Arama Sonucu:
Order of Merit of Hungary Knight’s Cross Ceremony
İstanbul Hungarian Cultural Centre – 11 December 2023

We know that Tanpınar is a bestseller abroad and has been translated into many languages. But the difference between the sales figures in Italy and Germany is very interesting. Tanpınar’s books were sold five times more in Italy than in Germany. What is the reason for this, in your opinion?

Tanpınar has been sold in nearly sixty languages. I know all the sales figures. The only thing I can say here is fate. Every book, every translation has a destiny and no matter what you do, sometimes you can never change it. It just goes on and on. I say this with real conviction. Sometimes, no matter what the literary agent does, no matter what the publisher does, that book may not sell. Let me give you an example: Tezer Özlü. Tezer Özlü was a writer who had been on Kalem Agency’s list since it was first established, but we couldn’t sell any of her books for fifteen years. It wasn’t about me. I was the same Nermin, I admired Tezer Özlü with the same intensity, and I really wanted her books to be translated. One of the literary agents who had just started working for us at that time was going to choose one or two books to send a bulletin promoting herself abroad – as we always do at Kalem Agency – and she said, “I want to work on Tezer Özlü.” I was going to tell her that this was a wrong choice. I mean, normally I could have told her this but I didn’t. I have a saying that I use a lot in the office: “Thank God, no one dies because of the mistakes we make.” In my previous sector, the health sector, for example, people can die when mistakes are made but not here. I said, “OK, let’s do it,” and after that Tezer Özlü bulletin – and we had worked on many Tezer Özlü bulletins up to that time – Tezer Özlü’s sales increased tremendously! Interestingly, a lot of work had been done before, catalogues had been prepared. There was nothing we were doing wrong about Tezer Özlü. But everything changed a lot after that bulletin. Tezer Özlü is now being translated into many languages. The German publishing house Suhrkamp will reprint it. Her books have even been sold to Denmark! I use the word “even” because Denmark is one of the countries that publish very few translated books. Switzerland is the same. Switzerland is a country that publishes very few books in Turkish, a very difficult market. Sometimes it is the fate of a writer or a book. Tanpınar’s was like this in the case of Italy. There are such examples in Türkiye as well. There are authors who have been translated into Turkish and have very high sales compared to other countries. We have just talked about Norwegian literature. Let me give an example from there again: Dag Solstad. Dag Solstad is a writer who has sold nearly a hundred thousand copies in Türkiye. He does not have such a sales figure in any other country. His publisher is really surprised by this.




Solstad’s Shyness and Dignity… We listened to him at ITEF last year.

Ayfer Tunç – Dag Solstad – Banu Gürsaler Syvertsen
ITEF 2022

Correct, he attended that event at ITEF with Ayfer Tunç. Dag Solstad had come to İstanbul for a football match in his youth. Very interesting, isn’t it? Last year he wanted to come again for ITEF. He was very old. He was not in good health. As I said before, Solstad has sold more copies in Türkiye than in any other country. What is our connection with Norway now? What does Solstad have that other writers don’t? Sometimes there is such a thing as fate, and you cannot go beyond it.


Culture, art, and literature bind us together in ways we sometimes cannot explain. Today, we may no longer remember the results of so-and-so rebellion or the causes of so-and-so war that we read about in history books when we were in high school, but we never forget what an event we read about in a literary work made us feel. For some reason, Yılmaz Karakoyunlu’s novel Salkım Hanım’ın Taneleri has come to my mind. How can anyone who has read Salkım Hanım’ın Taneleri forget the effects of the Wealth Tax on the Türkiye of that period? There are dozens of examples of this. We learn history from history books, but we can internalise it through literary books.

Exactly! I’m not the Nermin of twenty years ago. I’m glad I read books. Books made me who I am. The information I learnt through books, the people, the events of the past have formed the Nermin of today. The window through which I am currently looking at the world has emerged thanks to books. Of course, also other branches of art influenced this. The films we watch, the news we read, the people we follow on social media, they all feed us, but I am more influenced by books. Maybe it is because I read more books, I don’t know. I think this is the best intellectual activity for those who love lifelong learning: reading books. I would like to give an example from Defne Suman: Defne Suman is one of our widely translated writers, one of our writers whom I am very proud to represent. I have read her previous books, but At the Breakfast Table has a special place in my heart. We have just talked about the Wealth Tax, haven’t we? We also know what the population exchange was. They come here, we go there etc. But did any of them prefer to stay? If so, what happened to them? The ones in Trabzon, for example. Pontus Greeks. What happened to them? As someone who has lived in this country for fifty years, I have never thought about this. Isn’t it interesting? Weren’t there those who consciously chose to stay? What kind of life did they live? I wish we could go to the Black Sea region and talk to these people on the spot. I love listening to people’s stories. I love talking to them, listening to the paths they have travelled to the present day. But this is not possible. This is exactly what books are for. At the Breakfast Table has been one of the books that gave me the answer to this question. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it.

