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Nora Nadjarian

Born in Limassol, Cyprus, Nora Nadjarian is an award-winning poet with three published collections. This is her first collection of short stories. Read an interview

Short story collections

Ledra Street (Armida, 2006) 

Reviewed by Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson

Interview with Nora Nadjarian

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Nora Nadjarian: I would say three to four years.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

NN: Initially, no. I started off my writing career as a poet (I still write poetry) and I didn’t have a collection in mind when I started writing the short stories. Gradually, a lot of the stories were getting published in magazines and being commended in competitions. That’s what made me think: “Why not?” But it did take me a while to write enough stories to make up a satisfactory collection.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

NN: I tend to enjoy writing the really short ones, so I left out a couple of longer stories, as I felt they didn’t work as well. I do this when I’m writing poetry, too. What starts off as a medium-sized poem is eventually pared down to a few lines. I feel that too many words are simply unnecessary. A short story doesn’t need to be over 1000 words in order to be “good”. I often read stories which would be so much more effective told in fewer words. Choosing the order of the stories in the collection wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I found that most of the stories could be grouped thematically, although I hadn’t intentionally set out to write stories on similar themes. The book starts off with a number of stories set in Cyprus, but moves on to unspecified locales and universal themes… And I thought the collection simply had to end with “THE END”, the final line of the story Ten Nights at the Movies.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

NN:A story is magic. I just love the power that such few words can have to transport you, to move you, to make you empathise, or laugh or cry. A well-told short story will have a huge impact on the reader. Some of the best short stories I’ve read are by Janet Frame. I “believe” in her fiction. Her stories have a melancholy resonance which moves and haunts me.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

NN: Not really. A reader is a stranger who will get to know me through my writing. I just hope that he or she will like me!

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
collection, anything at all?

NN: “Does any of it make sense to you?” I have often wondered if the few stories which hint at the political situation in Cyprus make sense to a non-Cypriot. It’s rather difficult to explain that I spent most of my adult life wondering what places looked like in the north of Cyprus. I first met a Turkish Cypriot in 2003. These are facts which may sound absurd to someone who is not Cypriot. And it is this sense of the illogical which came out in the writing of my short story Ledra Street, a story which draws parallels between the meaningless, accidental death of a man and the tragic absurdity of living in a divided city.         And another thing. Rather than ask them, there’s something I’d like to tell the readers: that my stories are not all autobiographical! A lot of people who have read my stories seem to think that, just because I write quite a lot in the first person, I am telling them my innermost secrets as Nora Nadjarian. So I’d just like to say to them that an author can and does enter other people’s lives in the first person! On paper, I am a character in a fictional situation. And that’s one of the most enjoyable things about being a writer: that you can do whatever you want, say whatever you like, be whoever you want. Nobody can stop you. As the American short story writer Grace Paley once said of her fiction, “None of it happened, and yet every word of it is true.”

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

NN: It’s great to know that people are reading my stories. The book has been successful in Cyprus, and this is pleasing for me because a) it is a short story collection and b) it’s written in English!

TSR: What are you working on now?

NN: I am writing some new stories and editing a few older ones.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

NN: As it happens, the last three short story collections I read were all by Etgar Keret: The Nimrod Flipout, Missing Kissinger and The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God. The third collection actually includes quite a few stories from the other two, but it was still good to read them all over again. Keret’s stories are just so original and sad and crazy and funny. I find his ability to combine humour and violence, comedy and tragedy, in one short story just amazing. A critic wrote about him: “Keret can do more with six strange and funny paragraphs than most writers can with 600 pages.” I couldn’t agree more. Another collection I’ve enjoyed recently is Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami. He’s one of my favourite authors.