I came across the Dutch novelist and academic Eva Meijer’s name 4 years ago, when my exploration of environmental humanities overlapped with Covid and ITEF’s interview with her via Zoom (like all festivals in 2020). I was very intrigued by the fictionalized biography of  British Gwendolen Howard so I ordered the book online and read it with great interest and focus. The implicit feminism and the female protagonist’s challenging the gender norms of her time, combined with her a-vanguard interspecies view (birds specifically) opened new vistas in my mind and presented opportunities in approaching and making literature.  An extraordinary female whose voice came back to life many years later thanks to another woman author. They both shared the love of music as well, another language without words. 

Fast forward 4 years and here I am in the most impressive bookstore in Turkey, Pera Minoa sitting a few meters away from Eva Meijer with a mixed audience, a successful simultaneous interpreter and the moderator.  The literature festival is in person (31 May 2024, Friday) although Eva’s putting on her N95 mask when the book signing began is still worth mentioning. She is smart enough to avoid the virus-laden air in the conference room before taking her flight back to the Netherlands where there are less people and more nature to breathe in and out. She praises the locals’ love of cats and dogs that impressed her in Istanbul but I feel a sense of distrust nevertheless.  The talk was structured around three themes: language/silences,  animals anddepression. Her pants spoke to us, for example. They had the prints of all the animals she lived with so far. Her bright green fingernails were catchy and symbolic from my viewpoint. She is calm, down-to-earth and clear in her talk, not wishy-washy. Her books were gifts to herself and to the world, she says; her honesty about depression was pervasive and she underlined that although many depressed people lacked the proper language, they ask very existentialist questions about life, purpose and so on. Therefore, it becomes harder to differentiate it from philosophy. What was once called melancholia and it was “trendy” during Renaissance became something that can be diagnosed and  people are held responsible for it if they don’t get treatment.  
There are many rich points that I can highlight (to turn this entry to a long essay) in the talk but I will pause here by concluding that the mission and the vision that UmAy (set up in 2019) are in congruence with Eva Meier’s world(s) as an academic, author, and animal rights activist (AAA!) She could make a dream guest of honor (a writer-in-residence) if dared dreaming further about Environmental Humanities in an initiative like UmAy. I highly recommend the following as a taste of her ideas.

If you decide to read her books and email her about your impressions afterwards, extend our invitation too.
Wishing you a productive and sunny June! 

Ozlem Ezer