Children’s literature books are not written for educational purposes, but when you read them you are being trained indirectly.

Interview

Making the readers to think about the possibility of a whole new world…

MÜREN BEYKAN (Editör of Günışığı Kitaplığı)
Photos: Gülbin Eriş

A modern times narrator who thinks by writing and illustrating, from caricatures and plays to children’s books, but who hasn’t decided yet to be an “author”: Behiç Ak.

You have a versatile productivity based mainly on examining our communal living. In your caricatures, you handled issues like relations between men & women, father & child, grandparents & grandchildren in a way nobody could afford to do before and in the beginning you’ve been considered a bit strange. Can we say your never ending curiosity and hard work have led you to writing and illustrating for children?

During my university education and also afterwards, I’ve always been interested in social dimensions of architecture. I was publishing an architecture magazine and besides writing articles I was sometimes drawing and designing the cover pages. My article about housing problem was published in a newspaper. Although I didn’t have the intention to work as an architect, I found a job by chance and I took it just for the sake of earning some money. But in 1980, with the military cope of September 12th, all of my social endeavors vanished off in the blink of an eye. What is called as democratic mass organizations in those years were completely prohibited after the cope. Then I was left with two options. As I wasn’t able to keep on social struggle, I shall continue my life either working as an architect or doing something else. Eventually, we turned out to be a defeated generation and that was a big defeat. We were obliged to make a fresh beginning and start all over again. While starting from scratch, I chose a challenge for myself and decided to write and illustrate for children. One day, with a sudden decision, I left my job at the architecture firm which actually didn’t mean anything to me except for making money. I was unemployed and I started to write and illustrate children’s books although nobody asked me to do so! I wrote and illustrated a picture book, The Plane Tree with High Blood Pressure (Yüksek Tansiyonlu Çınar Ağacı), and I made a silent book, Story of a Pencil (Bir Kalemin Öyküsü). I was doing all these just for myself. One day, I saw an ad saying “We want to publish children’s books”. I contacted the publishing house. The editorial team liked my stories but they were quite surprised when they learned that I am an architect with master’s degree. The editor asked me why I am doing children’s books although I have such a valuable profession. And I decided not to give my books to them.

This interview made me to exactly understand that children’s books field is not yet open to improvement. In the meantime learning that daily newspaper Cumhuriyet is planning to publish a children’s magazine, I had suggested my picture book to them. But the coupe rulers who closed professional associations and banned cultural events like International Mimar Sinan Architecture Week organized by TMMOB (Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects), did not allow Cumhuriyet newspaper as well to publish a children’s magazine. I ran out of money and I was not able to survive anymore. So I suggested to draw daily caricatures for Cumhuriyet newspaper. I showed my caricatures and the newspaper management really liked them. However they were hesitant because in those years, it was unusual to draw caricatures for criticizing the daily life. For example the relations between women & men, mother & child, the fact that everyday life is actually political itself was not realized in Turkey then – and this was the biggest problem of our generation. As daily life is not deemed to be important, people who had authoritative, even puritanical thoughts in their daily lives were on the other hand defending revolutionary rhetoric and presenting themselves as defenders of democracy. Actually, this was the tragedy of our age.

This tragedy was actually what we have been criticizing in our minds and my daily caricature strips filled a huge gap in this respect. Newspaper’s top management -during those years Okay Gönensin and Hasan Cemal were in charge- really appreciated my drawings and after a couple of months they said OK for more than 100 strips I had already drawn, and so my daily newspaper caricature series with the name “Kim Kime Dum Duma” has started. In the beginning, my caricatures received too much reaction. People even called Nadir Nadi, the owner of the newspaper and asked why I am drawing such caricatures. Actually Mr.Nadi as well was not able to understand what I was criticizing in my drawings and asking his colleague Ali Sirmen what I was trying to tell. Thanks to Ali Sirmen who is a great journalist with a strong sense of humor, he was explaining my caricatures every day to the owner of the newspaper.

