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Nora Nadjarian: Passion is the cornerstone of creativity
Nora Nadjarian
Passion is the cornerstone of creativity
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Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Translation: Frances Ransome
Photo: Daria Saulskaia
20.05.2018

My guest is preoccupied with a wide range of topics: from Cypriot issues, the vicissitudes of human lives and destinies, to those stand-out moments and encounters that enrich our everyday lives.

Today, I’m talking to Armenian-Cypriot poet and writer, Nora Nadjarian.

Country: Cyprus

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I was born in Limassol and I’m third generation Armenian Cypriot. I’m the middle one of three sisters and I was always a bit of a tearaway and explorer: I’ve always been fiercely independent!

I had a very happy childhood. Back then, the neighbourhood kids hung out every day and we played out in the fresh air, in the gardens, city parks, or even in someone's garage. We made up our own games as we went along.

You know, I'm sure all this did wonders and helped us develop our creativity. I believe they were formative years for me.

I think I wanted to be a writer from a young age because I always loved reading and was spurred on by that particular curiosity that captures and inspires real writers — an interest in human life. What’s more, my primary school teachers noticed this talent in me very early on and encouraged me to develop it as I continued my studies.

So now I’m a poet, writer and creative coordinator (faciliator), and teacher.

What I like most about being a writer is the freedom! It gives me the chance to create worlds, places and characters, and their conversations, all the while without having to explain anything to anyone.

Passion is the cornerstone of creativity. After all, if you aren’t enthralled by language and the worlds you can construct on a blank sheet of paper, why write at all? Anyone who’s ever felt the need to write knows that this desire can’t be silenced or suppressed. It is a desire that will free your mind and imagination and weave magic onto the page.

Then, sooner or later, that extraordinary day arrives when your work is read. The reader learns more about you through your written word and it’s the most precious gift!

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When I wrote one of my first stories, Ledra Street, about fifteen years ago, I had no idea that this would be the story that made me a writer. Honestly, I was more surprised that anyone when I was «commended» in thе competition (the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize).

Looking back, I can now see it was the sincerity and authenticity contained in those pages that were the key to its success. I found my voice while writing Ledra Street: a voice that was totally mine and nobody else’s.

Many stories followed and all of them found their way into a book that travelled and continues to make its way around the world. I was really lucky to go on this incredible journey where I met amazing people, had unbelievable experiences, and grew both as a person and as a writer. The most extraordinary thing though was touching people's souls with my words.

My writing career «officially» took off following the success I had at an international level, which happened about fifteen years ago.

People encouraged me to continue to write and publish. So that’s what I'm doing. So far, I’ve had three collections of poems published: The Voice at the Top of the Stairs (2001), Cleft in Twain (2003) and 25 Ways to Kiss a Man (2004).

In 2004, the Guardian printed an excerpt from Cleft in Twain in an article about literature from the new European Union member states.

My poetry has been translated into German, Czech, Maltese, Arabic, and Turkish. What’s more, my poems are in several international anthologies and, more recently, were included in Capitals (Bloomsbury, 2017).

I think I’m more famous in Cyprus for my collection of stories, Ledra Street (2006), which was published here by Armida, whereas I published other stories and poems online or in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA, Australia and other countries.

I’ve won prizes and awards at various international competitions including the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, the Féile Filíochta International Poetry Competition, and the Binnacle International Ultra-Short Competition. I also have the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize under my belt.

In terms of my latest publications, Selfie and Other Stories (2017) was published in English, and my collection of reworked fairy tales, Girl, Wolf, Bones was released in a bilingual English-German edition in the same year.

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Where do I get my inspiration? It can be anything: I’ll notice something as I walk down the street, or overhear a conversation, remember an event ... or even a fragment of news, something unusual that draws my attention to the things that stand out from the background noise, so to speak.

People who haven’t read any of my books often ask me what I write about. I tell them I write about life, not necessarily my own life, but about Life with a capital L — that’s exactly how I’d describe it!

More specifically, I'm working on a short play right now. It’ll be staged in London in just a few weeks. It’s inspired by the work of the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and will be part of an evening of short plays. I'm super excited!

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You asked if it's easy being a Cypriot. It’s a difficult question for me to answer.

Cyprus is a beautiful island and it’s my home but, you know, we live in surreal conditions. The island is still divided, which makes things very strange.

A lot of my previous works were inspired by the political issues and the trauma brought about by living on a divided island. I'm now trying to move away from this topic because I find it repetitive and a little depressing.

My grandparents were Armenian refugees from Asia Minor but my parents grew up in Cyprus. Therefore, I had a really international education and upbringing.

The puzzle of my life has a lot of pieces. However, some of them got lost along the way so I prefer to just be myself and not label myself as one thing or another...

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I’ve travelled widely and visited some fascinating countries. I’ve even been to far-flung places such as Jamaica.

When all is said and done though, my favourite holiday destination is always Italy. I have friends there and go on a regular basis. It’s a country with an abundance of absolutely everything you could possibly want: breath-taking natural beauty, culture, charismatic people, great cuisine and fine wine ... it surprises and inspires me every time because I discover something new on each trip.

My last visit took me to the villages of Monsummano and Collodi in the heart of Tuscany. They are truly charming in every way! I wrote a story drawing on this experience that has already been translated into Italian. It involves a piranha that I quite literally came face to face with in the Butterfly House at the amazing Villa Garzoni.

One day when I have enough time (and money!), I’d like to go to Antarctica. It will be the experience of a lifetime for me some day. Right now though, it’s still a pipedream.

When I just want to relax, I love swimming in the sea, going on long walks, or dancing.

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I really urge everyone who visits our beautiful island to make the most of every minute! Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, incredible beaches, archaeological artefacts, the mountains, the villages and the friendly locals, talk to everyone and listen to their amazing stories! They all have so much to share!

If you want some specific places, I’d suggest you visit Akamas, which remains untouched to this day.

To those who live in Cyprus (which includes me, of course!), I’d like to say: don’t take anything here for granted.

Be grateful that you are lucky enough to live here!

We would like to thank Ms.Nadjarian for a fascinating and engaging conversation.

You can find and order her books on Amazon or in any of the major bookstores in Cyprus:

Moufflon and Soloneion in Nicosia, Academic & General in Larnaca, and in Kyriakou Bookshops in Limassol and Paphos.