk about their politics. The essence of literature is politics. The essence of life is politics. Every word we use is a choice, and that choice is a product of politics. Every book we read, even the brand of chocolate we eat, is the result of politics. It is necessary to know this very well to discover how we can use this for our own benefit, beyond anger. As I said, my times of anger have passed. Now, I am in the time when I am thinking, “How can I do this better?” Is it possible to talk about Russian literature now or for the next ten years, and not talk about Russian politics? Or can we talk about Israeli literature without talking about politics?

You say, “It is very difficult to exchange translations with countries we have not fought and made love with.” But on the other hand, I think Russia is out of this issue because we do not have a peaceful common history with Russians. Today Russian publishers consider Türkiye as a summer holiday destination only, don’t they?

Yes, yes, but in the last two years, Russia has started to buy more books in Turkish because it cannot officially participate in book fairs. Russia cannot participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair, it cannot participate in the Bologna Book Fair, they do not have official stands, and I do not think this will happen until this problem is solved. Some publishers from Russia still come to the fairs. Yes, their situation is a little better this year. Last year, it was not like this; there were almost no publishers from Russia at the fairs. I think they are more in love and more at war with the USA than with us because they read so much from Americans that they don’t have time for us. Yes, that’s it exactly! Russia is now one of the countries that is very heavily surrounded by American and German books. They used to buy very few books from Türkiye, but as I said, this is slowly changing. The reason is politics again. By the way, we don’t translate that much from Russian, either. I am well aware that you are a good reader, but can you tell me the name of a “living” Russian writer?

All the ones I can think of now are dead Russian writers.

See? Our relationship with Russians is sand and sun. That’s OK. Let’s keep it that way. Yes, it’s very difficult to exchange translations with countries we don’t fight and make love with. But this statement applies to many countries. So, how do I make this equation? If there was a war, we must have had a common history with that country, and therefore, we must have had departments teaching that language in our universities. For example, the department of Greek Language and Literature… There are still people who learn Greek. Marriages are formed in connection with learning this language. Bilingual children are born through marriages, and when those children grow up, they become possible translators or people who promote that country. This is a situation that is greatly beneficial not only for the promotion of the country but also for the promotion of literature. “Yes, let’s fight!” No, no! Let’s just keep making love.

Frankfurt Book Fair – 2022




Spain was the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2022. Italy also participated in that fair with seventy-six publishing houses. I think professional stand designers work for book fairs because some countries’ stands were extraordinary! Norway, for example, used wood as the dominant material to emphasize its nature and the importance it attaches to nature. Portugal’s stand had a quote from Saramago, again on a huge photo of his. In other words, Saramago was welcoming everyone in Portugal’s house. I admired those stands, but I could not see the stands of our own publishing houses there. Only the Ministry of Culture and the Publishers Association were there. But I regret to say that their stands were not eye-catching. Those dark colours, that fluorescent light… Our stands paled beside the well-thought-of and lively looking ones which belonged to some European publishing houses.

It’s business again! If you don’t earn money, you don’t spend money. Publishers in Türkiye are not yet very aware that it is possible to make money from royalty income, or rather, they are aware of it, but we have companies in the publishing sector that operate with very small budgets, and they make calculations in order to make the money they will invest in that stand design: “If I put ten thousand euros, I should at least sell ten thousand books, I should earn that much money.” That’s how they think. When companies do not earn that much, they do not spend that much money at book fairs just for the promotion of the country. In return, this is how much visibility we have as a country. In the future, when publishers realise that they can earn more money from royalty sales, I think they will make their own presentations and preparations accordingly. So, this is a process. As we discussed at the beginning of our conversation, twenty years ago, there were not even copyright departments in our publishing sector. Now there are, and my colleagues work there. More than ten publishers have copyright departments. Some of them even have two or three people working there. With the royalties they earn, decision-makers, those who decide on the economic situation of that company, say, “If we make such a stand, we will sell more books. This will bring us both income and pride,” and they will invest accordingly. I hope this will happen soon.


There are also professional magazines such as Publishing Perspectives and The Bookseller. As Kalem Agency, you follow them very closely. Is there really a need for publishers to go to international book fairs like Frankfurt when there are such magazines? Are these magazines not enough to make money from books?

