First Language(s): Turkish
Second Language(s): English
Aysel K. Basci is a writer and literary translator. She was born and raised in Cyprus and moved to the United States in 1975 where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Aysel is retired and resides in Dallas, Texas. Her work appeared in the Columbia Journal, Los Angeles Review, Michigan Quarterly Review and in several other literary journals.
What was your favorite book as a child?
It was Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. I first read it as an 11-year-old and although I didn’t know English, it was in English. I had borrowed the book from my brother who was studying at the English School. At my Turkish School, we had a one-hour English lesson per week. That was my only exposure to the English language. Two years earlier, as a result of a political conflict in Cyprus, we had become refugees. We lived in Nicosia, the capital, in a small basement. My only joy in life was reading. But finding books to read was difficult. There was a blockade of all goods coming into the Turkish quarter of Nicosia. So, I had to make do with what I could get. With the help of a small dictionary, I read the book and fell in love with Wilbur and Charlotte. A year later, I found a Turkish translation of it at the public library and read it again. I liked it even better and also realized that I had actually understood very little of the story during my first reading. I loved that story because it carried such positive, uplifting and wise messages.
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
Growing up, I always thought I would become a writer or at least have a job which required good writing skills. But, in the 1970s, when I had to make a choice for my university education, I decided to pursue a science degree — I loved science too — and became an engineer. At that point, I had pretty much given up on becoming a writer. What’s more, after high school, I had moved to the United States and English had become my new language. As years passed, my Turkish started to deteriorate, and my English never improved enough to write creatively. Years passed. In my early sixties, my mother died leaving me grief stricken. By then, I had retired and had a lot of free time. After a lot of soul searching, I concluded that improving my English and writing creatively would help me heal. I got to work, and over the last 3 years, made a lot of progress publishing about 30 pieces in literary journals, a mixture of essays, memoirs, and literary translations (from Turkish into English) of prose and poetry.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
I worked for an international organization for over 20 years and travelled extensively to numerous countries in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin and Central America. During my travels, I faced a great number of challenges and some of the circumstances I found myself in were thrilling. However, my adventure that stands out the most is one that happened after retirement, in my early sixties. Together with my husband, we decided to visit Machu Pichu in Peru and several other sites in the same vicinity with major remains from the ancient Inka civilization. Our aim was to trek as much of the common route as we could but not necessarily the entire route which would have required over two weeks to complete. Given my serious fear of height this was a huge challenge! And yes, it was quite thrilling. I screamed once or twice climbing some of the peaks, but managed to complete the trip as planned. It was a trip worth taking and an adventure worth living.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
Music has a very important place in my life. This has always been the case. My preferred music is classical and opera. If I had to choose the top composers I listen to, it would be Beethoven and Schubert for classical music and Puccini and Verdi for opera. However, I do not listen to music when reading or writing. For both purposes, I prefer to be alone and in a quiet setting. The quieter, the better. Sometimes, I listen to music for inspiration while imagining what to write next. This is the planning phase for my writing. For example, if I am planning to write a piece of memoir, one dealing with when I was 15 years old, I might try to remember what music I listened to at that age, and if possible, listen to that same music. This does wonders in terms of bringing back all sorts of details, and reminding me of the emotions I experienced at that time. Once I have decided what to write and developed it fairly extensively in my head, the rest is completed quickly and without music.
Issue Fall '22