فصل 16

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فصل 16

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Where God Does Not Exist

necip describes his landscape

and ka recites his poem

Twenty minutes later, Ka went down the chilly corridor to the men’s room, where Necip was standing among the men facing the urinals. For a time they stood together at the back of a line for the locked stalls in front of them, acting as if they’d never met. Ka took this opportunity to admire the molding of the high ceiling, garlands of roses and leaves.

When their turn came, they went into the same stall. Ka noticed that a toothless old man was watching them. After bolting the door from the inside, Necip said, “They didn’t see us.” He gave Ka a warm but quick embrace. Using a small protrusion as a foothold to hoist himself up the wall, he reached up and retrieved several envelopes from atop the water tank. Back on the floor, he gently blew the dust off the envelopes.

“When you give these letters to Kadife, I want you to say just one thing,” he said. “I’ve given this a great deal of thought. From the moment she reads these letters, I will neither hope nor expect to have anything to do with Kadife for the rest of my life. I want you to tell her this. Make it clear to her, so that she understands exactly what I mean.”

“If she is to find out that you’re in love with her at the very moment she discovers that there isn’t any hope in it, why tell her at all?” “Unlike you, I’m not afraid of life or my passions,” said Necip. Worried that he might have upset Ka, he added, “These letters are all I care about: I can’t live without being passionately in love with someone or something beautiful. Now I have to find love and happiness elsewhere.

But first I have to get Kadife out of my head.” He gave the letters to Ka.

“Shall I tell you who it is I plan to love with all my heart after Kadife?”

“Who?” Ka asked, as he put the letters into his pocket.

“God.”

“Tell me about that landscape you see.”

“First open that window! It’s smells really bad in here.” Ka fiddled with the rusty latch until he got it open. For a time they stood there dumbstruck, as if witnessing a miracle, watching the endless stream of snowflakes sailing silently through the night.

“How beautiful the universe is!” Necip whispered.

“What would you say is the most beautiful part of life?” Ka asked.

There was a silence. “All of it!” said Necip, as if he were betraying a secret.

“But doesn’t life make us unhappy?”

“We do that to ourselves. It has nothing to do with the universe or its creator.”

“Tell me about that landscape.”

“First put your hand on my forehead and tell me my future,” said Necip. His eyes opened wide, one of them to be shattered twenty-six minutes later, along with his brain. “I want to live a long full life, and I know many wonderful things are going to happen to me. But I don’t know what I’ll be thinking twenty years from now, and that’s what I’m curious about.”

Ka pressed the palm of his right hand against Necip’s smooth forehead. “Oh my God!” He pulled his hand away mockingly, as if he’d touched something burning hot. “There’s a lot going on in there.” “Tell me.”

“In twenty years’ time—in other words, when you’re thirty-seven years old—you will have understood at last that all the evil in the world— I mean the poverty and ignorance of the poor and the cunning and lavishness of the rich—and all the vulgarity in the world, and all the violence, and all the brutality—I mean all the things that make you feel guilty and think of suicide—by the time you’re thirty-seven you’ll know that all these things are the result of everyone’s thinking alike,” Ka said. “Therefore, just as so many in this place have done idiotic things and died in the guise of decency, you’ll discover that you can actually become a good person while appearing to be shameless and evil. But you know this may have terrible consequences. Because what I feel under my trembling hand is . . .”

“What’s that?”

“You’re very bright, and even at this age you know what I’m talking about. That’s why I want you to tell me first.”

“Tell you what?”

“The reason why you feel so guilty about the misery of the poor. I know you know what it is, but you must say it.”

“You’re not saying—God forbid—that I will no longer believe in God?” said Necip. “If that’s what you mean, I’d rather die.” “It’s not going to happen overnight, the way it did to that poor director in the elevator! It’s going to happen so slowly you’ll hardly even notice. And because you’ll have been dying so slowly, having been in this other world so long, you’ll be just like the drunk who realizes he’s dead only after he’s had one raki too many.”

“Is that what you’re like?”

Ka took his hand off Necip’s forehead. “No, I’m just the opposite. I must have started believing in God years ago. This happened so slowly, it wasn’t until I arrived in Kars that I noticed it. That’s why I’m so happy here, and why I’m able to write poems again.”

“You surely seem happy right now, and wise,” said Necip, “so I’m wondering if you can answer this question: Can a human being really know the future? And even if he can’t, can he find peace by convincing himself that he does know the future? This is perfect for my first sciencefiction novel.” “Some people do know the future,” said Ka. “Take Serdar Bey, owner of the Border City Gazette—he printed the story of this evening way in advance.” Ka fished his copy of the paper from his pocket and together they read, “The entertainments were punctuated by enthusiastic clapping and applause.”

“This must be what they mean by happiness,” said Necip. “We could be the poets of our own lives if only we could first write about what shall be and later enjoy the marvels we have written. In the paper it says you read your most recent poem. Which one is that?”

Someone banged on the door of the stall. Ka asked Necip to tell him quickly about “that landscape.”

“I’ll tell you now,” said Necip, “but you have to promise not to tell anyone else. They don’t like my fraternizing with you.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Ka said. “Tell me what you see.” “I love God a lot,” said Necip, in an agitated voice. “Sometimes, when I ask myself what would happen if, God forbid, God didn’t exist— I do this sometimes without even meaning to—a terrifying landscape appears before my eyes.”

“Yes.”

