Sunay Akın has a story to tell for every word on earth.
Sunay Akın is like a sponge that soaks in every aspect of humanity, and then brings it to light to glisten and shine. Akın is a writer, poet, son and father, but at his best, a story teller. He pockets every bit of information that comes his way, like tiny pieces of fabric and then patches them together to make a magnificent story. In his last book ‘Moon Thief,’ there were many characters from the secret heroes of the 1960’s to Piri Reis, Cervantes and the Architect Sinan. At our meeting with him, we told him a word, he answered back with a story about it.
I am the son of a tailor. I loved my father’s tailor shop and never wanted to leave. My first toys were buttons. Pegs became soldiers, and metal buttons were their shields. The true story is that one day a young girl walks through Tailor Tuncay’s door in Trabzon to have a jacket made. That mahogany jacket has three buttons. I’m in the middle. Now, every time I look at that jacket, I see the photograph of my family.
I spent my childhood in Trabzon. Because the streets in Trabzon are hilly and very steep, you can’t run around and play. However, the terraces were flat, so all the kids would go and play up there. I wrote my first poem on the inner side of our cellar door. I was nine years old. A clerk’s daughter had come from İstanbul to Trabzon. To attract her attention, I wrote a poem on the inside of the cellar door, bearing the letters of her name. Unfortunately, the people that moved to that house after us ended up burning the door along with the wood and coal during a rough winter.
A plane would arrive in Trabzon two days a week. I watched them earnestly from the terrace. I really wanted to ride a plane. Later, I started making paper planes and kept them on the terrace. I really believed I would fly. I even placed jam sandwiches in them to eat if I got hungry on the way. They would soon be covered in ants, and I would take out a new slice of bread and begin spreading more jam on it. It was the jam sandwiches that gave me away. We hopped on a plane to Ankara to see a child psychiatrist named Atalay Yörükoğlu. I’ll never forget that day. My first plane ride. All my dreams had come true. I had accomplished my mission!
Eau De Cologne
One day my father filled up some bottles with multi-colored waters, each having a different smell, like the jam we had at home. He had started selling eau de cologne in the shop, because his income was no longer sufficient. It was then that we were introduced to colorful eau de colognes. We were happy though. I always say that the people who have a hard time making ends meet live the most colorful lives. Even their outfits, sweaters, and cardigans are vibrant with color.
The neighborhood is the best room of the house. I was brought up in the neighborhood. There is no such thing neighborhood pressure. That is its protection, its love. You could just go and knock on anyone’s door and ask for some bread when you felt hungry. All the neighbors would sweep their entrance ways, everyone knew each other and would talk to each other. Wherever there is a grocer or a butcher, there is laughter and fun. If I am ever forced to part from my neighborhood, I can no longer live. I’d miss the grocer, the green grocer, the butcher, I’d miss the conversation.
What is that? Künefe is the master of desserts. I completed my military service as a reserve officer in Hatay. Hatay is renowned for its künefe. Every morning and every evening, any chance I could get, I would eat my künefe. I never used to eat it before, but that’s because I didn’t know the real thing. Now, after eating Hatay’s künefe, I realized that I really never had künefe before. There, I realized many things. For instance, I learned that Hatay was the capital of the Mediterranean basin; how different cultures were intertwined; the beauty of country life, eating off the orange trees, the Anatolian people. If I had three days left, I would definitely spend one of them in Hatay.
Another day that I wish to relive is my wedding day. I have the person I love next to me; we have declared our love to the world. Furthermore, Cemal Süreya in line, waiting to congratulate us. Many years ago I had waited a long time to get his signature. Then, there he was in line at my signature day. Wedding is also a day for signing.
I love maps. I even love them more than books. Maps are pieces of literature for those who know how to read them. When I was I child, I used to read the atlas for hours. The atlas had a big role in developing my imagination. From the outside, I appeared to be a simple child looking at an atlas, but in fact, I was inside the atlas. I used to dive into the seas, climb the mountains and feel the cold snowflakes in my hands.
My father’s partner, uncle İbrahim, may he rest in peace, had given his typewriter to me. I used to type up my first poems with that typewriter. In Trabzon, folk poet Kara Haydar and his family came to visit us one day. Kara Haydar’s six years old son came into my room and sat in the corner. While I was working, he watched me for ten or fifteen minutes, and guess what he said: “Wow, you play so beautifully.” He thought my typewriter was a musical instrument, and he sat there listening to me type away.
One of Ayşegül’s adventures began like this: “Ayşegül loved playing up in the attic during rainy, stormy days.” On the very same page, there was a beautiful, colorful picture of an attic, and in it was a wooden rocking horse, a doll, a cradle, and a suitcase. I was in Trabzon again. Since it rained almost every day, I couldn’t play outside, and I used to look at that picture and would dream about having an attic with a wooden rocking horse, just like in the book. Today, in the attic of the Toy Museum, sits a little wooden rocking horse.
Our memory is our storehouse. I keep books, magazines, newspapers, and anything that I can get a hold of. At times, I buy the same book nine or ten times, because books become old and worn-out in my hands. Knowledge is weaved slowly, knot by knot. Weaving takes me years. Every single word in my books is a product of several years. In the beginning, even I do not know what to write. Bits of knowledge pour out and intertwine with the others, yet not all of them are finalized. The knowledge that I gain go into the book, and the rest, I lose. Anyhow, I don’t like the end of the road, but the road itself. It is not having written a book that I enjoy, it is writing it that I love.
What I miss most during my trips abroad are simits. I always think of Turkey and the famous simit. The simit is different in every region, each one tastier than the other. For me, a simit’s best friend is not cheese, but olives, accompanied by a cup of well-brewed tea. Whenever I travel somewhere, after three or four days, I start dreaming about the simit. As soon as I return, I buy my simit, find my olives and my tea. I’d never give this up, not even for the finest meal.