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Turkish writer Ayşe Şen: "Bulgaria is my homeland"

Photo: hurriyet.com.tr

The first novel by the Bulgarian-born author depicts the life of a Turkish girl in this country and has become an occasion for the writer to discover the richness of Bulgarian culture.

Young writer Ayşe Şen has recently made her debut in Turkey with her first novel “My Name is Gül. Apart from the poetic title ("Gül" in Turkish means "rose"), the novel attracts attention with the fact that the story takes place in Bulgaria.

The main character is Gül, born in Razgrad. This is no coincidence, as the author Ayşe Şen was born in Kardzhali, although she currently lives in the coastal city of Izmir in Turkey. She moved there with her family in the mid-1990s, but preserved a strong connection with Bulgaria.

Today, 29-year-old Ayşe Şen is a lawyer by profession. She says she has been writing since she was a child, long before she started working as a lawyer. She adds that her work sometimes motivates her, other times it saddens her, but writing remains a refuge from the stress of the day.

Ayşe Şen has won a prize in the Ümit Kaftancıoğlu short story contest and other awards, but the real stimulus for writing her novel was the “Stories for the Danube” contest.

"There can be no better topic than ‘Stories for the Danube’ because for me the Danube also means home.”

She continued with her literary career and completed her first major work.

"Bulgaria for me is a homeland, home, everything!” Ayşe Şen says when asked if she keeps ties with this country. And she explains that many of her relatives and acquaintances continue to live here and she visits them regularly.

"My name is Gül" tells of the period in the late 1980s, when "it became a great luxury for people to be able to call themselves by their own names and to speak their mother tongue." This is a novel about a young woman who finds herself between two religions, cultures and societies. However, the story is painted not only in black and white.

"For my heroine, Bulgaria is her beloved homeland, so it is wrong for her to be associated with just one of the countries. This is a story about two societies, two peoples, and this is definitely not a book written with a nationalist bias. I think nationalism is very wrong, because it means repeating the mistakes of the past and that's why I think it's better to read the novel without prejudice."

Writing of the book was an occasion for the writer to rediscover Bulgaria in a unique way:

"My name is Gül has become a very colorful journey for me. I realized that I did not know Bulgaria well, although I was born in it. I was born in Kardzhali, I visited Sofia several times, but the main character in the book was "born" in Razgrad, "studied" in Veliko Tarnovo and then lived in northern Bulgaria that I had not visited."

This way Ayşe Şen began to study Bulgarian history and traditions. She has been impressed by the folk dances and music and points out the enormous impression that the diversity of dances and the sound of the bagpipe have made on her.

The young writer does not hide her interest in fire-dancing traditions, which today are preserved only in some villages in Strandzha.

"I would very much like to travel around Bulgaria in the future in order to expand my knowledge because Bulgarian culture is very rich indeed. I would like to go to Strandzha at least," Ayşe Şen said in an interview with Radio Bulgaria.

English: Alexander Markov

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