Were readers also surprised by your style?

Readers quickly perceived what I wanted to tell. My drawings were not usual types of jokes like clumsiness jokes, but there was a different language and perspective which is embraced by the readers. Of course, there were readers who didn’t find any funny side in daily life -but my major intention was to reach those people. I never made a compromise. I wrote plays to show how absurd are the things that seem normal to us in our daily lives. I developed a sense of humor without any rules for criticizing the rules of everyday life. Till that time however, humor was based on looking and laughing at irregular things from the perspective of regularity. But my purpose was making people to look from an irregular perspective and laugh at the regularity.

There was a huge difference between these two perspectives. After a little while, readers perceived it, and they began to find themselves in my drawings. There were such people who thought I was criticizing them personally and didn’t like this at all. They were angrily calling me and saying “Who told you all these? You can’t use my personal details in your drawings,” and they were hanging up on me; I was receiving many letters as well… My humor style was well understood by a group of intellectuals and perceived as a self-criticism. Kim Kime Dum Duma had an effect on people.

And you internalized this sense of humor and focused so much on it that, I think, it strongly effected your style as well. You had an enormous accumulation of intellectual depth.

Yes, I had to read much, and observe much in order to keep that simple yet intellectual level in my works. I was spending most of time by thinking rather than drawing. Drawing is a technical act, but thinking for several days about what to draw and drawing afterwards, doing two things at the same time… This was so much tiring for me. When I was in military service in 1984, I felt like I am having holidays.

Children’s books were always in my mind during those years. In the beginning of 1980’s I sent the illustrations of The Plane Tree with High Blood Pressure (Yüksek Tansiyonlu Çınar Ağacı) to an international exhibition in Asia (Asia Culture Centre). I didn’t know that it was actually a competition. I wouldn’t send my illustrations if I knew it, because I don’t like competing, I am one of those who completely tongue-tied in such situations. My illustrations received an award there and then exhibited in Japan. Japanese publishers wanted to publish my book. I received a letter from a big Japanese publishing house, and the publishing adventure of my book in a distant land has started. Of course, it was quite difficult to have your book published in Japan. There were no digital opportunities to make things easier, all of the illustrations and texts were coming and going between us by post.

But they eventually published your story…

Yes, they did. Actually, we shared a couple of culturally traumatic details between us. For example, in one of my illustrations there was a poor looking boy receiving a gift. They told me that Japanese children have ambivalent feelings about taking presents. “Why someone is giving us something, are we poor?” kind of feeling… Then I remembered that in my childhood when someone I didn’t know gave me something, I was feeling like I was being helped, rather than being rewarded. So we changed these details in the book. That was a quite different experience for me.

In the meantime, there was cinema in your life…

I continued my relation with cinema in those years. Besides drawing, I had to take part and have experience in different areas of life so that I can make observations that feed my drawings. As I was after criticizing the behavior of people from different areas of life and build my humor on these observations, I always tried to be in different fields of life. I worked as an art director, and wrote critics about movie scenarios. And I never stopped reading. Eventually, I succeed to have some of my children’s books published in Turkey. Actually, children’s books were not popular in Turkey during those years. I was famous in Japan, but was unknown in my own country. And there were no channels that lead people to children’s literature and there was no link either between children’s fiction and education. A memory I still remember today: A teacher gave a homework to one student for making an interview with me. The child came and he asked me how could I write a book? He was thinking that books are produced in factories rather than being written by an author. In those days, authors writing books for children, teachers recommending books to their students and inviting the authors to their schools were unusual.

In the beginning of 1990’s Children’s Rights Declaration was accepted. Accordingly, children’s literature gained speed, first in the western world and then in Turkey. Günışığı Kitaplığı was founded in 1996. Being totally aware of the necessary changes and the modernity imposed by the acceptance of children’s rights, our vision was to publish good books for children that are well illustrated and written appropriately for children’s world. We decided not to do educational books for children but publish genuine literature for them. From our first day on, we told and tried to convince people that children’s literature is actually a big and important field of creation under the big umbrella of literature and it’s a very important and necessary part of culture.

