Under the Volcano is thrilled to present a conversation between novelist Ayşegül Savaş and UTV Director Magda Bogin to celebrate the publication of Walking on the Ceiling (Riverhead Books, May 2019), which Kirkus Reviews calls “a refined and wistful exploration of the nature of memory.”
A mesmerizing novel set in Paris and a changing Istanbul, Walking on the Ceiling is about a young Turkish woman grappling with her past – her country’s and her own – and her complicated relationship with the famous British writer who longs for her memories.
After her mother’s death, Nunu moves from Istanbul to a small apartment in Paris. One day outside of a bookstore, she meets M., an older British writer whose novels about Istanbul Nunu has always admired. They find themselves walking the streets of Paris and talking late into the night. What follows is an unusual friendship of eccentric correspondence and long walks around the city.
M. is working on a new novel set in Turkey and Nunu tells him about her family, hoping to impress and inspire him. She recounts the idyllic landscapes of her past, mythical family meals, and her elaborate childhood games. As she does so, she also begins to confront her mother’s silence and anger, her father’s death, and the growing unrest in Istanbul. Their intimacy deepens, so does Nunu’s fear of revealing too much to M. and of giving too much of herself and her Istanbul away. Most of all, she fears that she will have to face her own guilt about her mother and the narratives she’s told to protect herself from her memories.
A wise and unguarded glimpse into a young woman’s coming into her own, Walking on the Ceiling is about memory, the pleasure of invention, and those places, real and imagined, we can’t escape.
“Ayşegül Savaş is an enormous new talent who writes with the rigor of Didion and the tenderness of Sebald.” —Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers
“Savas’s celebration of the minutest details of Paris and Istanbul is juxtaposed, to devastating effect, against rising political tensions. This quietly intense debut is the product of a wise and probing mind.” —Helen Phillips, author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat
“Walking on the Ceiling is an elegant meditation on grief, identity, memory and homecoming. I fell in love with this book.” —Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation
“Walking on the Ceiling is a powerful debut and Ayşegül Savaş is an extremely talented rising star.” —Dorthe Nors, author of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.
Ayşegül Savaş grew up in Turkey and Denmark. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Guernica, Granta and elsewhere and was shortlisted for the Graywolf Emerging Writers Award. She teaches at the Sorbonne and lives in Paris. She was a 2019 Reading Fellow at Under the Volcano and will be returning to the program in January 2020.
Magda Bogin is a New York-based writer and the founder of Under the Volcano, an international program of writing master classes that convenes each January in Tepoztlán, Mexico. A novelist, translator, poet and librettist, she is the author of the novels Natalya, God’s Messenger (Scribner) and Complicity, forthcoming. She is currently at work on a third novel, Smuggled, and a chamber opera based on the Mexican Day of the Dead.