Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Kurt Seyt & Shura, my first novel in English print, was also my first novel in my mother-land Turkey twenty five years ago. For me it is a great excitement to see my pride and joy now ready for the American and other English speaking readers. Previously it was translated to eleven other languages and was made into a TV series, which is currently on Netflix with the name “Kurt Seyit ve Sura”. It is like a long-time dream come true.
I say “My pride and joy” because how this story came to be is actually another story in itself. There are so many unbelievable and sometimes even what you may call “mystical” surprises, encounters, coincidences that happened during this great voyage of mine while I was doing my research and writing.
When years ago I decided to write this saga that now actually consists of five sequels so far, I knew that it was going to find its way to people’s hearts. Because I had told a story which flows in my blood, engraved in my genes with so much love, passion, yearning, joy and also sad bitterness. Memories of my ancestors and of those people who were so dear to them just kept streaming in after a very painstaking research which took me four years. I was so fortunate to have my grandma telling me everything she knew about my grandpa and Shura. By the time I started writing, I was already in a different time zone, living with my heroes, following their footsteps, laughing, crying for them and with them.
When I took down notes of my grandma’s memoirs, little did I know that as they turned into a novel while being transposed and the names took shape and became characters I would have to square with myself vis a vis my concern about the truth of the events and my responsibility towards them. The more I was able to fathom their depth, the more I liked them. While trying to discover my grandpa Kurt Seyit, in the depths of his soul, I found Shura, his great love and the main personality in his life. She thereafter haunted my dreams. Her unsurpassed beauty, as described by my grandmother, adorned my imagination. My love for my grandfather encompassed his great love Shura as well. It was then that I decided the name of the novel I found myself writing should surely include hers.
This novel is about Kurt Seyit’s life, adventures, unending grief and love, and it was all entwined with Shura. Who was she? How could I reach her? How could I find more people who knew her? A photo to set my sights right, a memento I could touch to establish contact? She was with me all the time, night and day. In my dreams my grandpa and she would take me on tours of Moscow and show me places I would reconfirm to be true the next day on the map of that era. When I looked at my grandfather’s photo, I could almost tell she was looking at me from behind his chair… as if she wanted to reach out and hold me, as if she wanted to make herself heard. While clicking away at my computer’s keyboard, she would whisper things in my ears, things she wanted me to write. Sometimes she would completely take over and I would reach speeds I had never reached before on subjects I knew so little about. An unseen force was prompting me to look for her. The thoughts of publishing the novel as it was left a lot of unanswered questions and I prayed for the answers while trying all avenues to find more about her.
I will never forget the joy as I received a response from a fellow writer and researcher, Professor Jak Deleon. He introduced me to the Baroness Valentine von Clodt Jurgensburg, who with her paramour Theodor was living in İstanbul. She was at the age of ninety, still very attractive and charming. The piano she had learned to play as the daughter of a nobleman, had become her source of livelihood. She turned out to be Shura’s sister Tina. When I first saw Shura’s photo on the wall of her living room, I knew whose it was without anybody telling me. And I cried like a baby. She was even more beautiful than I imagined. It was like finding a long-lost loved relative. When I learned that Shura had died in America some years ago, I cried again. This time for having lost that relative.
During very emotional seven months, Tina and I became very close and met every Tuesday. We exchanged all we knew about Shura. Shura’s escape from Russia and first years in Turkey was not known to her. I was enriched as she passed on to me not only Shura’s but also her own memoirs, photos, letters, postcards, the memorabilia of very colorful people spanning over a century. She passed on to me the documents she wanted me to have published. Not only did she provide me with the information I needed to complete Kurt Seyt & Shura, but enough to write the rest of Shura’s story in another novel. She also made me promise I’d write her own life story as well, a novel on The Baroness.
Fate would have it that she passed away quietly a few days after she entrusted me with her past, as if she had been waiting for a certain mission to be accomplished. The first copy of Kurt Seyt & Shura lies at her grave and its characters keep her company. May they all rest in peace!
Now, after twenty five years of its first publication Kurt Seyt & Shura is still not out of my system. Most of all because it keeps traveling all around the world enchanting millions of people which I call “My Kurt Seyit Family”, secondly every now and then some body from a faraway land comes with a detail from the depths of history that keeps fulfilling my magnificent puzzle. These keep me bonded to this story constantly. Reading the messages from my readers, I see that each one of them becomes attached to this story and its heroes so much that they can not shake it away from their lives even long after they finish reading it. They say Kurt Seyt & Shura has made a great impact in their life and changed the way they were thinking. This gives me thrills and I feel blessed. Now, with the English print reaching the readers already, I started getting messages with the same emotions. And that makes me so happy to see that if you narrate a story with love and passion, there are no close borders. Love is eternal and it talks to every person, in every country, in every religion, in every culture.
