By Heidi Trautmann
“I would like to tell you about the kafenion, about the cat that lived there, and the cheese rinds I fed it. About the coffee shop owner who was hit by a car, and the tray and glasses and the coffee which flew….”
Thus begins the first story in “Ledra Street”, a collection of short stories published in 2006. I had met Nora on the occasion of the reopening of the Goethe Institute among her poet friends living in the Northern part, like Zeki Ali who introduced her to me. A fine poet, Heidi, he said. And we looked each other in the eyes and recognized an understanding. We talked about poetry, what else, and in particular about translating poetry, an endless story.
I looked her up for details in the internet to learn more about her and we met again for more talks after I had read some poems and short stories of hers from various publications.
Two women at a table in another Nicosian coffee shop, a literary one, two women, widely travelled but with different life background, opening doors to each other’s world. Images assemble themselves. Not so different at all, our worlds.
Nora Nadjarian born in 1966 in Limassol, a Cypriot of Armenian descent. “I am a Cypriot, what else!” Her parents were in the fabrics business. She visited the Armenian primary school but later went to the English School in Nicosia Foley’s Grammar School in Limassol. “I write in English, Greek and Armenian but I feel more at ease in English.” A language used for international competitions… “and to have composed the work in one basic language without having to have it translated by a person who needs to know your way of thinking, needs to know you, you see?”
Nora graduated from Manchester University from the department of modern languages and linguistics and on her return went into teaching in Limassol and then in Nicosia. “Writing and composing poems, later short stories, was a natural concomitant for me but only through the encouragement of a close friend I started to participate in international competitions (1999-2000), and when I was recognized for my poem “Vinegar” my confidence grew; this first award was the turning point in my life.”
….I bring the vinegar, hoping she will
drink, and choke. The pearl dissolves
murkily; disappears in one gulp.
He applauds. A sour taste, bittersharp
like vinegar rises to my throat,
turning all feeling of love for him
into acid; fermenting my blood
into vindictive flow.
She must have felt the cold venom
diffuse her being, years later, in much
the same way. Naja haje.
Her face was pale, like the pearl.
© Nora Nadjarian 1999; Inspired by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra (c. 1750);
One of the winners in the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition (1999 – 2000)
She would not be a poet if she would not carry the problems of her island with its people of various descents in the corner of her heart but she uses related images rather than the direct approach, images of sad longing, a sigh in the night.
They grew up watching the salt scattering flight of gulls,
the horizon and the chaos of waves. By day, they waited for ships.
Every night, when the world fell asleep,
they walked into the sea. It was like entering their past.
Their feet disappeared first, then their legs, their necks and lips.
They liked to think that somewhere in the pitch black
they would find their beginning, that they would finally be comforted.
Or in her short story The Dinner Party where the blue table cloth and the salt and pepper pots moved around across it create a dense atmosphere:
They will remember this evening, this dining room, the blue table cloth, one day. The beautiful evening in this schizophrenic city, with the breath of spring on the balcony, brought in by a soft breeze….they will try to remember the question marks, the commas, the full stops in each conversation, in the same way one tried to remember the details of a painting hanging in the corridor one has passed a hundred times without paying any close attention. They will remember this evening, later.
Her poetry, her short stories travel, she travels with or after them, international competitions, poetry festivals, reading events;
Three collections of poetry: The Voice at the Top of the Stairs (2001), Cleft in Twain (2003) and 25 Ways to Kiss a Man (2004). Cleft in Twain was cited by The Guardian in an article on the literature of the new European Union member states in 2004.
A book of short stories Ledra Street (2006).
Recent publications include a bilingual English-German book of selected poems (Hochroth, 2010) and a micro novel, The Republic of Love (BluePrintPress, 2010). Her work has also been included in Best European Fiction 2011 (Dalkey Archive Press) and in the poetry anthology Being Human (Bloodaxe Books, 2011).
She has had her work published online and in journals and anthologies in the UK, the United States, Australia and elsewhere.
She has also won prizes and commendations in various international competitions: among others, the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, the Féile Filíochta International Poetry Competition, the Binnacle International Ultra-Short Competition and the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize.
Nora tells me of the new fiction project, a hand written notebook including other images put together into collages, a work to be exhibited in galleries in the United States; how exciting. I watch her. Things we say, hang in the air and she grabs at them. Things said, pieces found, mementoes for new stories, new images to be included in one of her future poetic compositions.