Melih Esen Cengiz was born in Ankara in 1954. After graduating from Darüşşafaka High School, he studied Economics at Istanbul University Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at New York Syracuse University. Melih Esen Cengiz, known for his detective work, has titles like The Unshared Murder, Marlene’s Orphan, The Pigeons of Jerusalem, The Paradise of Abandoned Spirits, An Ottoman Summer, and One Woman One Murder.” His books have been published under the Altın Kitaplar label in recent years. The author’s new book, “Tiraje”, tells the powerful story of a deaf-mute orphaned little girl, Tiraje, who fled the war in Montenegro in the 1920s and came to Istanbul. We spoke to Melih Esen Cengiz about “Tiraje”.
“Tiraje” is a shocking literary novel in which we can easily empathize with this difficult process that the world is going through. You told the story of an orphan girl who escaped from the war in Montenegro in 1924. Why did you choose this topic?
The memory of my immigrant ancestors is always in my heart and memory. So I started this novel from there. In this novel, readers will witness the sense of brotherhood that people have maintained throughout history. Fraternity in faith, language, culture and morals… My heroes sing folk songs in Montenegrin, they express their love and admiration in both Greek and Turkish. Respect for all faiths naturally took a place in their hearts. While reverently visiting Eyup Sultan Mosque and Panayia Church, do not neglect the Pagans’ Maiden Stone.
Tiraje is a strong woman who has been reborn from the ashes, so to speak, despite the great hardships she has endured and the terrible tyranny she has endured. Is Tiraje’s life story completely fictitious?
Yes, it’s fictional. Previously, Emma was portrayed as a strong female character in The Paradise of Forsaken Manas, Pertevniyal Sultan in Murder Undivided, and Gisela in my novel One Woman, One Murder. In this book, the main character Tiraje and her eponymous older sister Tiraje are strong and intelligent people. Tiraje is also a disabled woman who doesn’t know what fear is. I chose to create strong female characters in my books because I often encounter weak, downtrodden female characters when not in my family and close circle. In this novel I also tried to portray a woman with great beauty. I examined her beauty and the reaction of those around her. While her beauty makes her strong, she will also experience fragile moments.
What were your priorities when editing “Tiraje”?
I tried to pay attention to three points. First, I examined the personality of a person who can neither hear nor speak and how they would develop physically and mentally throughout their lifetime. Second, I evaluated the transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, the joys and hardships experienced. Third, the environment in which it is located; the young republic, the Second World War and the following years. Since he immigrated to Turkey at a young age, it is not a problem for him to get used to the environment because he learns everything from the beginning.
What would you like to say about the messages you want to convey to readers in your novel?
Every page of the novel emphasizes the human wealth of Istanbul, which we have now lost. There is also the belief that man can overcome even the greatest of obstacles. And you will witness what a woman will do if she asks. In the background you can see some of the difficulties that the young republic went through during its flowering and maturing.
What if we asked you to speak about your previous books for those who are wondering?
my first novel “An Ottoman Summer” It’s actually a young adult novel. The drama of the football-playing youth in the war 1914. A fair play novel with fashionable words. The book of “Just Games” in the words of our Azerbaijani friends. A novel about tolerance, brotherhood, anti-racism…
“Marlene’s Orphan” is the story of two Americans, one of whom is of German descent, set in 1985 in the United States, Germany and Turkey. “Marlene’s Orphan” opens the doors of history through the story of Otto chasing death and finding traces of his father who is HIV positive. A very emotional adventure novel.
‘Paradise of Abandoned Mana’, It is the story of an impossible love that took place in 1923 when Istanbul was occupied by the Allied armies. In a way, the story of the famous Harington mug is…
My fourth novel “The Doves of Jerusalem”Set in 1917, World War I continues to wreak havoc on humanity. The last two months of the Turkish city of Jerusalem. While Jerusalem was under siege by the British… The heroes of the book are children. It tells the story of the peoples of a multi-religious and multinational city, living in harmony with each other, confronted not only with the difficulties of war that make daily life unbearable, but also with the cruelty that even children make hostile to one another. I wrote with great enthusiasm.
My fifth book, my first crime novel “The Undivided Murder”, 2008 will pass. Its story is as follows: The queen of the kingdom where the sun never sets comes to Turkey. In order to ensure the highest level of protection in our country, all units of the Istanbul Police Department have been put on alert. The Queen arrives well! In this intoxication, a scent emanates centuries away from Fatih, the fourth hill. There is a skeleton in Darüşşafaka. I can say that The Unshared Murder is the story of history’s conscience and history’s cold face.
Released last year “One Woman, One Murder” en The Orient Express is about a mysterious murder that took place in Istanbul during its last voyage.
As far as we know you have written two plays…
I have written two plays in the last three years; “Dante in the Bar” and “Six in the Bunk”. My first play, Dante in the Bar, is the story of a teenager who wants to meet his birth father. My second play “Six People in Kusetli” is about labor migration to Germany. Last year marked the 60th anniversary of labor migration. I have attempted to trace the lifelines of six workers in sixty years. The story of the journey that started from Sirkeci railway station in history…
Also, about 10 years ago, together with my dear brother Kerem Alışık, I prepared and presented the program “Asr-ı Fener” on a private channel.
By the way, I recently wrote an English story for a film. And a two-season TV series. It was also written in two languages. Some production companies are looking, but the investment amounts are large. Let’s see luck…
Do you have a new project in the near future?
It’s the subject of a novel, a history book, but I’m only at the beginning of the projects.
Melih Esen Cengiz
Golden Books, 2022