Written by Joan Gammon, CNN
Hussein Rashid’s journey to become a world-famous writer began in April 1981 in Istanbul, Turkey.
An immigrant to Britain, the now 89-year-old Rashid, then 36, walked a distance of 75 yards without a coat and said the “easy part” of his future — telling his story — would be done.
“There I knew that with every word written in my hand, I was writing history,” he says.
Hussein Rashid at the Museum of London in 2009. Credit: David Phillips
For Rashid, Turkish immigrant to the UK, England had been the starting point for so many other things that never existed — like the modern world itself.
“I wanted to say — in a very clear voice — that we are a new race and new people … and we are not different.”
Rashid launched his first novel in 1982 and developed a worldwide reputation, claiming the four million pound ($5.2 million) HarperCollins first prize for fiction in 1985.
Today, Rashid has published six books in the past 30 years and has traveled the world giving talks about his writing. He says that over the years he has written on many things.
“I wrote it all along, all the time. A lot of it was inspired by my own life. I have been born twice, so I have lived three lives.”
With more than 100,000 articles in English and local Turkish titles in 130 countries and an estimated following of 100,000, Rashid is popular — and well-liked — in his adopted home.
Brothers who struggle to become writers
Another of his books, Kiarostami , which was a victim of terrorism, has been translated into 70 languages — even the Arabic version is translated into English.
“Writing for me is not that hard,” Rashid says. “We all write sometimes.”
Life changed in 1985, however, when his book “Arrest” hit the headlines.
“That made me famous.” Rashid says. “There was a lot of emotion in the sense that I was famous worldwide and that I had done it.”
The press allegations led to national heroes being painted in such a way that caused such great harm.
The book was a deeply controversial story about the fate of two brothers. One was freed, while the other was executed. Rashid says the real story was that “it was a brutal murder, where the fundamental question is: ‘Why are you criminalizing this brother?’ That question should have been asked and answered.”
Family life also changed from the beginning of writing. In the early days, he used his wife as a character. In the later years, Rashid only writes when he’s with his daughters.
Together, he says, his daughters offer words of encouragement.
“I can still sleep at night because I know they will think ‘Dad … go and do this’ or ‘do that,'” he says.
He says the thought of his early book sales, now that his name is synonymous with a literary revolution, makes him laugh.