I’m reading Çember Apartmanı right now. We have even invited Ms Suman to our book club meeting. But yes, I’m also going to read At the Breakfast Table. I have never thought about those people either. What happened to the rest of them?

Because when you say, “population exchange”, it sounds like they all left, but of course they didn’t. Why am I so curious? I ask myself this question a lot. Yes, I am happy that I am like this but of course I think about why I am like this. The fact that I am the daughter of an immigrant -that is, the land I was born in is outside the current official borders of Türkiye- influences this but this cannot be the only effect because my husband was born in Türkiye and he also feels the same sensitivity, the same need to learn. I also see this in my friends who were born in Türkiye and have no family members born outside of Türkiye. It is just a desire, a need to look there.




For our writers who publish a new novel every year, you say, “Instead of doing this, I wish they would read more books. I wish they would be curious about what is going on in Norwegian literature, what Korean writers are writing, what the readers in Peru demand.” Are we far away from the literature of countries that are far away from us? Do you think we do not read enough contemporary world literature?

Yes, actually, we don’t read. In the early years they used to say things like this to me, and I was very upset: “Nermin, you couldn’t sell me even to the Bulgarian language.” This is such an insult, such a bad sentence that it should not even be told as a joke. I would like to ask those who say “not even to the Bulgarian language”: What about you, what have you read from Bulgarian literature? Right? Let’s not go all the way to Peru, let’s talk about what we read from our neighbourhood. Beyond Kazancakis, what can you tell us about Greek literature? Because around you, in the apartment you live in, in the school your child goes to, there must be someone born in Bulgaria, someone from Greece or someone from Georgia. Are you that disinterested in learning about the lives of these people? Will only the US feed us? Of course, every writer is free to publish any book he or she wants but when I look at the writers that I like -that Nermin, who is not a literary agent, likes- they are the people who have read world literature more. And I think this is reflected in their literature and in our conversations with them. Why? Imagine that you sit at a table, imagine that you share a table for four or five hours. The topic of conversation at the table is, “What will happen to Türkiye? What will happen to the state of the world?” At the point where you get beyond these, the subject you will talk about will be culture, art, and literature, won’t it? When those things become the subject, you talk to writers, translators, and journalists about the books you have read in those fields. And if what is discussed cannot go beyond Dostoevsky, that’s where I get bored. I really get bored. We still have writers who say “Dostoevsky” to the question “Who is your favourite writer?” Wait a minute, there have been writers after Dostoevsky. There are so many beautiful writers with whom we share the same era. I think it is a reader’s responsibility to be aware of their existence, don’t you think so? Because we read before we become writers. Of course, you don’t need to know as much as a literary agent, but if a person can name some living writers of ten countries, I think his perception of the whole world is open. If you know the living writers of ten countries, you know what is going on in those countries. Because when you read a book from Norway -Dag Solstad’s Shyness and Dignity, for example- you don’t only read about a high school teacher’s relationship with children and his life at home with his wife. You learn about Oslo, you learn about the Norwegian education system, you learn about their family relations, you learn about feminism in Norway, you learn about what men there go through, you learn about their alcohol problems. You learn a lot of things. What I mean is this: I find the writings of a writer who reads such books different from those of a writer who writes only by looking at himself in his house in İstanbul.

Me too.


I think you also have “Kalem Book Club”.

There was, yes.

What happened to it?

Wouldn’t it be nice to revive that club? That’s a good reminder. It was an activity we started during the pandemic. One day, I saw classics in the front row of a bookstore window. Yes, classics, I want to say that especially. Of course, this has a political background. Classic writers cannot write tweets. This sentence explains my opinion on the subject very well. Our country is full of lovers of writers who cannot write tweets. These are the books whose translators receive much fewer royalties. They are also not paid royalties when their books are reprinted again and again. So, it is very economical! What will we do about living writers? How will we introduce them? How will we make them the Dostoevskys of the future? “This is my responsibility!” I thought, and we started to organise Zoom meetings where living authors talked about classical works, where we introduced our living authors by using classical works. We also invited translators. It went very well. Now that you reminded me, I realised that I really missed it. Let me write to those writers right away. I would love to continue. We read Anna Karenina at those meetings. We did it with Defne Suman. I remember that the first time I read Anna Karenina, I had just started high school and I didn’t really understand anything in those days. I hadn’t read The Bridge on the Drina. I read that book too. I liked it very much. We did it together with Fuat Sevimay. I hadn’t read the Decameron Tales either. I was just pretending to have read it. I read it too. We analysed it with Burhan Sönmez. I had read all of Virginia Woolf’s books. Years later, when fifty-year-old Nermin read A Room of One’s Own and The Lighthouse, it was of course quite different. We did that with Ertuğrul Uçar. It was nice. I want to continue this. But I only have twenty-four hours. Still, I really want to.