Wow! That's such an amazing story!
Is there anything else which prompted Kurt Seyt & Shura? Something that inspired you?
My grandpa has inspired me since from my very early ages, thanks to my grandma, Murka. That is why I owe her a special gratitude and respect for she has told me everything she listened from my grandpa Kurt Seyt and the life she lived with and after him. And there were times that she would rather not to have lived at all, but still with great courage she did not hesitate to tell me.
When I was four or five years old, I used to stare at the sepia photograph of my grandpa in his uniform, which stood on the library shelf in our home and imagine that he was the Prince Charming from a faraway land, long forgotten time; Czarist Russia. The stubborn but sad look of his eyes always made me cry, I remember. Partly because I knew what a tragic life he had to endure and what a tragic end he chose for himself.
While I grew up, Kurt Seyit’s stories added up, parallel to my maturity of understanding and his special place in my mind and heart just kept growing and also nurturing my imagination. I loved him so much that I wanted to bring him back to life. I wanted the whole world to come to know his story.
From the day I learned how to write, writing has become my obsession just like reading has. I always loved taking notes of how I felt, what I dreamed, what fascinated or hurt me, how seasons changed, how people acted/reacted and so on. Life itself always fascinates me. I have always been one to live life so passionately, ‘being aware’, listening to every little sound, seeing every color change. And all this concentration I have towards life makes me very emotional. And I have to write down these emotions, feelings so time stays with me forever. This is the only way I can keep the time with me after it has gone so fast and forever.
Even as a little girl, without really looking for a reason or really knowing the subconscious behind my liking, I just loved to express myself on paper.
My mom, after bombarding me with all those children’s stories, folk tales from all around the world, introduced me with Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” when I was nine years old and from then on he has been my most favorite writer. Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Cengiz Aytmatov, Nina Berberova, Ernest Hemingway, Pearl Buck, Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Mario Vargas, Pablo Neruda, Paulo Coelho, Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Nabukov, Helen Rappaport are also my favorite writers. Also, “The Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius is my bedside book.
I can write any time of the day, anywhere, anytime I feel like it. I do not like to create a static program for myself that would lead me to live a monotonous life. I listen to the wish of my heart. So, I write whenever I am full of words that want to come out. If I am working on a novel I write four, five hours to twelve hours non-stop. I become involved with my subject and my characters so much that even when I go to sleep, I dream about them and most of the time, they are so theatrical and lyrical that I use scenes from my dreams in my novels without hesitation.
To be a good writer first you have to be a great reader and also a good listener. You have to have not only an interest but an urge in searching and learning. You have to be very patient while doing this. Because the fragments that are necessary for your story do not come to your knowledge easily. You also have to take an interest in other aspects of art for they all complement and nourish each other and your writing. History, sociology, philosophy, human psyche, archeology, mythology give great hints for building up characters and time.
As a writer, you also have to be a great observer of life itself, which is a great educational source for one’s creativity. You have to not look but see, not listen but hear, not smell but inhale, not just touch but feel every movement, every color, every sound, every fragrance that surrounds you. The summary is: you have to breathe for writing.
All in all, writing is one very exciting, fulfilling, breath-taking great adventure and I wish great success to those who would want to row their boats into this fantastic sea of adventure. Bon voyage! And stay with Love!
An instant bestseller since its début in 1992, Nermin Bezmen’s Kurt Seyt & Shura is a classic of contemporary Turkish literature, a sweeping romantic drama set as the splendour of imperial Russia is obliterated in the wake of the Great War.
Bezmen tells the story of two star-crossed lovers fleeing the wave of devastation wreaked by the Bolshevik Revolution, and does so with great sensitivity: one half of this couple who sought refuge in the capital of the dying Ottoman Empire was her grandfather.
Translated into twelve languages, Bezmen’s Kurt Seyt & Shura inspired a sumptuous TV series that continues to enchant millions of viewers across the world. With the publication of this novel in English, fans can finally read the true story of this great love affair that triumphed over so much adversity, yet failed to overcome human fallibility.
In 2012, the prestigious Turkish production company Ay Yapim offered to turn the novel into a television series. The producers pulled together an A Team of cast, crew, and director, who in turn created the acclaimed TV series “Kurt Seyit ve Sura”, with Nermin Bezmen’s guidance as a consultant and Ece Yorenc as script writer. The leading roles were played by the talented (and ahem, may we add also gorgeous) duo Kivanc Tatlitug and Farah Zeynep Abdullah. After its initial viewing in Turkey, the series was distributed in many countries, including the United States, where it is currently shown on Netflix. The production reached millions of viewers across the world and stole the hearts of many, creating new excitement and awe around the life story of the two lovers, about 100 years after their first kiss.
