Back to work by Barbara Nadel

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Although still hobbling about with a stick, I am now fully back at work. To be honest I only really ever stopped writing completely for a week, and that was when I was actually in hospital. But now I am officially ‘whole’ again I am back in the world of deadlines, author events and getting to appointments, albeit on our unpredictable public transport system. I won’t be driving for another few weeks yet.

It feels odd but good although I am very aware of how out of touch I have become with my latest Çetin İkmen plot. Of course I never help myself in as much as my plotting is and always has been Byzantine (please excuse the pun). And this novel is particularly complicated with probably more blind alleys and red herrings than ever before. But then the subject matter is not one that can be simply told. İstanbul is a complicated city; socially, politically, geographically.

There is an old adage about the best stories being those that are simply told. There is of course truth in this and I can see that a simple story, well executed, is a thing of beauty and probably a joy forever too. But some subjects just will not fit into that format. Sometimes things really are just not that simple. As Matt will know only too well, the Israel/Palestine situation is one of these. Try untangling that one and reducing it down to its basic elements. Where do you start?

İstanbul is not only one of the oldest cities in the world it has also been and remains an object of both desire and of controversy. Everything comes together in İstanbul – religion, culture, tectonic plates. Yes, on top of everything else, the city is due another earthquake. While people in tea gardens debate whether or not İstanbul is a great European or Asian capital, the on/off road to Turkish EU accession is followed with both interest and despair. What kind of place is this city of unknown millions that changes every minute and yet remains regally the same?

I don’t know any more than anyone else, but if my books reflect anything about this city, it is the sheer complication that it represents. Çetin İkmen will be producing no quick fixes or untangling anything in five minutes any time soon. And thank God for it. My degree subject is psychology and so I have always been interested in human thought and behaviour. My natural urge is to try to dissect everything I experience. Happily I am never short of material especially not in İstanbul.

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