Unfortunately however, in those years, even my editor at Yapı Kredi Publishing didn’t believe in children’s literature and he was frankly telling this to me.

Yes, the authorities in literature circles were making similar comments which were effecting the editors as well. Such approaches made things difficult for you and for all of us of course. But I sincerely believe that, the main idea behind such comments was this: genuine literature is for everyone. Unfortunately however they just didn’t think well enough on the issue of being suitable for children.   

For example, what I always try to do in my picture books is to build a bridge between adults and children; and I think this should be the standard. With these books especially targeting pre-school ages, children can make a connection between symbols, concepts and real life. They see a clock illustration, and connect it to the idea of a real time. A child does it in contact with an adult while reading a story. This is an experience which develops the thinking process in a multilayered way. That’s why I pay importance to use many details in my illustrations and try to create hidden meanings. I like my illustrations to contribute to the visual reading of children, help children with changing the story in their own way, and consider these details as functional instruments to help children to create new layers in the story.

In your illustrated books, the story and the illustrations flow together and sometimes, as you said, the text stays behind, even vanishes. What about your books without illustrations, children’s novels?

In the past, I wasn’t writing children’s novels, because my main purpose was making books that build a bridge between adults and children. And actually I was thinking that the picture books are the only and last intellectual relationship between children and adults. And this relationship ends when children grow up, learn to read themselves and choose which book they like to read. That’s why I targeted at pre-school ages and I wanted to write stories that both children and adults like to read. Children like to listen to the same book over and over again, maybe hundred times. Adults are tired of reading the same book and they naturally hate it. My picture books, The Cloud That Came Indoors (Gökdelene Giren Bulut) and The Plane Tree with High Blood Pressure (Yüksek Tansiyonlu Çınar Ağacı) were actually written for adults too. I always tried my picture books to surprise adults too and tried to have the adults on that bridge between the books and the child. It actually worked, and adult readers loved to read my books again and again. I was paying importance to the wish of the child readers to change the story as they like, for example giving new names to the cats in the story and adding new layers related with them, creating small new stories… and I placed plenty of details in my illustrations to allow this creation process. This is really a special and huge effort, but unfortunately however, it was impossible to pay my rent or to make a living with its returns. When it comes to returns, almost all the fields I preferred to put my efforts in were similar -caricatures, theatre… Famous actor Genco Erkal wanted me to write a play related with my daily caricature strips “Kim Kime Dum Duma”. I tried to do it but I was not satisfied with the result. Language of caricatures is far more different than the language of theatre. 10 years later, I wrote my play Bina which received Ministry of Culture Award and staged in State Theaters with famous actors. That was the first absurd play written in Turkey and attracted a huge attention, many reviews were written about it. Bina was the work I definitely wanted to do. It was the reflection and at the same time abstraction of what I’ve been experiencing in my daily life. It was not like pointing out and criticizing every detail one by one, but rather extracting their essence and abstracting it all in a new meaning. It had many traps inside I specially placed not to fall in the traps about what Bina really symbolizes.

Then I wrote my plays Ayrılık and Tek Kişilik Şehir but with a long time period in between. And after the big earthquake, I wrote Fay Hattı. In those years, play writers were disrespected as if they were not existing. For example you were unable to learn why the play you sent to city theatre is rejected. So, I decided not to send my plays to city theatres and publish them instead as a book.

And one day my play Ayrılık is staged in city theatre and received the most prestigious theatre award Afife Jale. I was chosen as the best play writer. Theatre is a field of art with many ups and downs which make you feel happiness and sadness at the same time. For example, shortly after the rehearsals of my play Fay Hattı started in state theatre -Sumru Yavrucuk was the leading actress- it was cancelled. Refik Erduran called me and said it is impossible to stage this play because it is making fun of the earthquake. I told it’s not making fun, but a different way of confrontation using humor.

