From Literature to Life: Turning into a Writer
Author: Sezer Ateş Ayvaz; Translation: Türkan Mamur; Editing: Nilay Erten
No matter how deep, comprehensive and splendid words they’ve bequeathed to literature, women’s lives make us feel like they’re incomplete.
As Pen women writers committee Müge İplikçi, Nazan Haydari, Nalan Barbarosoğlu, Karin Karakaşlı, Özlem N. Yılmaz and Sezer Ateş Ayvaz, we planned a series of activities when we met in 2007 September. We needed to survey our women writers from literature to life to make their works and languages visible. This journey was toward reconstituting our social history with what women writers inspire and keeping our memories fresh. Women writers were in a life that requires struggle in many fronts, and in every era they tired to generate writing that complicates and puts their lives to a great deal of trouble. The masculine context wanted to render women writers “invisible” or “weak” in the canon of literature. We needed to point out both their lives and works.
We actualized Güzin Dino, Nezihe Meriç activities and Sevgi Soysal, Nezihe Meriç 12th March Literature files.
Then on 17th April our adventures met Fatma Aliye, Şair Nigar, Nezihe Muhiddin, Güzide Sabri and Suat Derviş at Bilgi University. Moreover we weren’t alone: Şirin Tekeli, Ayşegül Baykan, Zehra Toska, Yaprak Zihnioğlu, Serdar Soydan and Melike Koçak enlightened our writers and woman’s social memory, with their speeches. On 17th May, Peride Celal strengthened our memory and language, with her literature and life.
During these meetings an idea was moving about in my mind: every human has his/her own life, good or bad, rich or poor, short or long; but just one life. Suat Derviş had a life, too. Just like Fatma Aliye, Nezihe Muhiddin, Şair Nigar, Güzide Sabri. But there had to be one more life. One more life: one more life that will make their struggle more long-lived, in which they would be luckier to overcome those difficulties, that they would be able to laugh more, one more life…
Because no matter how deep, comprehensive and splendid words they’ve bequeathed to literature, women’s lives make us feel like they’re incomplete.
Because they took the first steps for a new way. And lots of steps were needed to be taken to turn the earth they step on into a “way”. The earth wasn’t familiar with these steps.
However we think that we understand them, that we feel the burden of those times, the breeze of those winds,there is a truth that –with puzzlement, reproach or mostly anger- we find hard to accept: they weren’t able to have their own lives. No matter how resolute women they are, mostly they can’t have their own lives as they desire to.
This truth is faced more obviously, more painfully when past women writers are surveyed.
Instead of sneering at them and their tendings, we need to see that they conduced us to notice a truth and they told the cruelty of conditions that social gender regime imposed on us and a patriarchy which hasn’t changed completely for centuries but only partly. Yes, women writers, despite all these things, were able to have a word that percolated through their lives. They struggled to have a different sensibility and to exist with a new “language” both on behalf of themselves and others. Because they realized that creating a new world depends on creating their own language. Otherwise we wouldn’t remember them today. Despite the male-dominated writing of literature and social history they were able to persevere.
PEN women writers committee is not going to stop. Our other writers are going to appear as well; we will try to see and make visible the rainbow of our women writers; Leyla Erbil, Tomris Uyar, Füruzan, İnci Aral and the others.
Hello to those who conduced us with their experiences, words and lives; hello to those whom we mentioned and we couldn’t…