The books in the saga include:
- Kurt Seyt & Shura
- Kurt Seyt & Murka
- Mengene Gocmenleri
- Shura Paris Years 1924-1927
The son of a wealthy Crimean nobleman is a dashing First Lieutenant in the Imperial Life Guard. Injured on the Carpathian Front and later sought by the Bolsheviks, he makes a daring escape across the Black Sea.
Too proud to accept payment for the boatful of arms he hands over to the Nationalists, he faces years of struggle to make a new life in the Turkish Republic rising from the embers of the dying Ottoman Empire. All he has is his dignity and love.
The innocent beauty enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s music and Moscow’s glittering lights falls in love with Seyit at the age of sixteen. A potential victim in the sights of the Bolsheviks due to her family’s wealth and social standing, and determined to follow her heart, she accompanies her Seyt on the perilous flight over the Black Sea.
Their love is the only solace to the crushing homesickness for a land and family they will never see again, two lovers amongst hundreds of thousands of White Russian émigrés trying to eke out a living in occupied Istanbul.
A Night in Petrograd, 1916
Snow fell in fat, lazy flakes, an immaculate white blanket settling over the sleeping city. The carriage turning left at Alexander Nevsky Square laboriously carved a wide arc through the snow that had piled up all night, rounded a corner, and drew up to the pavement outside a three-story house.
A few snowflakes fluttered at the windowsills, stuck to the panes and frozen solid. The coachman gazed upward as instructed; a net curtain parted, and a shaft of light beamed out. A male figure wiped the glass, waved, and withdrew.
* * *The young man consulted the pocket watch he’d left by the lamp on the bedside table: it was coming up to four; he still had plenty of time. Carefully, so as to avoid rousing the sleeping woman, he lifted the duvet and got back into bed. He reclined against the pillow, still holding his watch. Then, a little more determined, he flung aside the covers and got up. He drew the curtain back a little more and looked out. The moon illuminated the whiteness starting directly outside the windowpanes, sweeping unbroken over the garden, the railing, and the broad expanse of road. A world in white. Everything sparkled when the moon shone between the scudding clouds, and the world looked more splendid under this white coat.
Heavy curtains kept the world outside the windows, where it belonged. In the semidarkness, the room spoke in scents: perfume revealed a woman’s presence, and vodka testified to earlier indulgences, both mingling with the lavender emanating from the bed linens.
He turned toward the bed for a look. Amplified by the snow, the moonlight cast a bright-white light on the sleeping woman’s bare back. He recalled what the darkness sought to conceal: the deep auburn of her hair, now cascading over the pillow in waves; the groove of her spine dipping delightfully from the nape all the way to her waist and vanishing under the covers; and the right shoulder glowing in the playful light, a flawless expanse of alabaster.
Seemingly oblivious to the cold, he leaned his bare back against the window; then, grinning at the memory, he moved to the round table by the fireplace. The fruit platter, carafe, and glasses still stood where they had been left: half eaten and half drunk from. She was an impatient one, that Katya. Or was it Lydia? Whatever. The auburn beauty had excelled at entertaining him that night.
He picked up one of the half-full crystal glasses, downed it in one go, and shook his head as the alcohol stung his throat. He lit the pink opaline lamp in front of the mirror, and the soft light of gas spread into the room. Digging into the jumble of garments on the sofa, he gathered his own clothing and collected his underwear. He was moving toward the bathroom when the woman spoke sleepily.
“Why so early, darling?”
He strode toward her, still carrying his clothes. She stirred, rounded shoulders and full breasts braving the cold, her face now more distinct. Sweeping her hair up with one arm, she reached out with the other. He stared with barely disguised lust; the charming armpit thus exposed looked as arousing as the ample breasts bathed in the pink light. The sleepy gaze was not necessarily reserved for this time of night: she had proven her expertise in seduction with those large dark eyes framed by long eyelashes, eyes that spoke of the bedroom, of the pleasures of the flesh. Full lips pouting in anticipation, she waited, eyes shut, arm still outstretched. Smiling at her unrestrained behavior and ravenous appetite, he sat down on the edge of the bed. Her provocative scent mingled with the bedclothes, fragrant from passionate hours.