The first person who wanted to put this play on stage was a municipality officer who lost all of his family in the earthquake and this was one of the most interesting experiences I had in my lifetime. He called me and said: “I read a play named Fay Hattı and thought if I can perform and put it on stage? I lost my whole family in the earthquake and I feel that this play will heal me.” I was touched and excited. But later I learned that he developed a phobia of being outside and so he couldn’t come to İstanbul, and we couldn’t meet.

This play attracted too much interest in Europe. It was translated to several languages and staged in Germany, Belgium and Greece. In Turkey however it was banned for long years. Eventually a few years ago, the ban is lifted and it’s staged in Van. But not in İstanbul… Directed by Genco Erkal, Genco, Sumru and Erdem Akakçe performed: Three master actors and an excellent director… They travelled the whole world, from Canada to New York, to Kars, they performed everywhere and gathered huge crowds together. It is not easy at all to open all these areas.

You mentioned about ‘opening areas’. That’s exactly what we have struggled for in the field of children’s literature. When our paths crossed with you, some of your books were already being published by Yapı Kredi Publishing and Oğlak Publishing, but were not known widely yet. Those working in the field of children’s literature didn’t know the name of Behiç Ak then. As you said, you had a quite different and unusual style, that’s for sure. A style based on the experiences you told and naturally a bit ahead of your time. Those working in the field of literature were not paying importance to children’s literature. Actually, they are still the same today. When I recommend one of your books to them, they first hesitate but once they read they say that it’s genuine literature which makes them excited and wonder about the end. I knew many people whose minds were stuck at the ‘children’ part of children’s literature. Looking at the really bad examples in marketplace they are underrating the children’s literature field. For long years we had struggled to break this prejudice. I believe that we succeed to come to a good point, and your works is one of the strongest ring in the chain of children’s literature in Turkey.

When I met Günışığı Kitaplığı, I started to write for early readers as well. “Cheerful Stories” was a project I really wanted to make and also in these books I continued to write both for children and adults. The first book of the collection The Man Who Repaired Even the Sun (Güneşi Bile Tamir Eden Adam) was really liked by adult readers and the others books continued in the same way. Sometimes I see parents who borrow The Cat that Misunderstood Everything (Her Şeyi Yanlış Anlayan Kedi) from their kids and finish before them. I don’t know if it’s the same for all children’s books, but my books are bringing families together.

Naturally, times are changing and people’s perception of children’s literature is different than before. They pay importance to reading books with their kids. Children’s literature is a serious field now, an important part of literature… Unfortunately parents still expect literature to teach something to their children, however literature does not have such intentions.

Yes, children’s literature is not written for educational purposes but when you read literature, you are being educated indirectly, opening the window of literature in your mind carries you to a whole new path. I meet many people from different sectors, neither they nor my architect friends read literature. They don’t go to theatres, they don’t read plays. I find it really interesting. They’re content with the intellectual capacity they have in their own fields. In fact this situation makes them incompetent in sensing many things, but they’re not aware of it. It’s the situation in many sectors. I was quite angry when I realized this fact; those people were able to write very good articles about their professional fields but never read a book of John Steinbeck or George Orwell. A huge deficiency! The big gap of our education system! Maybe it’s the same all over the world, I don’t know. But it’s terrific to have the literature door opened in your mind, it’s a way of education both for children and adults.