In one of your interviews, you said that you do not consider yourself competent in translation. We know that you were a volunteer student at İstanbul University for a while. Then you started translating. How did you start translating? Have you started to consider yourself competent in this field?

Translation: Nermin Mollaoğlu – 2023

Actually, I still don’t think I’m sufficient. I’m learning a lot. This is one of the jobs I’ve pushed myself again. It did me a lot of good. It was a job that raised my language awareness. I still think I’m not good enough. I’m very good at literary agency, I know I’m good at it. After all these years, I can easily say that but I’m not that good at translation, I want to be good at it. I’m working on it. I think that’s why I started translating.


Nermin Mollaoğlu means energy to me. Where does this energy come from? Even from your social media accounts, you make me feel the energy inside you so intensely. Is this because you love your job so much?

People ask me this question a lot, but believe me, I don’t have the answer. I am just like this. But my high school friends say, “Nermin, you weren’t like this in high school.” I was very quiet in high school. Yes, I guess I was quiet. I read a lot of books. I guess I wasn’t a very happy person in my high school years. I think it has something to do with being happy or doing the things we like with the people we like. Yes, this is an important point. I mean, sometimes you must do the work you love with people you don’t like. Those days are very scary for me. Thank God, I love the people I work with very much. Today is Sunday, for example. I got up early in the morning, switched on the computer and I’m working. I don’t have to work; I don’t have to do the work I do. It’s not something that will affect my life much but I love working. I got up and tidied the house a bit. Then I switched on my computer and started working and I liked it very much. I am meeting a journalist in Slovenia. I enquired who else was there and he said he wanted to give me a literary tour of the city. Yes, if I hadn’t written to him today, maybe we wouldn’t have been able to do that. Someone will meet me in Slovenia, and I am very excited about it. I don’t know how to describe it more than that. I drink a lot of coffee. Of course, coffee gives me energy and makes me feel good. Yes, I think I have always loved what I do. I mean, I was very happy when I was a nurse, I loved teaching, I felt very good in the classroom, I had very good relationships with my students. But I liked this profession more, and I am glad that life has brought me here, and I continue. I get riled up about the jobs I don’t like; I don’t feel like doing them, and I don’t do them. This is a luxury, of course. It is a great chance, luxury, beautiful fate to be able to do this, to have such a life. I like to work, I like to use my body, I’m never lazy, for example. I am very assertive about this. I recommend this to everyone because it is very useful. Let me tell you a little bit about this laziness: This is a state of mind I have learnt from my father. When you wake up in the morning, for example, the house is messy, right? You’re too lazy to tidy it up, but when you do, you feel energised. Then, with that energy, you write a very annoying report and read a lot of pages because you feel relaxed. When you have a lot of files open on your computer, the system eventually slows down. Our brain is like that. There are a lot of boxes in it. When we close them and do the work to be done, everything relaxes. That’s why I do everything without any effort. I guess that’s why.




What is your biggest regret?

I usually did whatever I wanted to do. I was able to make decisions very easily in my education life and in my business life. I am very clear. I say, “I want this, or I don’t want that anymore,” and that issue is closed for me. I am not a person who regrets a lot, but I have this regret: I had a boyfriend during my university years when I decided to take the university exam again. I think I was in my last year of university, and I won the department of Greek Language and Literature at İstanbul University. I had to come to İstanbul and register, but my boyfriend told me, “Don’t go,” and I listened to him. I wish I hadn’t listened to him because sometimes I think it’s one of the most ridiculous mistakes made for the sake of love or romantic relationships. What would have happened if that hadn’t happened? After freezing my enrolment, I would go to the US and after I came back from the US, I would start studying Greek Language and Literature. Maybe that would open another door for me. That’s the only thing a man has ever made me do against my will. I wanted to study in a department at the Beyazıt campus of İstanbul University. I tried very hard to get into the department, but they wouldn’t let me in. I became a volunteer student, and while I was a volunteer student, they recommended me to Yapı Kredi Publishing. This opened the doors of a completely different beauty for me. So, I don’t regret it that much. I can also say this about literature: I always read books, but I was not a conscious reader. If there had been someone who told me at that time, “Nermin, read these books in this way,” or something like that… Maybe there were such people, but I didn’t listen to them, didn’t pay attention to them, I don’t remember. I could have read more consciously, yes. My very close friend Leyla Daşkaya is a much better reader than me. Leyla spent her high school and secondary school years much more consciously because reading books is something that requires time. You can’t read those books in an instant. You give them a part of your life. If I had done these things better, maybe my job would be much easier now. I guess I don’t have any other regrets.


