The Typing Man book explores Turkish-Arabic names in the context of composing private letters in public spaces. Shortlisted in the Mslexia Awards, this fiction story was selected from over 2,000 submissions.
The tale was inspired by a scene in a park near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul where the author noticed a man and a woman facing one another across a fold-out table. A manual typewriter and various papers were spread about. There was an air of intense professionalism. Knowing that the law courts were just down the road, and observing from a distance, this seemed to the author like an official transaction.
In spite of the ubiquity of mobile phones, internet cafes and personal computers, why was there still a need for someone to mediate the message?
What if, one day, the business conducted in that public park did not fit the usual pattern of work for the typing man, but was about something much more personal?
With a flight of imagination and some research, the story of the typing man in a park near the Blue Mosque took shape.
There are a few typing women in the world. People who type for others, because they don’t own a typewriter or computer or cannot read or write, are mostly men.
This trio sitting on a bench outside a Rwandan bus station typing business papers and CVs consider themselves fortunate when they are given commissions to type up fiction and plays. Requests to type a love letter, fairly common in the world of public typists, represents perhaps an even greater position of privilege.
When the women see the police coming, they disappear with their tables and typewriters, because street vending in Rwanda is illegal.
Marie Gorette Nimukuze, one of the Rwandan women typists, says: “It’s very confidential what we do, we never tell people what we’ve written. When people ask us to write letters there is a trust there and we don’t break it.”
Symmetries can be found between these women’s recollections and the character of Rauf Osman in The Typing Man book. Here are some of the observations made by another trade in the outdoor square, the peanut seller Aziz Nesin:
Through the special edition book and eBook, the author and translator wished to increase the understanding and appreciation of a minority culture in Britain. The sounds and meanings of names given at birth in Turkey, and the way they are spoken, are incorporated in the text. Extra details are given on the names of the fictional characters.
The names people carry round with them can be heavy with import. They may be perceived as ennobling, aspirational, or even a put-down. The Turkish girl’s name Kader [say it: CADDER] means Fate, and the boy’s name Devrim [say it: DEv‒RIM] means Revolution.
(above) pages 36-37, The Typing Man
Creative letter writing inspirations
Some of the questions the author and translators asked themselves are presented at the end of the book to inspire readers’ own creative letter writing.
Q. Should a character’s name always convey something important about them?
Q. Can a person’s name change who someone is?