You’re creating powerful characters. While reading your books we are always wondering where the story is going and how it will end. I know that you don’t previously plan on the themes you will include in the story, you just start to write and the story finds its way… Otherwise, why children shall go to buy especially your books even if their teacher did not tell them to do sol! It’s for sure that they really enjoy reading your books, but there are further things…

I tell what we are deprived of today. Today’s problems. It’s very difficult to write something about today. Because current times are full of contradictions. It wasn’t so difficult for Dostoyevsky to write something about his period. Today, the world is so much fragmented that you can rarely find someone who can criticize our daily life looking from today’s perspective and still telling something which belongs to current times. It’s the same for cinema as well. I am searching for a movie which belongs to current times, but at the end, I always find myself watching a movie which tries to tell about the future or the past. I try to do something which belongs to current time by paying attention to today. It’s the same in my children’s books too. I like all issues of today –either positive or negative- pass through my stories; it can be the relationship between a mother and a child but of course without breaking apart the child’s nature. Because children want to become integrated with the world, and this integration is their primary right. Children want to go into the broken realities of the world without breaking apart but rather keeping their integrity. And our aim should be not to destroy their integrity. Not to hurt them, in the sense of approaching even a negative issue without preventing them to look from a positive perspective. When we write for adults however, most of the time we tell negative things in the most negative way, deliberately hurting readers’ souls; but we can’t do this for children. Children and the world… They are very new to each other. Who the hell are we to break their world apart? They are already living in a fully urbanized world, we need to write stories which won’t hurt them, stories enriched with arguments that will help them to understand and interpret the world.

Today’s children are not able to play in streets, they can’t climb on trees, they don’t play street games, and they lost themselves in their tablets.

Digital life is a trap for children. I am feeling very sad for the children who live in big cities. The situation is not as bad for the children living in small cities. I live in Muğla for part of the year and I observe that, children there are using urban space. They are riding their bicycles around, they walk to their schools. In İstanbul there is almost no children who can do these. When I was a kid –as a secondary school student- I used to walk to Kurbağalıdere from Yeldeğirmeni, I was then renting a boat and was rowing to Fenerbahçe. It was very normal for my generation, so my family was okay with that. But now, when I tell this to any parent, they find it impossible. I understand what they think from their eyes, they are worried for their child as if they will die if they do something like this. This huge change in city life and ever increasing population led to security problems and especially children disappeared from the scene in big cities. The number of children walking on the streets decreased. Now we have a new definition called indoor generation and lots of kids go outside virtually now. You know, when you tell them to go and have a little walk outside, they prefer to have a little walk on the internet. It’s like, they are locked down forever which points out a sick society.

You spend the year living in İstanbul and Muğla, and sometimes in other places. How these different cities, various locations and streets effect your thinking and writing?

I spent part of my childhood in Samsun. And then, we moved to İstanbul because İstanbul is my father’s hometown. In those years, İstanbul’s population was about 7 millions. Today it reached 20 millions and I think it’s really traumatic. Kids are unable to find a places for themselves outside the buildings. This is not normal at all. Children’s inability to be in the public areas on their own is a serious problem and we need to raise our voice to criticize this. I put all of my critiques in my children’s stories, because it deeply hurts me when I see a child who cannot go out and enjoy playing outside. We need to find solutions for children to play safely in the streets and using public places.

Being an architect, you are handling social issues from that perspective, and of course we can follow the clues you are giving in your stories. For example, you give details about houses, there are wooden houses or old streets in your stories. Sometimes I draw simple plans while reading your books, trying to figure out where is the entrance located when the kid leaves the kitchen and turns left…

In literature, sometimes the place might be misleading. For example you can’t draw Kafka’s Castle because it’s actually a psychological castle. Or the court place at The Trial… While you’re reading the book, you see audience watching the trial when you look to right and on the left you see another person, a cleaning lady sweeping the floor… The dream world in author’s mind comes in fiction and the place continuously metamorphoses so you cannot talk about an integrity of place. Therefore, in literature, we should consider places not as architectural places, but rather as literary places.

Your characters are very real but somewhat fantastic at the same time. You have characters which make us think how a child can do such things. But you never made sexist choices. There are marketing strategies recommending to promote different types of books for girls and boys for example, both in Turkey and abroad…

There are some marketing strategies which especially target girls, and I think it’s horrible. Some stories are making sex discrimination by showing the girls or women in general as weak, fragile characters with limitations in social life. Most Turkish authors find this approach wrong I believe.