“I see this landscape at night, in darkness, through a window. Outside there are two blind white walls, as tall as the walls of a castle. Like two castles back to back! There is only the narrowest passageway between them, which stretches into the distance like a road, and when I look down this road I am overcome with fear. The road where God does not exist is as snowy and muddy as the roads in Kars, but it’s all purple! There’s something in the middle of the road that tells me ‘Stop!’ but I still can’t keep myself from looking right down to the end of the road, to the place where this world ends. Right at the end of this world, I can see a tree, one last tree, and it’s bare and leafless. Then, because I’m looking at it, it turns bright red and bursts into flame. It’s at this point that I begin to feel very guilty for being so curious about the land where God does not exist.

Then, just as suddenly, the red tree turns back to black. I tell myself, I’d better not look again, but I can’t help it, I do look again, and the tree at the end of the world starts burning red once more. This goes on until morning.”

“What is it about this landscape that scares you so much?” “I can’t help thinking that it’s the devil making me think such a landscape could be of this world. But if I can make something come to life before my eyes, the source must be my own imagination. Because if there really were a place like this on earth, it would mean that God—God forbid—didn’t exist. And since this can’t be true, the only possible explanation is that I myself don’t believe in God. And that would be worse than death.”

“I understand,” said Ka.

“I looked it up in an encyclopedia once, and it said that the word atheist comes from the Greek athos. But athos doesn’t refer to people who don’t believe in God; it refers to the lonely ones, people whom the gods have abandoned. This proves that people can’t ever really be atheists, because even if we wanted it, God would never abandon us here. To become an atheist, then, you must first become a Westerner.” “I wanted to be a Westerner and a believer,” said Ka.

“A man could be at the coffeehouse every evening laughing and playing cards with his friends, he could have so much fun with his classmates that there is never a moment when they aren’t exploding into laughter, he could spend every hour of the day chatting with his intimates, but if that man has been abandoned by God, he’d still be the loneliest man on earth.” “It might be of some consolation to have a true love,” said Ka.

“But only if she loved you as much as you loved her.”

There was another knock on the door, and Necip put his arms around Ka, kissing him like a child on both cheeks before he left the stall. Ka caught a glimpse of the man who had been waiting, now running into the other toilet, so he bolted the door again, lit a cigarette, and watched the wondrous snow still falling outside. He thought about Necip’s landscape— he could remember his description word for word, as if it were already a poem—and if no one came from Porlock he was sure he would soon be writing that poem in his notebook.

The man from Porlock! During our last years in school, when Ka and I would stay up half the night talking about literature, this was one of our favorite topics. Anyone who knows anything about English poetry will remember the note at the start of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” It explains how the work is a “fragment of a poem, from a vision during a dream”; the poet had fallen asleep after taking medicine for an illness (actually, he’d taken opium for fun) and had seen, in his deepest sleep, sentences from the book he’d been reading just before losing consciousness, except that now each sentence and each object had taken on a life of its own in a magnificent dreamscape to become a poem. Imagine, a magnificent poem that had created itself, without the poet’s having exerted any mental energy! Even more amazing, when Coleridge woke up he could remember this splendid poem word for word. He got out his pen and ink and some paper and carefully began to write it down, one line after the other, as if he were taking dictation. He had just written the last line of the poem as we know it when there came a knock at the door. He rose to answer it, and it was a man from the nearby city of Porlock, come to collect a debt.

As soon as he’d dealt with this man, he rushed back to his table, only to discover that he’d forgotten the rest of the poem, except for a few scattered words and the general atmosphere.

As no one arrived from Porlock to break his concentration, Ka still had the poem clear in his mind when he was called onstage. He was taller than everyone else there. He also stood out on account of his German charcoal-gray coat.

There had been a great deal of noise from the audience, but now they fell silent. Some of them—the unruly schoolboys, the unemployed, the Islamist protestors—fell silent because they were no longer quite sure what they should be laughing at or objecting to. The important officials in the front rows, the men who’d been following Ka all day long, the deputy governor, the assistant chief of police, and the teachers all knew he was a poet. The tall thin emcee seemed unnerved by the silence, so he asked Ka a canned question from one of those arts programs on television. “So you’re a poet,” he said. “You write poems. Is it difficult to write poems?” By the end of this awkward interview—and every time I watch the tape, I wish I could forget it—the audience had no idea whether Ka found it hard writing poems, but they did know he had just arrived from Germany.

“How do you find our beautiful Kars?” the host now asked.

After a moment of indecision, Ka said, “Very beautiful, very poor, and very sad.”

At the back of the hall, two students from the religious high school burst out laughing. Someone else cried out, “It’s your own soul that’s poor!” Encouraged by this taunt, six or seven others stood up and started shouting. Some were heckling Ka, and who knows what the others were saying? Long after the events in question, during my own visit to Kars, Turgut Bey told me that when Hande heard Ka say this on television, she began to cry. “In Germany, you were representing Turkish literature,” said the emcee, trying to press on.

“Why doesn’t he tell us why he’s here?” someone shouted.

“I came here because I was desperately unhappy,” said Ka. “I’m much happier here. Listen, please, I’m going to read my poem now.” For a few moments there was confusion. Then the shouting stopped, and Ka began to speak. Only years later, when the videotape of that evening passed into my hands, was I able to watch my friend’s moving performance; it was the first time I had ever seen him read a poem to a large audience. He moved forward cautiously, silently, like someone with a great deal on his mind, but there wasn’t a hint of pretension in his bearing. Aside from one or two moments when he paused as if slightly uncertain as to what came next, he recited the poem right through to the end without trouble.

When Necip realized that Ka’s description of “the place where God does not exist” matched his own description of his “landscape” word for word, he rose from his seat, but he did not break Ka’s concentration as he described the falling snow. There was a smattering of applause. Someone in the back stood up and shouted and was soon joined by a few others. It was hard to know whether they were responding to the poem or simply bored.

Unless you count his fleeting appearance a short while later—his falling silhouette, set against a green backdrop—this was the last image of my friend of twenty-seven years.

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