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Balkon 3 interview with Nermin Mollaoglu, a literary agent from Turkey

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Nermin Mollaoglu is one of the best literary agents in Europe. She is an avid lover of literature, connecting Balkan countries by organizing meetings, festivals and fellowship programs which help to create a broader European image. It is not easy, she says, and you have to build a strategy. She has been co-operating with several Macedonian publishers since the beginning of “Kalem”, her literary agency, and since last year she has partnered with International Literary Festival Pro-ZA Balkan which is held in Skopje.

1. You are representing about 80 Turkish authors round the world and this is an impressive number. Is there a global interest in Turkish authors and what kind of literature is most popular among readers?

-We represent hundreds of authors. You see, no one will come to you and ask for a book in Turkish, Macedonian or any other language. You must create interest. So, we attend many book fairs and festivals round the world and that is the secret goal of our literary festivalIstanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival. After eight years of experiencewe have managed to make over 1,200 contracts in 42 languages. It makes us very happy and motivates us to work even harder. So far we have sold books to Macedonian publishers such as “Ili Ili”, “Bata”, “Ars Lamina” and “Tabernakul”.

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2. You have co-operated with Macedonian publishers since the beginning of “Kalem” in 2006, and since last year you have partnered with International Literary Festival Pro-ZA Balkan which is held in Skopje. Are you satisfied with your cooperation?

– We started to cooperate with Macedonian publishers and Balkan countries from the very beginning. In 2009 we organized the first Istanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival and we started looking for festivals in other countries. Two years ago, Dejan Trajkoski, the organizer of International Literary Festival Pro-ZA Balkan contacted us and informed us on the interest in Turkish literature. We organize a study program within the festival and Dejan applied for it. We usually receive about 200 applications for this program and only about 20 candidates are chosen by Turkish authors. We were very pleased that Dejan was chosen to be part of our community in 2013 and that is how we decided to establish cooperation between our festival and Pro-ZA Balkan.

It is a shame that there are several translators from Turkish into Macedonian language, but very few from Macedonian to Turkish. 

nermin2_balkon33. What is the situation like in Turkey when it comes to translating Balkan authors? Is there any interest and which country has the largest number of authors whose works have been translated to Turkish?

– It is a shame that there are several translators from Turkish into Macedonian language, but very few from Macedonian to Turkish. I wish we had more translators in both directions so that we can read each other’s works of literature. It is the same with Bulgarian authors. We have sold many books in Bulgarian but not so many that were translated from Bulgarian into Turkish. A few years ago we started cooperating with the Romanian Cultural Institute and we have organized numerous workshops for translators. And now we have at least a dozen of Romanian authors whose works have been translated into Turkish.

4. Your agency was nominated for the International Book Industry Excellence Awards in the category of Market Focus Achievement Award which were presented at the London Book Fair in April this year. You must be thrilled to be one of the finalists and in the company of world’s best publishers.

– It certainly is a great honor. We work hard but not only for nominations or awards. Awards do make us happy. One cannot make a huge profit in publishing so it is important that people notice how hard we are trying. Also, I have a feeling that I am working for my country and I am trying to present Turkish literature to the world and, at the same time, to introduce not so well known literatureto the Turkish people. It is a two-way street. I guess this is the reason why I was nominated. Awards do make us happy. You cannot earn a lot in the publishing business, but we find great pleasure in promoting little-known literature in Turkish. It is a two-way street and I suppose that this type of work we do was the reason the agency was nominated.

Publishing does not bring a huge profit, but the mission is more important

5. How did you get into publishing?

– I started working in publishing by chance. I studied nursing and midwifery and I became a nurse in 1993 when I was 18. I worked as a nurse in an operating room and as a midwife in Cyprus and Edirne. During that period I graduated from the Faculty of Education at the University of Thrace. I earned my Master’s Degree at Connecticut University. During the years of education I worked as a housekeeper and volunteered as a nurse in the Red Cross. After September 11th events I wanted to go back to my beautiful city of Istanbul. I love Istanbul very much. Then I wanted to get another degree at the University of Istanbul, but I couldn’t. I cried because of it. But one day, I went by ferry from the Asian to the European part Of Istanbul and I met a professor from the faculty. I spoke with her, I did not know her previously, even the name was not familiar to me. She invited me to attend her classes as a student volunteer. I liked the idea and the next day I found myself in the huge university building. After several weeks, she recommended “YKY” publishing house as authors’ rights coordinators. I worked for three years for one of the most prestigious publishing houses in the worlds. In 2005 I left together with my husband Mehmet Demirtas (whose mother was born in the heart of the Balkans – Kosovo) and we set up “Kalem” Literary Agency.

Srebra Gorgijevska

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