Her Life Up­ended, a Writer In Is­tan­bul Be­gins to Heal

An ar­rest and time in prison raise Asli Er­do­gan’s pro­file in her home­land.

Paper Boy - - Front Page - By TIM ARANGO

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.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES Asli Er­do­gan at her pub­lisher’s of­fice in Is­tan­bul. She is charged with sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and is await­ing trial.

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