Frankfurt Book Fair – 2023

Think of it this way: You can get married. You can also get married at the registry office. You can get married between you and your partner without any official formalities. You can also have a big ceremony and marry among your relatives. All types of marriage are different. I, for example, like big weddings, big weddings where everyone is cheerful. Joking aside, it really depends on how you do business. Yes, you can do publishing without going to a book fair. There is no need to make that expense. But there is also experiencing that happiness. You correspond with those people all year round. If you like to sit and have a coffee with them and chat face to face, you go to those book fairs. But when you get bored of them, you don’t want to go anymore. Twenty years ago, many of my colleagues and publishing professionals used to go to these fairs, but now they don’t go anymore, either because they are bored of going there or because they don’t want to incur the expense. Let’s say five hundred euros for the plane fare, a thousand euros for the hotel, another five hundred euros for your expenses, visa and so on, and the cost is two thousand euros per person. As Kalem Agency, we travelled with at least five people. In recent years, there have been times when we travelled with six people. This is a good amount of money; I mean an incredibly good amount of money. If publishing houses are going to participate with a stand, there should be at least two people at that stand. The stand design will be added to this. We also need to buy a table for Kalem Agency. I think agency desks cost one thousand five hundred euros at the moment. As a result, it costs three thousand five hundred euros for an agency to participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair. You must plan how many books you will sell to earn three thousand five hundred euros. This figure is only valid if you are not supported by a group or sponsored by a company.


What would you like to say about book fairs in our country?

Travelling to fairs in our country requires a certain amount of money, time, energy, and desire. There are other things, of course. For example, we have just talked about weddings. Apart from weddings, there are also Islamic ceremonies, for example, and street marches. You go to whichever ones you want to. You get excited for them. I am not extremely excited about going to book fairs in Türkiye. This is not to tell people, “No, don’t go!” or anything like that. It is just that it is not particularly useful for my work, so I don’t see events that excite me that much at fairs. Transport is exceedingly difficult. There is a big gap between the time I spend and what I get for the excitement. That is why I can’t go much, but I am very happy to go to the literature festival on Marmara Island, for example, because I see people who are really excited about books, who come to Marmara Island for books, and I am happy to be among them. Or I am happy when I go to an event in a bookstore in Eskişehir. How happy are people to go to book fairs? They should sit down and think about it. Maybe I get bored of seeing the same things. There should be more different things and different formats, right? We have televisions, but why do we spend a lot of money on films curated by all those different companies in the digital world? I think book fairs should develop themselves in the same way. If I don’t see any difference between the book fair of twenty years ago and the current one, I get bored of going there. But there are people who don’t get bored, they go there eagerly. I am not saying this with irony, believe me. The existence of people who really don’t get bored is a system that feeds our sector and ultimately provides cash flow for publishers. But if the cheques from the distributors were not dated for eight, ten, or twelve months and if the money for the books sold by our publishers were deposited in their accounts immediately, I wonder if those publishers would go to book fairs so much. I mean, I think that book fairs still exist because of the bad state of our distribution sector. This needs to change.




Ms Mollaoğlu, now let’s talk about this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature: A friend at Kalem Agency has predicted the Nobel laureate, hasn’t she?

Yes, Betül.

Fosse is a writer whose works have been translated into more than forty languages. He has also received international awards. I love literature, but I had never heard of him before the Nobel Prize. Neither did most of my friends, who are fond of reading. To what do you attribute this, and how do you interpret this year’s Nobel?

Yes, it wasn’t a name I was expecting either, but Betül has guessed it. Before the prize, I did a survey asking, “Who is your Nobel nominee?” I’m glad I did. I didn’t have a prediction for this year either. I mean, I didn’t say, “This name will win.” I guess I’m bored of that, too. My predictions and the authors I wanted have not come out in recent years. I think Fosse was a good choice. By the way, I also see the prize as an honour for Norwegian literature. Some writers don’t accept this. “It’s an honour for my literature,” they say. No, I think those writers are not born alone. They are surrounded by other trees, they protect and nourish each other, and they feed on that soil because what they produce is a literary product written in that language. Yes, Fosse may have been nourished by world literature, but I think he was mainly nourished by his own literature. I love Norwegian literature very much. We represent Norwegian literature in Türkiye with immense pride. We have hosted many writers at ITEF. Norway is a country that works incredibly well to promote its own literature. I really applaud this. I express my admiration for them every time. They work as a whole country. Their agents and publishers work very well. They have a fund: NORLA. NORLA works very well. What I mean by “working well” is that they are approachable people, and they have been sitting in that seat for many years, and they are not using it as a stepping stone to move from that seat to another, to a political one. They are there to support literature. They support the translation of books. Their translators earn well and can make a living through translation without having to work in other jobs. Then, when the book is published, Norway provides funds to send the author to different countries. For example, at the beginning of this year, in January, I was in Chennai. Chennai is a state in the south-eastern part of India, and Tamil is spoken there. There were Norwegian and French writers in Chennai. France is one of the countries that supports its own literature. Therefore, I am incredibly happy that Fosse won, but I would like to emphasize that he was not my prediction. I wish I could have predicted it. But right now, if you ask me a question like, “What are your expectations for next year?”, I don’t have that either. And I won’t talk about it until a writer I represent wins the Nobel Prize.