Your stories are generally told by a third person and you rarely use the voice of first person. In general, stories told by the first person are easier for children to identify with themselves but on the other hand it’s very difficult to tell scenes in which the first person doesn’t exist. However you wrote The Planet in the Attic (Çatıdaki Gezegen) from the eye of your protagonist because you needed his inner voice…

Actually it’s very nice to be able use the first person as the story teller. However there are cases you can not do that. For example, in my novel The Cat that Misunderstood Everything (Her Şeyi Yanlış Anlayan Kedi) there are several layers of the story some of which are told by the cat. So it was really a tough decision for me to make…

Animals always have an important part your stories, and your animal characters are usually more commonsensical than your human characters. You keep on encouraging children to do so, but do you really believe that the days we share the world and the nature with other creatures will come, or is this just an utopia?

Actually, there are too much to say about animals and the deprivations we caused for them. When people use animal’s habitat for urbanization purposes, they start to confront with wild animals in their daily lives which they wouldn’t meet otherwise. For example a family domesticates a fox, wild boars attack a house, and bears come close to human beings… In my opinion, eventually a law will be created between human beings and animals, it will be a written law not just an ethical one. So, I keep on telling to children in my stories that, there is no difference between a cat, or some other animal and human beings. Our relationship with animals shall not be built up on an idea like, ‘it’s a bear and I have a gun; so, I can kill it’. I deeply feel that, a law between people and animals will be made sooner or later and there is an ever rising demand for this all over the world.

There are still savage people who harm animals badly. Although we can’t completely defeat them we continue to struggle with them and in this respect I believe children’s books are very important and useful, because adults are reading them too. I hope these messages in children’s books are also disturbing those people who adopt a pet just for having a privilege and abandon them afterwards. Maybe they think about what they did to that animals.

Exactly, just like I told in my book The Dog in the Fridge (Buzdolabındaki Köpek). When you try to have Siberian husky in your home in Antalya, of course the dog tries to enter and sit in the fridge. And as you know this is a real story. I didn’t make up a story to tell about the problem, but the actual story carries the problem in itself and children easily recognize it.

I hope adults will also understand. I started to think that, children’s books are actually written for adults. That’s why I keep on telling that children shall leave their books on their desks for their parents to find, wonder and read them.

Actually, I am searching for the paradigms of a new world through my children’s books. Instead of being against something, I try to give my readers some hints and make them to think about the possibility of a new world. My books create new thoughts about the possibility of a whole new paradigm. Maybe, literature does not have the power to change anything, but at least it can present the idea that creating a new world we’re all missing is not that difficult.

In the meantime the difference between child reader and adult reader is getting very small in my eyes. I’m considering children as intellectuals anymore. They have their intellectual world, they approach the books they read intellectually. I try to relate to their intellectual world. Once children start to think on the stories and go deeper, the questions they come up with might be very surprising. Seeing all these, I realize that the topics/themes which we think children can’t understand can easily go into a children’s fiction. Writing for adults or children is same. You need a multi layered fiction in both. There are some authors who think easy and simple stories are enough for children. I really can’t read what they write.

Lately, self-censorship began to wander in the minds of children’s authors like a nightmare. Not feeling free to decide about what you will write and having to take into consideration the prejudices of adults with plain logic and without any imagination, is limiting the creativity of children’s authors. What do you think about it?

Generally those people who don’t have a taste of literature and who don’t read books, are not capable of evaluating the literary language and enjoying it. Their criteria for evaluating a book is not related with the literary value but rather with the typo in the text, like a comma is missing here and so forth. For example only comment such people can make after reading a book of Kafka is about the correctness of the text, they can’t go beyond this because they don’t have a taste of literature. They think that, finding the mistakes of the editor is the most important criticism; because they don’t know how to criticize a fiction, they have no idea on how to build a connection with the text! In children’s books such adults search for mistakes, they react to a character smoking in the illustration without looking at what’s being told there. This is because they can’t relate themselves to the story.