What about your most serious disappointment in the industry?

I’m disappointed, of course: Kalem Agency hadn’t been established yet. I said I resigned from Yapı Kredi Publishing, and we were looking for someone to take my place. I attended a meeting, a meeting chaired by the undersecretary of the Minister of Culture of that time. We were in a hotel meeting room. There were the directors and founders of three big literary agencies at that time. What they said about Turkish literature, their perspectives on Turkish literature surprised and saddened me. Osman Nuri Karaca told the undersecretary and all the people in the hall that TEDA should not exist because these things are always done through contacts, that literature cannot be promoted by giving money. Kezban Akçalı was our elder. We learnt everything from her, but she thought that Turkish literature was not good enough to be translated into world languages, that we should not spend this money, that writers from the world, especially from England, should be brought to Türkiye to give training to our own writers, and that this money could be paid by the state. I don’t want to be perceived as too nationalistic, but they were the ones who had devoted forty years to this profession, who went to book fairs, who could give information about Turkish literature, and they looked at our literature in this way. This really impressed and surprised me. When I was establishing Kalem Agency, these things that were said about Turkish literature gave me the urge to prove that this was not the case.

They lashed you.




Finally, let’s learn about your biggest success in the publishing sector.

Actually, the success in the literary arena is the success of my writers, not mine. Yes, I think it was a great success to sell Tanpınar in more than fifty languages. I am proud that we were able to do this. It is a great success to have been able to continue Kalem Agency and the literature festival ITEF for fifteen years despite all the conditions. I am proud of these. I am proud of my team because there are many people who worked at Kalem Agency and did their internships in the sector. I think that I have taught them a lot and that they will improve this business because they are much younger than me. They will feed the sector by developing it. I am proud of almost everyone who is currently working at Kalem Agency and those who have worked there before. As a team, we have sold nearly four thousand books so far. This is a success that has been achieved with the efforts of everyone from Songül Çakmak, who has been working at Kalem Agency for fifteen years, to those who have been interns for the shortest period. And we have achieved this under Turkish conditions. Publishing is already a sector where very little money is earned, and it is much more difficult in Türkiye. We achieved this despite all the coups and all the problems. I am proud of myself right now, believe me. I’m glad we did this interview. It feels good to talk like this from time to time. Yes, I’ll work all night now, with this motivation.




Let’s close with a laugh, come on! Would you like to tell us about your experience at Gallimard – I’m not pronouncing the “d” – but would you like to tell us about it?

Haha! Sure. Someone who used to work at Yapı Kredi Publications came up to me and said, “What are you doing?” and treated me like “little Nermin”. I said, “I’m writing an e-mail to Gallimard.” I was a rookie. “But you can’t say ‘Gallimard’, you have to say ‘Gallimar’. You can’t pronounce that d at the end of the word,” and he turned round and walked away. I like to learn, I like people to teach me something, but that style, that superiority of his made me very uncomfortable. Anyway, then one Friday evening I was working in the office, and I received an offer from Gallimard for Burhan Sönmez’s novel İstanbul İstanbul. It was a huge offer. I was very happy. Very recently, just last week, Hakan Günday’s last book Zamir was also published by Gallimard. Yes, this Gallimard’s d is currently publishing two of our writers and doing so very successfully.

Isn’t Gallimard one of the biggest publishing houses in France?

It is one of the biggest publishing houses, one of the most prestigious publishers in world literature, because there is also Actes Sud, there are other publishing houses but since Gallimard is the publisher of Orhan Pamuk and Yaşar Kemal, it is a very well-known publishing house in Türkiye. It is still run by the last member of the family. It publishes nearly six hundred new titles every year. And it is one of the biggest publishers introducing and selling French literature to the world, which is very important. It not only publishes world literature in French but also publishes new French authors and sells their books to the world. In this respect, it is a publishing house that I applaud. I was very happy that our books were published there. The first thing I will do on Monday is to share Zamir, published in French, on social media.

Wasn’t it Gallimard that also published the books of the Nobel Prize-winning author Annie Ernaux?

Yes, yes.

When you mentioned the Nobel, I thought of this question: How many Nobels does Gallimard have? I don’t know. That’s what I want to find out right now. After this interview, I’m going to find out how many Nobel authors Gallimard has. I don’t need to know this, I don’t need to do it but I’m happy when I find out. And that’s a good thing because we usually do what we must do.

That’s right.

But the things that make us happy are the things we don’t have to do. Like you are doing this interview right now… I hope that those who read this interview will also try to do the things they don’t have to do.

Marmara Island Literature Days August 2023

I hope…


Thank you… It was a bit long but a very enjoyable interview.

Thank you, Ms İnal.

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