Coffee Cup Conversations
If there is one public figure that is synonymous with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus it has to be founding President Rauf Raif Denktaş. Regardless of whether people agreed or disagreed with his political views, he was a very popular leader – a true gentleman. In spite of his busy schedule he always found the time to meet and spend time with people from all walks of life. His warm smile and charming personality meant that he was a well respected man. So it’s not surprising to hear that he gave up many hours of his time, over a period of eighteen months leading up to his death in January 2012, to chat with Yvonne Çerkez, a lady who would eventually publish the only biography he would ever officially approve.
“Rauf Denktaş A Private Portrait” has only been available for a couple of months, but already it’s proving to be very popular. I recently caught up with Yvonne, a modest lady who is quite rightly proud of her literary success. Throughout our conversation she holds on tightly to her book, like it’s a new born baby, and it is! Yvonne has been living in North Cyprus for quite a while and before she began writing her book she was an English teacher at a local private school. Yvonne has a passion for language and literature, and her talent and enthusiasm is evident in her book.
With encouragement from her family and friends Yvonne chose to write about Denktaş because he was such an important figure in the history of Cyprus, and she wanted to reveal the private man behind the public persona. Denktaş willingly allowed Yvonne to write his biography and they spent hundreds of hours together over many months chatting away. “He had an excellent memory and could remember all the important details; including dates, times and places of specific events”, remarks Yvonne. Of course as a researcher she often had to clarify and check certain things, and most of the time he was spot on. Denktaş helped Yvonne along her long literary journey, often setting up meetings and interviews for her with various important people. It was a lot of hard work for Yvonne, but Denktaş, who was always very cooperative and interesting, did all he could to lighten the load on her shoulders.
Unfortunately Denktaş passed away before Yvonne completed her book. This prompted her to finish the biography and she finally had it printed this summer. It was only after the book’s release did she realise how important her subject matter was. The response from the public has been overwhelming. There have been a few low-key book signing events but the official grand launch is still yet to happen. Maybe due to her background in education, Yvonne would like the book to be available at all local libraries and at all the schools and universities. She believes it’s an invaluable reference book for anyone interested in Cyprus. With a smile on her face she tells me that one university lecturer here in North Cyprus wants to include her book on the reading list of one of their courses. “It’s like winning an Oscar” exclaims Yvonne!
Yvonne may have underestimated the popularity of her subject matter, but she certainly wrote a book that I’m sure will soon be on the bookshelves of most Cypriot households. With promotional work lined up in the UK and even Australia, Yvonne will be busy for the rest of this year. “Rauf Denktaş A Private Portrait”, is currently available at most local bookshops in the TRNC. There is a website dedicated to the biography, so to find out more and to contact the author go to www.raufdenktasaprivateportrait.com.