Written by Zeynep Yeğiner

Black Week which has become a phenomenon in the literature world was organized in Turkey for the first time. Event which brings world-famous crime writers together, suited well to the mysterious atmosphere of Istanbul which was an inspiration for Agatha Christie.

Rainy, cool autumn evenings of Istanbul evocative of literature, hosted a marvelous event: Black Week Turkey. Black Week Event organized in Pera Palas to honor 125th birthday of British writer Agatha Christie was attended by nearly 2500 crime readers. Agatha Christie wrote her infamous novel ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in Istanbul, and her grandson Mathew Prichard was the guest of honor in the event attended by prominent names in business, art and literary circles.

Crime Literature festival organized worldwide with the title Black Week visited Turkey for the first time. Launched in Gijon and Astruias cities in Northern Spain in 1988, festival visits various countries in Europe and South Africa every year. Event which became the meeting point of crime fiction enthusiasts, attained a memorable atmosphere meeting with the magical weather of Istanbul. Organized in Istanbul to honor the 125th birthday of Agatha Christie, guests from Europe and America, Turkish crime novel writers and literature fans had enjoyable moments in Black Week. Among guest writers were Alexander McCall Smith from Scotland, Leslie S. Klinger from USA, Arne Dahl from Sweden, and Roberto Constantini from Italy. Prominent Turkish crime writers Ahmet Ümit, Algan Sezgintüredi, Celil Oker, Erol Üyepazarcı, Esmahan Aykol and Sevil Atasoy also attended the event. As leading subjects of crime literature such as “Female Detectives”, “In Pursuit of the Killer”, “Agatha Christie: Crime and Punishment”, “Crime as a Popular Genre” and “Detective as a Novel Character” were discussed in bull sessions held in the event, autograph sessions organized in select bookstores in Beyoğlu colored up the festival.

Having written biographies of his grandmother and hosting the library passed down from her, Mathew Prichard spoke of the mysteries surrounding Agatha Christie. Prichard mentioned that acclaimed writer usually poisons the victims in her novels, and that she put emphasis on concepts of crime and punishment. Sevil Atasoy attended the same session, and expressed that Christie was a nurse during the First World War, hence she had in-depth knowledge on toxicology, and could professionally treat the poisoning theme. The information given by Prichard and Sevil Atasoy on Agatha Christie in the session moderated by Çiğdem Öztekin, illuminated the fantasy world of crime fiction lovers. Acclaimed writer with best-selling novels all around the ilworld started writing during the war years. According to the story relayed by Atasoy, Christie who corresponded with her sister Madge during the First World War, receives a letter from her one day. In her letter, Madge requests her sister to write a crime novel. Upon her request, Christie had her first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles’ published in 1920, and took her first step into the world of writing.

The preeminent figure in world crime literature and the creator of Detective Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie was selected “The Mystery Novel Writer of 20th Century” and made it to the history as the best-selling writer of all times, following Shakespeare. In addition to Poirot, Christie also introduced the infamous Miss Marble character to the crime literature and inspired numerous writers worldwide. Agatha Christie, who gave life to major detective stories like ‘And There Were None’, ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’, ‘The Monogram Murders’, ‘Dumb Witness’, ‘One’, ‘Two’, ‘Buckle My Shoe’, used the alias Mary Westmacott and colored up her writing career.

ROOM 411
One of the foremost crime writers of all times, Agatha Christie’s novels which earned her this title have been translated into 138 languages so far, sold a total of two billion copies making her the best-selling writer of all times. Having written one of her bestknown books ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in Istanbul, makes this city special for her. Christie lodged in Pera Palas many times between 1926 and 1932, stayed in room 411 during one of her visits, and penned ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in this room. Elected as the most luxurious historical hotel in the world, magical atmosphere of Pera Palas inspired Christie and led to the birth of this masterpiece. Istanbul, hosted and inspired numerous world famous figures like Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Mata Hari and Sarah Bernhardt besides Agatha Christie, has a different importance by being the inspiration behind world classics. Agatha Christie, threw herself to Istanbul passing through the most difficult phase of her life, started recovering here and got a chance to get better. Istanbul always had a special place for Christie who began a happy life here with her second husband Max Mallowan, an archeologist who worked in Iraq and Syria. The mysterious incident which brought Agatha Christie and Istanbul together once more is her disappearing for 11 days. Writer who suddenly vanished in December 1926 could not be found, and the incident was widely covered in British media. Rumors had it that Christie had either lost her memory or disappeared to kill the lover of her husband, and her whereabouts during those eleven days still remain a mystery. However it is believed that she stayed in Istanbul during that period. Black Week Istanbul activities presented literature fans with a magical feast that lasted for three days including the opening event, and ended with autograph sessions of crime writers organized in bookstores in Beyoğlu. And after Istanbul was declared the capital of crime literature…

