Sanem Ozdural, author of the thought-provoking novel LiGa™, is currently teaching at Koç University in Istanbul. She was recently interviewed for the university’s Kule Magazine, Spring 2014 (issue 37). Accompanying the interview was a poem by Sanem called Gelecek Bir Seçimdir (The Future is Choice). You can view the magazine and read the interview in Turkish here. For those of you who don’t read Turkish, Sanem has kindly provided us with an English translation of the interview (below) and her poem (which is in our milliFiction thread here).
A novel that takes place in the future: LiGa
We spoke to Sanem Özdural, who joined the Law Faculty this year, and who is also a writer, about her novel LiGa, which was published in 2012.
Upon reading Sanem Özdural’s novel LiGa, which was written in English and published by Elsewhen Press in the U.K., we decided at once to interview her. The fact that the novel takes place in the “future” makes it particularly appropriate for Kule’s current issue. This novel, inspired by the Life-Gambling axis, offers both a warning and a promise for the future. We wish you an enjoyable read…
Shall we start our discussion with the title? Why did you choose this name and this topic?
LiGa is an abbreviation of LifeGame. The following is a short summary of the story:
In the near future, an organization called LiGa has discovered a technology that can transfer a person’s regenerative quotient to another. LiGa restricts the use of the technology through an invitation-only tournament. At the end of each game the four players with the highest points take one third of the regenerative quotient of the losing four players. The tournament ends when the regenerative quotient of one or more players reaches 100%, that is to say when they reach a form of immortality.
I had wanted to write a story about the connection between life and gambling for a long time, and the result was LiGa. People actually gamble with their lives on a daily basis, don’t they? Even gambling with money affects the person’s life, doesn’t it? The more money one loses, the harder one’s life gets. But as with so many ideas, although LiGa had its beginning in the life/gambling connection, its path took many different turns…
This tournament is set in the future, but you must have been inspired by something in the present day. Does this mean that what we think of as life is really a game? And even though you don’t say so outright in the novel, do you think we are players in an equally harsh and ruthless game?
Life and games. Where do they part ways? After all, isn’t the main purpose of games to prepare one for life? Calling LiGa ‘harsh and ruthless’ is inaccurate and misleading, because the only part of the game that might be considered ‘ruthless’ is the fact that the winning players take life from the losing players. But remember: each player entered the game willingly, and perhaps even more importantly, they are free to leave whenever they want. There are no tricks; no secrets. There is equal opportunity in the quest for immortality. Under these circumstances, how can LiGa’s central philosophy of personal responsibility be considered ruthless? All laws are built around this principle: you have to pay the price of the wrong you commit, the damage you inflict – be it in the form of money or prison. That’s the central tenet of life and this game. For instance, can we expect a boxer to avoid punching his opponent for fear of hurting or injuring him?
Besides, the sea and all of nature around us can be considered ruthless, but I can think of several other adjectives to describe both nature and LiGa: completely honest, egalitarian and life giving. After all LiGa means Life Game, not Death Game.
Why bridge and not another game?
I felt that bridge provided the best vehicle to explain the aspects of life that I wanted to explore in this story. Bridge is a complex game that requires detailed planning, but in which luck also plays a role. In addition, the concept of ‘trust’ is centrally important because it is a partnership game.
In the LiGa tournament the players change partners after four hands, so that by the end of the game they have all been both partners and opponents. Just like life: we don’t know when an ally or partner may turn into a rival or an enemy.
Do the readers need to know bridge to understand the book?
No, I tried very hard to make sure the story was intelligible to players and non players alike!
How should we evaluate the characters’ quest for immortality? What does immortality mean for them?
Immortality means something different for each player. In other words, they want a longer life for different reasons. For instance, an aging judge wants a longer life in order to create a particular rose, others perhaps because they are afraid to grow old and die. I don’t think the Formula 1 driver is afraid of death, but perhaps he views this tournament as the last, most dangerous race of his life.
Is this tournament a warning for the future, or perhaps a promise to us from the future? How should we understand it?
The central question LiGa poses is this: what are the human characteristics, the principles that we want to be immortal? The players solve this question among themselves during a tournament in which they each have an equal chance at success, but in which personal ability is more important than luck. It is not a difficult question. We all know the answer. And the players find out that there are three fundamental elements to succeed in the tournament: to be honest, to perform the task at hand in the best way possible, and to be resilient when faced with obstacles. I see LiGa as a promise, because a world in which these values are predominant will lead to a safer, more comfortable life for all. At the same time I consider it a warning, because to act outside these basic principles can only be advantageous or profitable for a short time. Those who are honest, capable and resilient will always prevail in the end.
The book allows the reader to experience the excitement at each stage of the game, but at the same time it asks a host of important questions relating to life, death, fate, and ethical responsibilities, such as ‘do we have a right to gamble with our lives without permission from our loved ones?’ What are your thoughts on these concepts?
Do we have a right to gamble with our lives? Do we live for someone else? What is more important: the individual, the family or the community? The answer changes depending on the point of view, on culture. Or, for instance, what does free will mean? Does the priest enter the tournament of his free will? True, he will not be punished if he refuses to enter, but can we consider his sense of responsibility and duty an impediment to the concept of free will? On the other hand, isn’t a decision based on a feeling of responsibility just another exercise of free will? Perhaps there is no clear-cut answer to these questions, and that is just as well.
Authors often complain of the difficulties of finding names for their characters. Did you have trouble in this area? Do your characters’ names have particular meaning?
I did not think of the meaning behind each of their names, but the names of some characters are important. For instance, Bruce Saber. A sabre is a cavalry sword. You see, I was on the fencing team in university, and I’ve always equated a trial attorney’s work with a fencing bout. The Formula 1 driver is called Storm. It suits him!
Your characters all have different occupations. You must have done a lot of research to write about a priest and a racecar driver, and you must be knowledgeable about bridge. What kind of preparation did it take to write this book?
I can safely say that the research took at least as long as the actual writing. I spent almost two years just learning bridge and playing in tournaments. During the same time I was also researching Formula 1: watching all the races on television and reading books and anything in the news about the drivers. The hardest character to write about was the priest. I spent a few years researching his character, too.
Kule Magazine (Spring 2014) trans. Sanem Ozdural