Paris, Osnabrück, Göte­borg, Ancona, Köln, Oslo, Athens, Mar­seille, Rome, and soon, Vien­na… Since Turk­ish author­i­ties decid­ed to hand back her pass­port, last Sep­tem­ber 4th, Aslı Erdoğan has­n’t stopped trav­el­ling. As if tak­ing her revenge on the long months spent in Istan­bul with a ban on leav­ing the coun­try, hence, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of receiv­ing per­son­al­ly the many prizes award­ed her for her writ­ing. It became an argu­ment in her defense last June, dur­ing the fourth hear­ing of her tri­al: if she could not go to Osnabrück, in Ger­many, where should the Erich-Maria-Remar­que Peace Prize be giv­en to her, when her absence at the cer­e­mo­ny would speak vol­umes. Did the Turk­ish author­i­ties take her at her word?

Hard to know what moti­vat­ed their deci­sion, since jus­tice deci­sions are now total­ly unpre­dictable and arbi­trary in that coun­try. Be that as it may, Asli was final­ly allowed to leave Turkey. And ever since, she insists on going absolute­ly every­where prizes are award­ed to her. While han­dling a string of invi­ta­tions, includ­ing that at Mar­seille’s Ren­con­tres d’Averroès last Novem­ber 19.

The ini­tia­tive was that of Valérie Man­teau, a French edi­tor and writer who has become a friend of the Turk­ish nov­el­ist over time. Back from Istan­bul last sum­mer, she was look­ing for some way to pres­sure Turk­ish author­i­ties, in antic­i­pa­tion of the fifth hear­ing where Asli was to appear on Octo­ber 31. At the end of June, the judge had lift­ed her ban on leav­ing the coun­try but, at the same, the pass­port itself remained con­fis­cat­ed. There­fore, the idea was for Asli to appear at the hear­ing with a max­i­mum of invi­ta­tions from cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions, that she would have been forced to decline, thus adding weight to her request for her pass­port.  Valérie know­ing both the founder of Ren­con­tres d’Averroès, Thier­ry Fab­re, and the tan­dem of the even­t’s co-direc­tors, Fabi­enne Pavia and Nadia Cham­pesme, sub­mit­ted the idea of invit­ing Asli to the next edi­tion of the Ren­con­tres.

Valen­tine Leÿs, Aslı Erdoğan, Sophie Joubert

One thing lead­ing to anoth­er, the deci­sion was tak­en dur­ing the sum­mer to pro­gram an appear­ance by the nov­el­ist in an Aver­roès work­shop for juniors on free­dom of expres­sion, while orga­niz­ing alter­nate sched­ul­ing in case of her absence. The Ren­con­tres hav­ing also invit­ed the Turk­ish writer and polit­i­cal thinker Cen­giz Aktar, a friend of the Armen­ian jour­nal­ist Hrant Dink and author of L’appel au par­don, there was talk of asso­ci­at­ing him to this work­shop along with Valérie and to plan for a visio-con­fer­ence con­ver­sa­tion with Asli. Except – bomb­shell on Sep­tem­ber 4th: the nov­el­ist is sud­den­ly free to go wher­ev­er she wants!

Nat­u­ral­ly, Asli was pleased to accept the Mar­seille invi­ta­tion. So in order to greet her, the Ren­con­tres d’Averroès decid­ed to for­go their usu­al cus­toms. In prin­ci­ple, out­side the work­shops for juniors, they only con­sist in round tables of a slant more polit­i­cal than lit­er­ary. But espe­cial­ly for Asli,  a con­fer­ence-con­ver­sa­tion was added, allow­ing her to express her­self alone in the pres­ence of a jour­nal­ist and an inter­preter, and to talk most­ly about lit­er­a­ture. The con­fer­ence last­ed close to two hours in a hall that could seat 700 and was close to full. A suc­cess. And lots of human warmth for Asli, who gra­cious­ly oblig­ed with sig­na­tures after­wards. But isn’t she exhaust­ed from being so heav­i­ly sollicited?

She is. She admit­ted as much with­out say­ing so in the court­yard of the hotel where we met her short­ly before her pre­sen­ta­tion. She spoke both of her tired­ness and of the dif­fi­cul­ties in deal­ing with a heavy agen­da. Espe­cial­ly since the five months of impris­on­ment and the uncer­tain­ty sur­round­ing the con­clu­sion of her tri­al have left a deep mark on her. She suf­fers from post-trau­mat­ic stress. And explains, all smiles but vis­i­bly affect­ed, that one of her friends has not for­giv­en her a for­got­ten appoint­ment: « some­times, I’m on the phone with some­one, I hang up and I no longer know what I was say­ing”, she admits, as if she need­ed to jus­ti­fy her­self. In fact, mem­o­ry laps­es and insom­nia are now part of her dai­ly real­i­ty. But here in Europe, there isn’t a close friends like in Istan­bul who can help her cope with her min­is­te­r­i­al agen­da. And her new ultra-secure mobile phone that allows her to final­ly read and send emails, won’t change a thing to it. So, will this soon be the end of the Euro­pean tour for Asli?

Aslı Erdoğan

Adar Bozbay, Aslı Erdoğan, Valérie Manteau

«I sup­pose she will feel the oblig­a­tion to stop at some point,” says Valérie. For now, after spend­ing so much time avoid­ing celebri­ty, she copes with it. She undoubt­ed­ly feels an oblig­a­tion to hon­or the invi­ta­tions extend­ed to her. As a duty toward all those who expressed their sup­port for her. As a duty also to those still impris­oned in her coun­try. In a few days, she will be in Rome. Then, in Vien­na. Much lat­er, begin­ning of Jan­u­ary, she will return to Paris. Etc. « She is booked until Feb­ru­ary”, explains Adar Bozbay, a friend from Istan­bul present­ly fin­ish­ing a doc­u­men­tary on the nov­el­ist. As her close friends acknowl­edge: rush­ing from one invi­ta­tion to anoth­er also means Asli can avoid think­ing too much about her sit­u­a­tion, it is a way of being cared for. Except Asli often says as much. In order to get­ting back into writ­ing – which she is start­ing to seri­ous­ly miss – she will have to set­tle down. Where? She does­n’t know yet. Only cer­tain­ties: she will not go back to Istan­bul before the end of her tri­al, and for the time being, she is gra­cious­ly await­ed in Frankfurt…

Français : Aslı Erdoğan • Bien­tôt la fin de son tour d’Eu­rope ? Cliquez pour lire

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

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