“I Design Novels Like Cars”

Sparking interest with his first novel, ‘The Understudy’s Dilemma’, Murat Menteş is now bringing readers a second, ‘Don’t Be Afraid, I’m Here’.

‘Don’t Be Afraid, I’m Here’ is a fast-moving narrative in the adventure genre. Why have you stepped so hard on the gas?
Literature is regarded as being of interest only to people who can’t keep up with the times. I’m thinking we can stay in the field of art and still crank our speed up to the highest level. I design novels like cars. The car will go 300 km/h, but the reader can read it at 30 km/h if he wants to. On the other hand, if the car, in other words, the novel, can’t go more than 40 km/h, then the reader will inevitably abandon it at the roadside and take a cab.

Some people say your second novel is more difficult than your first. Are they right?
And how! Writing a novel is hard work in any case. And a second novel is even more difficult. At least it was for me. But I’ve finally begun to think of myself as a novelist. And that’s a good feeling.

How would you describe ‘Don’t Be Afraid, I’m Here’ to somebody who is not familiar with it?
There’s one very good man, and there’s another man who is even better. And a third man who is even better than the second one kills both of them.

Philip Roth has said that the novel has at best 25 years of life left. Do you think he could be right?
A line from ‘Don’t Be Afraid, I’m Here’: “Doomsayers have always been accorded respect.” Even if Roth is right, 25 years is not a short time. But he could still be right.

How has your writing of poetry contributed to your novel writing?
When you write poetry, you have to weigh every word, every syllable, every letter very carefully. People who read and write poetry pay close attention to words and verbal expressions. They seek the delicate nuances in the meanings of words. In time they acquire a certain mental discipline, and their senses become heightened. That training in poetry gives you a special advantage when you write a novel, because in prose writing the filtering process is less stringent. You might say the holes in the strainer are a lot bigger in prose.

Your book of poetry ‘Garanti Karantina’ is about to come out. Can you tell us something about it?
Yes, my second book of poetry is finally ready for publication after 12 years. To tell you the truth, I was thinking that Turkish poetry could get along just as well without me. But the poems I published aroused far more interest than I ever anticipated. There are even readers who are insisting that I bring out a new book of poetry. I feel I must work hard to be worthy of their favor. I think my book will be out by spring from Sel Yayıncılık.