On the 12th and 13th of May TOG organised the second edition this year of a very special event, the Living Library, or Yaşayan Kütüphane. New season, new venue: hosted at Kadiköy, the event set camp in a park on the banks of the Bosporus, under the refreshing shade of blooming trees.
We attended the Living Library on a Saturday, just on time for two last sessions before it closed, after making our way through streets turned vivid and overcrowded by Fenerbahçe supporters awaiting their arch-rivals Galatasaray.
Our first book was a Kurd. We knew little about Kurdish people and meeting this book in person gave me a good introduction to their history, identity, demography and political claims. A book from the Living Library catalogue has a title, in this case “Kurd”, but it also has an author, and it’s interesting to see how these two distinct entities articulate. Our book was sometimes set aback by our questions, asking himself whether he was speaking for himself or for the Kurdish community in general.
Our second book was a Communist. Political ideology is a less tumultuous subject than ethnic minorities in Turkey, and accordingly, our book provided much more confident explanations to our doubts. We had many: how to implement communism? Is it really a democratic system? How can it make people happier than capitalism? Can it coexist with our free market economy? We ran out of time far too soon to address all the issues that came to mind but the read was an exciting one.
It’s not easy being a book. It demands a reflection on who you are, what you stand for, on the difference between personal opinion and group identity. Being focused for a whole afternoon on providing coherent information demands the tenacity of a marathon runner. In a way, the Living Library is about running the mile together. Implicitly acting as representatives of mainstream society, readers lay the track through their questions and the book unfolds, step by step, providing answers that are tossed, turned, and hashed into a better understanding of what things, us, our cosmos really are.
The Living Library is a giving, taking and sharing process that makes us all more knowledgeable, talkative and hungry (body and soul!) at the end of the day. A simple yet fascinating demonstration of citizenship.