Sunday, 23 May 2010

Chapter One

A few weeks ago, my helpful friend Wendy introduced me to an expert in all things Kurdish. We were sitting outside a bar here in Paris and she told him that I was going to south-eastern Turkey to work on my novel, which features various Kurdish characters.

"Sophie's case is a bit unusual in that she's already written the book and is now doing the research," Wendy said.

This is almost true.

When I started writing my novel, "The Registrar's Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages", I was working for a news agency and knew I would have very little time for private research. At first, this wasn't a problem. The novel is partly based on the experiences of a Kurdish friend of mine, and he was happy to share his life story (the result is a work of fiction, but it was great to be able to discuss it with him). The action takes place in Germany and France - again, research was quite easy as I grew up in Germany and now live in France. Paris is home to a fantastic Kurdish Institute, with a collection of poems, songs and 19th century travellers' accounts that helped me shape the adventures of Prof. Tournesol, one of the characters.

As for the title: last year, Paris's town hall actually issued a manual to help registrars detect forced marriages (though my fictionalised version differs from the original in many ways).

The one missing piece was Kurdistan. Several characters in the book come from the cities of Cizre and Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey - cities I have never visited. While none of the action takes place in those cities, it still felt important to have seen them and talked to people there.

So, having sold the manuscript and quit the day job, I'll now be able to complete my research before the final draft is due. I can't quite believe my luck! Wendy, the Kurdish expert I mentioned and many other friends have helped me plan this trip - and no-one seems to find it odd that I'm tagging on a bit of extra research.

Thank you for reading this blog; I'll be keeping you updated from Istanbul, Cizre and Diyarbakir.


  1. I can almost feel I'm sitting in the Parisian bar about to embark on a literary journey to Kurdistan to discover all these mythical sounding places and what lies behind them - bon voyage and keep us posted as this new world opens to you!

  2. Thank you, Erik! This is my first blog so I'm still finding my way around...hope you enjoy the posts.

  3. Sophie, hey -- I am working on a doc on the poetry of endangered languages and am investigating the Tsou -- could you drop me a line? Merci bien.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Bob - I just sent you a reply via e-mail. Look forward to hearing more about Tsou poetry! Sophie