I also want to tell you this; it has just come to my mind: There is a German publisher whom I like very much. He is the owner of a German publishing house with headquarters in Switzerland, and he publishes literature from one hundred and sixty-odd countries of the world. He publishes literature in translation and also in German. Every year, he does something. He has his own list, which is to say, a list of his own special authors whom he predicts will win the Nobel Prize. Before the fair, in Zurich, the centre of the publishing house, he prepares posters saying “Nobel winner” for those authors on his list and brings them all. He does this every year. So, if someone from the list wins, the poster will be ready! I have a lot of fun, and I like it very much. It’s marvellous, isn’t it? It’s like all of those writers won the Nobel that year…

It’s like playing the lottery with literature! He’s playing the literary lottery!

Haha! Yes, that’s right, it’s a lottery! I love it! I wonder how many he’s hit so far. I’ll ask him sometime.


Is social media really a must for a writer? In other words, can a writer promote himself well without using social media?

It may not be necessary for the author to use it himself, but social media is a must. Social media is necessary for promotion, in other words, for marketing. If the author does not do it himself, the publishing house or a PR company must do it, and it must be done in different channels and in accordance with these channels. There are also authors who do not use social media. For example, Oya Baydar and Hakan Günday. I give these two examples especially because they are writers with different perspectives in terms of age and experience, and yes, neither of them uses social media. I wish they did. I would like to know what Hakan Günday read that day and what was going on in his life, but he prefers not to share this. This makes that writer different for us. On social media, both as Nermin and as Nermin, the literary agent, there are many writers in Türkiye and in the world that I like to follow. I like it because somehow, we live in the same age with them. What are they doing? But, of course, I don’t like some of the posts. We don’t like everything or everyone we follow, this is normal, but we need to know what those people are doing. There are writers I follow professionally. I love using social media. I don’t find social media self-centred at all. I don’t see it as a need, but if I feel like sharing at that moment, I do. Sometimes, I don’t do or share anything for days. I think I was doing it very regularly in the first years, but then I started to get a little bored with it. I remember this, for example: When I didn’t post anything for a few days, I used to receive messages like “Ms Mollaoğlu, are you OK?” and so on. I don’t get them anymore. It means that we can have such gaps occasionally, and people get used to it.

I guess you don’t share anything when you’re too busy.

Yes, that’s true. Sometimes it happens. When I feel like it, I post. For example, yesterday I had a marvellous day. Our friends came. I played with them in the rain, under the trees, with the cat, but the only thing I shared was that I woke up at seven in the morning and read a book. I also share a lot for work. For example, I am going to Slovenia. I want to share if there is anyone who can meet me when I go there. I see a lot of benefits of social media for work. There are people who say, “Have you read this, Ms Mollaoğlu? I have discovered this author.” But there is one thing I don’t like at all. I really don’t like it. I don’t want to use a bad word, but it also makes me sad because I don’t approach those people like that. You know, on Instagram, as in other media, you don’t need a follow-up to follow-up. I think this is good. You don’t have to follow the person who follows you. The point that bothers me a lot is this: Someone has just discovered me and knows that I am a literary agent. So far, so good. Then, he checks my social media account. He sees that I am someone who reads books and is from the sector. “Ms Mollaoglu, hello. I’m your fan. I’ve written a book. I rely on my book. I want to send it to you. Can you write me your address?” I get so many messages like this… This can’t happen! I mean, just because you are my fan, just because you follow me, I don’t have to be your fan. “We don’t get new author representation, so I can’t read your book, unfortunately,” I say sweetly. “Well, then read it for yourself. I’m sure you’ll love it, and you’ll represent me.” Isn’t that very disrespectful now? “That’s all I can do now. I don’t want any more writers,” I say, and even though he has read this message of mine, he says, “No, I want you to read it.” I see this as profoundly serious violence. This is social media violence. Without thinking about what the other person will think, he also asks for my address! These are very disrespectful and violent messages.

Besides, do you have time to read those books?

When I woke up yesterday morning, I didn’t have to read the book I was reading. I’m reading a book from classical English literature. There is no royalty income, nothing, so I don’t need to read it. I also read books for myself. I am grateful that I can read books without the aim of making money, but I must make the choice to do so. In other words, I have no obligation to read someone’s book just because he follows me on social media, just because he is my fan. By the way, these are usually the first messages; that is, they have just started to follow me. That’s another case. You are not my friend, and I have never shared a life with you. I’ve never even had a coffee with you before. We have nothing in common. Maybe we haven’t even read the same books. We don’t even have a literary kinship, but he thinks I should read the book he wrote. Yes, this is actually my biggest problem on social media.

You’re right, it’s hard…


Well, let’s move on to another topic: How are your relations with the academia in Türkiye?

We still have remarkably close relations with the linguistics departments of universities because many of the professors at universities are also translators. Graduates of those departments enter the publishing sector. The sector is fed by this, but I cannot say that I have very close relations with academia. I wish I did. You reminded me well, let me lean on this subject a bit.

(The third and the last part of the interview will be shared two weeks later.)

Bir yorum Yaz