Monday 27 May 2013

What happens next - Lily Hyde

What happens next? is the question I've been asked most often in the last few days.

I’ve been in Crimea for the presentation of the Crimean Tatar translation of Dream Land, my novel about the return of the Crimean Tatars to their homeland in the 1990s. This entire nation of people was deported from Crimea, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1944, and fought a peaceful campaign for fifty years for the right to return.

People want to know if I’m pleased about the book translation (I’m absolutely delighted – I blogged about it previously here), why I decided to write the book in the first place (because I thought it was a fascinating, compelling and important story that begged to be told) but most of all they want to know ‘Are you going to write a sequel? What happens next to Safi?’

It’s always gratifying when readers want to know what happens to your characters outside the pages of the book. I myself find it hard to abandon characters after I’ve created them. The heroine of my first novel, Riding Icarus, so grabbed my imagination that I went on to write two more novels about her.

It’s a bit more complicated with Safi, because although she’s a fictional character, her story is closely based on real events. Dream Land ends in the summer of 1992 on a moment of hope, that Crimean Tatar families like Safi’s will be able to build houses with permission from the Ukrainian authorities and settle in to a new life in Crimea with support and acceptance from their Ukrainian and Russian neighbours. And in truth, this is by and large what has happened, although no one can pretend that prejudice and discrimination do not still exist. I never planned a sequel to Dream Land. I thought that if readers really want to know what happens to Safi, all they have to do is read a newspaper or visit Crimea.

Safi would be thirty-three now, if she really existed. Does she stay in Crimea or does she emigrate? I’ve been asked over the last few days. Does she remember the stories she heard from her grandfather in Dream Land? Does she teach her children Crimean Tatar language? What about her brother Lutfi – does he marry a Russian girl like the one in the book, or does he get involved in radical Islam?

I don’t know the answers. All these things have happened to my friends in Crimea, the ones whose lives in the 1990s inspired Dream Land. It would be nice if I could create happy and fulfilling futures for all these people I love and admire. But this is real life, not fiction.

There’s a fascinating, compelling and important story still to be told about the Crimean Tatar national movement since 1992. About political and social change, about the steady loss of the Crimean Tatar language and the continuing struggle to uncover and declare the truth of what happened in 1944.

I’m amazed and honoured and touched that so many people have asked me for a sequel. But I’m not sure I’m the person to tell this story. My friend’s daughter in Crimea has just started writing stories. She’s Crimean Tatar, and around the same age now as Safi is in Dream Land. Perhaps she will be the one to write What Happens Next.
The Crimean Tatar cover of Dream Land


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Joan Lennon said...

I love the idea of passing the story on - and congratulations on Dreamland's translation into Crimean Tartar.

Penny Dolan said...

A most interesting & wise post. Your Dream land novel sounds a really wondeful story. Lily, amd so gald that it had had such a great reception where it most matters.

You've also expressed the complications of writing about real & historic events so well. Such stories can end with truthful & realistic choices for the characters.. However, to then develop all this into a follow-up "plot" might not feel right, or as you say, be for other voices like those of your young friend. Lots to think about here. Thanks.

Tabatha said...

Well said.

Sue Purkiss said...

Such an interesting thing to have written about!

Lily said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Yes, it's strange when fact and fiction overlap. I do think that sometimes fiction can express fundamental truths better than the plain facts of journalism or history can. But at the same time its important not to distort facts too much to suit the 'story' demands of fiction.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

writing fiction based on truth is a very tough call and as you warn... important not to distort facts to suit the story demands of fiction. How wonderful to have the book translated into the very language whose need it serves. Wonderful! And hope you enjoyed the Palace as much as I did. The quietness is what impressed me most. Odd that my blog was about another occupation of the same territory. Its terrible when people are deprived of their own language. i've seen the results of this in Southern Africa.