He yielded to the invitation of the arms wrapped around his neck. Languid eyes smoldered into his as she tugged away the bedclothes separating them to free her warm, buxom figure and snuggle up to him. She stroked his back and the muscles in his arms, pressed his head against her breasts, and presented her nipples to his lips. Effectively captured by her skillful limbs—surprising on such a petite woman—he enjoyed a lingering kiss before drawing back.
“It’s time I got ready. You might like to get up too; I’ll have you dropped off.”
She pouted with a half shrug. “Couldn’t we stay just a little longer?”
“I need to set off.”
“When will you be back? Will you call upon me again?” She stirred as if to get up during this barrage, hoping to tempt him to change his mind.
All she got in response, however, was a jaunty smile and a pinch on the cheek before he walked toward the bathroom. He mused as he washed; he couldn’t remember her name—just another one-night stand. Someone he had met at a wild party where the drink had flowed like water…and they had left together. She was no petty commoner, if the splendor of her dress and jewelry was anything to go by. In all likelihood, she’d arrived on someone else’s arm—probably the man who’d paid for that splendor.
As he shaved, his thoughts strayed to the journey ahead. Best to get a move on, given he had arranged to meet the others at the station in an hour.
By the time he’d returned to the bedroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, she was already dressed. He patted his cheeks and neck with lotion from a bottle on the console. “Wouldn’t you like to take a bath?”
“I never take a bath on my own,” came the flirtatious reply.
An irrepressible grin lit up his face as he combed his hair, thinking, Her husband—or lover, whoever it was—certainly has his work cut out. He dressed, ignoring his audience, who sat on the edge of the bed to admire the view.
Muscular and fit, the young man in his early twenties carried himself with an aristocratic posture and demeanor. His moustache and floppy fringe were chestnut. A cleft chin seemed to complete his striking looks: flashing dark-blue eyes, a straight nose, and a perpetually sardonic mouth.
The redhead patted her curls back into place and sighed. Her questions were destined to remain unasked as the young man, now in full uniform and boots, strode between wardrobe and dresser, clearly lost in his own thoughts. He picked up several items from drawers, and some books went into a suitcase. She watched, astonished that he appeared to have forgotten the many wonderful hours they had shared in bed. Her wiles had failed to hook him. She leaned back with another sigh.
Taking a ring from a box by the mirror, he placed it on his finger and then put a watch in his pocket. She remembered openly admiring them last night—she adored jewelry after all, and he’d said the sapphire-and-diamond ring was a family heirloom. The enameled gold watch adorned with rubies was a gift from Tsar Nicholas II, he’d told her.
Soon they were ready to leave. A muffled clatter rose from the street. The second carriage had arrived. He picked up his coat and hat. “All right, let’s go,” he said. “I’ll have you taken home.”
He extinguished the lamp and walked to the door. She followed, surprised and not a little disconcerted at the absence of one last kiss or a plea for another meeting, as if there had been nothing between them.
The coachmen leaped down and ran over the snow. The young man turned to his guest, took her hand, and said, “Aktem will drop you off. Fare thee well, my lovely.” Her name wasn’t even on the tip of his tongue.
“Will we meet again?” she tried one last time.
Happier now, she presented her cheek for a kiss, unbothered by the coachmen’s presence. Finally, gathering her courage, and with a bashful smile, she asked the one question that had plagued her all this time. “Tell me your name again?”
His merry laughter rang in the snowy street’s early morning silence. So the night had not been that memorable for either of them! Except for the ending, that is. He bowed, as if they had just met, and enunciated deliberately: “First Lieutenant Seyit Memedovich Eminof.”
* * *As the two carriages drove away in opposite directions, the auburn beauty who had sweetened his night was already slipping from his mind.
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Nermin Bezmen is an accomplished artist, art teacher, yoga instructor and
broadcaster whose meticulous research into family history led to the
publication of Kurt Seyt & Shura in 1992.
This fictionalized account of her grandfather’s life became an instant
bestseller, and is now considered to be a masterpiece of contemporary Turkish
literature to the extent that it has reached textbook status in several
secondary schools and universities.
Exquisite detail distinguishes her writing as she proves that truth is
indeed stranger than fiction, and that our ancestors call out to us all from
the pages of history.
Her powerful character analysis and storytelling skills invite the readers
to explore their own dreams, sorrows, anxieties and even fleeting fancies.
Bezmen has to date published fifteen novels, two of which are biographical,
and one is a fantasy; a children’s novel, a collection of forty short stories
and a book of poems. She has two children and three grandchildren and lives
with her husband, actor Tolga Savacı in New Jersey and Istanbul.
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2Ao8jjr