Walter Benjamin was once quoted as saying that the novel reader is the loneliest of readers. This means solid insulation and isolation are required to read a novel.
While reading a novel, the reader often recedes into his inner world and removes himself from family, friends, daily activities, everything and everybody, if only for a few hours. This is especially true if the novel holds him spell-bound, as if a bridge has been forged between the reader and their book that doesn’t allow anyone else to pass. In one respect, a person feels they are a “confidant” while reading a novel they like. Every novel is a secret that can’t be told to others or that loses its charm when told. Only the reader knows it. When I write, I always think of that “lonely reader,” who has withdrawn to a quiet corner and is sitting there with a novel in hand, not allowing anyone in like in a cocoon. When I write, I always imagine that lonely reader, believing my words address and accompany him.
There’s something Benjamin forgot to add: The novel-writer is the loneliest of writers. That half “surreal” and half “reality-questioning” bond established between the writer and reader by means of the novel is actually a special type of conversation, unspoken through words for two lone people. They share without diminishing their aloneness; they open their hearts, but without knowing each other at all. It’s not possible to explain the pleasure or consistency of the “conversation” between the writer and reader to those who don’t know what it’s like, that is, to those who don’t read novels, to those closed to literature and the power of imagination, to those who not only don’t read, but take pride in their ignorance and to those who judge without reading. From my point of view, again it is the reader who is the authority that will eventually determine what I say or don’t say. The pure, unbiased, unadulterated novel-reader.
Perhaps there aren’t as many as we would like, but there are a lot of sincere novel-readers in Turkey. It is a community that loves books, that is focused on the book, that evaluates the quality of the work by reading it directly, not by what others say about it, without giving importance to gossip, waves that rise and fall in the media, passing movements and discussions revolving around the author. They are sincere readers! It’s difficult to make a generalization about their age or class. They can be very young like university or high school students, or a retired teacher who has turned to reading after marrying off his children, or even housewives. Among them are Kemalists, former leftists and conservatives. Things that they might not like to hear in daily life or political discussions don’t make them uncomfortable when they read them in a novel. Being alone as a novel-reader allows for more flexibility and less bias than in daily life. Aware that the novel’s reality is different, readers keep their minds and hearts open. Because of this, art and literature can easily enter places in Turkey where politics can’t nor would be able to. For this reason, literature can develop a language of empathy and understanding that politics has not, particularly in countries like ours where politics is rough.
Some have claimed that in my novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul,” I “insulted Turkishness” and that I’m a “traitor.” For this reason, I was put under investigation, shown as a target, judged and finally acquitted. I’m not going to claim the opposite or make a show of courage. Even if the outcome was pleasing, I was quite shaken during the ordeal. But at no stage during this period did I ever forget the lonely reader and that I wrote to and for him. From my point of view, it’s not the mentality that tries an author without reading the book who will decide what I explained or said in my novels; it’s only, absolutely only, the lonely reader.