PERA WAS OF MAJOR SIGNIFICANCE FOR AGATHA! Mathew Prichard (President of Agatha Christie Foundation)
Istanbul and Pera had major significance for my grandmother Agatha Christie. Because after she got married to her second husband, this city functioned as a bridge between her and her husband who was an archeologist working in Syria. For Christie who began the happiest days of her life here, Istanbul was something else. Agatha’s first novel was titled ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’. She wrote this book during the most difficult phase of the First World War. My grandmother who worked as a nurse in a hospital back then, was inspired by a Belgian immigrant with an egg-shaped head and a very odd beard. This is how the infamous Belgian detective of literature and cinema, Hercule Poirot character was born. In the early years when my grandmother started writing, she did not believe her work to be successful. However she continued to write after the war because she had to make a living. She achieved worldwide success thanks to her devotion to professionalism and her wits. For her, concepts of “crime and punishment” invariably came first. Crime and justice concepts, particularly in her novels ‘Murder in the Orient Express’ and ‘And Then There Were None’ demonstrated the importance she attached to these concepts. I experienced the pain of losing her at my thirties. Agatha was very fond of music. Besides she cared much for family. This is why the relationship between us had a major place in my life. I must express that I am very happy to see Istanbul which was very important for my grandmother and especially the room she stayed in.

First of all, as an originator behind Black Week Istanbul, I am very pleased to see this organization taking place in Istanbul. On the last day of the event with intense participation, our subject is “Detective as a Novel Character”. However I would like to rewind the film a bit more and reach the origins of this literary genre. The past of crime literature does not go back to ‘Murder on Morgue Street’ written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841, but all the way back to ‘the Able and Cain’ story depicted in Torah. In their literary works, Sophocles killing ‘King Oedipus’ and Shakespeare killing ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’ principally illustrate crime. Crime writers deal with “crime” in their works. Crime does not account for the uncertainty in mathematics. The mission of crime literature is to depict human soul. Human soul is abstract and volatile. No person can define, show or identify human soul. This is why no one can reflect one’s self entirely. Each individual wears a mask. And these only slip in the moment of crisis. The moment where all masks slip is the moment of murder. The aim of crime novels is to pull down the masks and depict human soul. These constructs become more sophisticated as technology advances. This is why crime literature will never cease to end. Although crime writers incorporated crime with mathematical, economic, psychological and historical backgrounds throughout the history, we can base these on different foundations. Maybe we can link crime with forensic science or science-fiction. In fact all individuals can commit a murder under right circumstances. Because crime is inside human beings, this can happen to any individual at any time. This is the reason why crime novels will always be written. Crime writers who deal with the concept of crime, plumb the depths of human soul this way. I think particularly crime writers add to their story or novel characters from themselves. Frankly I must admit that I reflect my fantasy world to the characters in my novels. Crime phenomenon is a major element that reflects the social structure of a society. From this point of view each society, and therefore all cultures invent their own crime literature.

Alexander McCall Smith (Writer) Crime fiction novels are richer compared to modern and classic crime novels. Classic crime has more conventional foundations with regard to construct and definition of murder. However the case is much distinctive in crime novels. Illustration is both richer and more gripping in crime fiction novels with regard to construct and definition of murder. To give an example from my country, Scottish readers like reading and solving crimes committed in destinations they are not familiar with. This is why Scandinavian literature is very popular in Britain and Scotland. I think Scandinavian cities are widely used in crime novels due to their mysterious atmosphere. I think that Istanbul is a wonderful city for crime literature in this sense. I must stress that the atmosphere of this city is utterly intriguing for literature fans. In crime literature, random social events are elements which enrich crime fiction novels alongside location. Especially random incidents as character differences, victim being late to the crime scene, and a passerby enrich crime fiction novels and make fiction more complex. And in this way political, social and economic aspects of crime are improved. Crime writers make sure to add something from themselves to their characters. Reflecting the social and political state of the period they live in, they provide readers with much knowledge on the period.

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Zeynep Yeğiner

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