You don’t use accents and idiomatic characters in your stories. However, it has always been an easy and frequently used tool for children’s books.

I don’t like using accents neither in my books, nor in my plays. It damages the literary power of the text. There are some patterns used to make fun of those people living in certain geographies, but I don’t find them funny. Maybe jokes related with the people of Black Sea region can be told in their own accent, that can be funny and lovely but when it comes to literature, I find it meaningless to use accent, it doesn’t add any value to the text. Once, an actor who found my play named What Newton Knows about Computers very realistic intended to perform it with an accent. I told him not to do it. I told him that as an actor the reality he created on stage has nothing to do with the reality out of the stage. This point needs to be understood well. Using accent shows the two realities as same however it’s not the case. What we do on stage is an abstraction and even the most realistic abstraction on stage is different than the reality in the outside world.

What do you think about e-books? In Turkey, e-book sales are slightly increasing recently. Do you think e-books will be more attractive for today’s children in the sense of using technology and because of the advantages it offers in terms of carrying and storing?

First of all, I don’t find it right health wise to give tablets to small kids and expose them to internet. There are many scientific researches showing that it negatively effects the newly developing cells. In the second place, if we are talking about preschool children, for example taking the book and tearing it down into pieces is an important need of small children, it’s an act of making the book yours. They need to crumple some pages, maybe color some pages… With e-books, we are taking this chance out of their hands.

I doubt if we can call e-books are really as carriable? It’s like the child is carrying it as an idea not as an object. On the other hand, I believe, carrying a printed book as a real object is nice and pleasant. A book is not only content. Of course, e-books are useful for older kids and adults but not for preschool and early ages.

You’re right, but I guess we are on the verge of a big change and it seems transformation of our age will not stop here.

Technological development is not equal to scientific development. Those two are different paradigms. Sometimes these two are not related too much with each other. Children or adults should develop scientifically. We usually see that those who use high technology has no relation with science. For example, building up a nuclear power station is a result of scientific development, yes, but today the same scientific look prohibits these stations which also is a result of scientific improvement. I mean it’s totally incorrect to accept technological development as scientific development. Furthermore, transforming everything to a technological dimension downgrades people, cutting their bonds with their culture. Monoculture, people developing ideas just to communicate with each other rather than expressing their real opinions, all of these are downgrading. It’s hurting for people if communication takes the place of relationship. Communication doesn’t mean building up a relationship, it only means speaking in some specific patterns. Relationship is something that happen between two people. Reading is a relationship between the reader and the book… It’s an individual activity, you don’t read for telling anecdotes to others, you read for yourself.

For example, when cinema was born, they said theatres wouldn’t survive; but cinema could never take the place of theatre. Cinema halls are located in shopping malls, people watch the movies in dark halls and leave the place afterwards. Whereas theatres turned into places of city culture where you can establish dialogues and can socialize in the foyers. So technological progress is actually a decline in some other sense.

You said, “Children’s books silently finding their places on the shelves of book stores succeeded to carry an unspoken joy to homes and to schools by bringing children and adults together in the same environment, something we had been missing for long”. We as Günışığı Kitaplığı, completely agree with you. We need joy more than ever and reading with children, remembering childish feelings through children’s literature create warm feelings. I guess you are happy about writing for children.

I both write and illustrate for children, and being able to do both is making me happier every passing day. Children’s books is the only field where I can use my both skills. I consider my daily caricature strips just as drawings. I want to continue with writing and illustrating for children. In the past, when my books were being published only in other countries I was feeling incomplete. It was like throwing a stone into an empty well. Just a distant sound and you are not able to meet your readers in your real life. But now, I everyday meet many people who read my books, I am living in the same world with them and it makes me very happy.

Thanks Behiç Ak. It’s always pleasant and inspiring to work with you. Let’s finish with the hope of reading your new books soon.

Translation: Banu Ünal, Hasret Parlak