Her Life Upended, a Writer In Istanbul Begins to Heal
An arrest and time in prison raise Asli Erdogan’s profile in her homeland.
to your comic work?
How do I put this? I think, given that I’m writing for myself, it is hard for me to do that. Fans can say whatever, but if I’m not excited by it, I’m not going to do it. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but my excitement is much more important than their excitement. [Laughs.] And I think ultimately their excitement will come from my excitement. Is the Crew something you thought about from the beginning of your Black Panther run?
I wanted to bring back the original Crew, but as it happens, some of those folks were not available. I had to then think about other folks. In the process of doing that it became this thing of, you know, there ain’t no women in the original Crew. That was a different era. This is like 15 years later. I opted to do something a little different. What was your inspiration for the Crew story?
I don’t think you should expect a team full of people who are — how do I put this? — die-hard Black Lives Matter people. I think you should expect to read people who are trying to figure out their relationship to Harlem, their relationship, in this arc, to the police and their relationship to the protest movement that they are seeing around them. The last time we talked, you were thinking about Black Panther ideas during an international flight. How do you get it all done?
I don’t know. I mean, it’s the joy of my life. It’s hard to think about what else would I be doing. I live a very, very simple life. I have my family and I have my work and I have a few friends. That leaves plenty of time. Do you think you’re going to recruit more writers into the industry? ISTANBUL — For the first time in about half a year, the Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan returned the other day to her Istanbul apartment, a home left ransacked when she was arrested and sent to prison in August.
She discovered that many things were missing: flash drives containing her work, letters written to her by Kurdish prisoners, and books on Kurdish history. Left behind were the objects of another passion: her ballet shoes, torn apart. That is what made her cry.
“Somehow the unfairness of it all hit me with the ballet shoes,” she said. “That was suddenly too much.”
Ms. Erdogan, 49, a physicistturned-novelist who has always been more celebrated in European literary circles than in Turkish ones, is trying to put her life back together after being imprisoned under the latest crackdown on freedom of expression by the Islamist government of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who is not related to her).
She was arrested and charged with supporting terrorism, not because of her novels but as a result of her affiliation with a newspaper linked to the Kurdish movement that has since been shut down. She still faces a trial that could send her back to prison.
She has been living with her mother, not writing much and dealing with the new fame that her case has brought. Now, on the streets of Istanbul, people recognize her.
“It is moving. Sometimes people put their arms on me and cry,” she said. “I receive lots of love. That is a big responsibility.”
There is a downside. “I also receive negative reactions, too: curses and lectures on patriotism,” she said.
That can feel harrowing in Turkey, which has a long tradition of not just locking up writers and journalists but of violence against them.
As her fame in Turkey grows, her books have been selling more. One volume of short stories, “The Stone Building and Other Places,” has become a best seller in Turkey.
She has always lived “a life of extreme loneliness,” she said, and the prevailing theme of her work is the brokenness of humans, what she refers to as their “wounds.”
Ms. Erdogan has resisted calls to write a memoir of her time in prison, saying she is not ready. “I know I could write a best seller very easily about my prison days,” she said.
She still might, although it will most likely take a long time. Sometimes, she said, it takes her six or seven years to write a hundred pages.
“When I hear the right voice, and I catch it, it carries me,” she said. “If I don’t, forget it.”