فصل 19

کتاب: برف / درس 19

فصل 19

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

And How Beautiful Was the Falling Snow

the night of the revolution

The leader of the boisterous trio that ran shouting into the auditorium waving pistols and rifles at the cowering audience, only to vanish into the night, was a writer and an old Communist whose alias was Z Demirkol. During the seventies he belonged to various pro-Soviet Communist organizations, and although he worked as a journalist and poet, he was best known as a bodyguard. He was a rather large man. He’d escaped to Germany after the military takeover in 1980; after the Berlin Wall came down, he received a special pardon and returned to Turkey to help defend the secular state and the Republic against Kurdish separatist guerillas and Islamist fundamentalists. The two men behind him had once been Turkish nationalist militants, former comrades of Z Demirkol himself in nighttime street battles in Istanbul during his Marxist years between 1979 and 1980, but now they had put all this behind them, galvanized by their adventurism and their mission to protect the nation state.

Some cynics claimed that the threesome had been agents of the state from the very beginning anyway. When they rushed down from the stage and bolted out of the National Theater, no one thought much about them; it was just assumed they were part of the play.

When Z Demirkol saw how much snow there was on the ground, he jumped up and down like a child; firing two shots in the air, he cried, “Long live the Turkish people! Long live the Republic!” The crowd gathered at the entrance retreated to the sides. A few stood watching the men and smiling fearfully; some looked embarrassed, as if they were about to apologize for not staying longer. Z Demirkol and his friends ran up Atatürk Avenue, still shouting slogans and calling to one another like giddy drunks. A few old people struggling through the snow and a few of the fathers guiding their families home decided, after a few moments of indecision, to applaud them.

The happy trio caught up with Ka at the corner of Little Kâzımbey Avenue. They could see that he had seen them coming; he had stepped back under the oleander trees, as if to let a car pass.

“Mr. Poet!” cried Z Demirkol. “You’ve got to kill them before they kill you. Do you understand?”

Ka still had had no opportunity to write down the poem to which he would later give the title “The Place Where God Does Not Exist,” and it was at this moment that he forgot it.

Z Demirkol and his friends continued running straight up Atatürk Avenue. Not wishing to follow them, Ka turned right into Karada˘ g Avenue, realizing that the poem had vanished, leaving not a fragment in its wake.

He felt the sort of guilt and shame he had once known as a young man leaving political meetings. Those political meetings had disturbed him not only because he was an upper-middle-class boy but because the discussions were so full of childish posturing and exaggeration. Hoping to find a way to bring back his forgotten poem, he decided to continue walking instead of going straight back to the hotel.

A few people alarmed at what they’d just seen on television were at their windows. It’s difficult to say how much Ka was aware of the terrors at the theater. The volleys had begun before he left, but it’s possible he too thought they were part of the performance, and that Z Demirkol and his friends were part of it as well.

His mind was fixated on his forgotten poem. But sensing another coming in its stead, he willed it into the back of his mind to give it time to ripen.

He heard two gunshots in the far distance, muffled by the snow.

And how beautiful was the falling snow! How large the snowflakes were, and how decisive. It was as if they knew their silent procession would continue until the end of time. The wide avenue was buried knee-deep; it climbed up a slope to disappear into the night. How white and how mysterious! There wasn’t a soul in the three-story Armenian building that now housed the city council. The icicles from one of the oleander trees reached down as low as the snow blanket draping an invisible car; the snow and ice had merged to form a tulle curtain. Ka passed an empty one-story Armenian house, its windows boarded up. As he listened to his footsteps and the sound of his own short breaths, he could feel the call of life and happiness as if for the first time, yet he also felt strong enough to turn his back on it.

Across the street from the governor’s residence, the little park with the statue of Atatürk was empty. Ka could see no sign of life in the residence itself, which dated back to the Russian period and was still the city’s grandest building. Seventy years earlier, after the First World War, when both the Ottoman and Imperial Russian armies had withdrawn and the Turks of Kars had established an independent state, this building housed both the administrative center and the assembly. Just across the street was the old Armenian building that had been attacked by the English army because it was the same doomed republic’s presidential palace. The governor’s residence was well guarded, so Ka avoided the building by turning right again and looping back toward the park. A little farther down the road, in front of another old Armenian building just as peaceful and beautiful as the rest, a tank moved past an adjoining empty lot, slow and silent, as if in a dream. Ahead, an army truck was parked near the religious high school. There was almost no snow on it, so Ka deduced it had only just arrived. There was a gunshot. Ka turned back. The sentry station in front of the governor’s residence was full of policemen trying to warm themselves, but with the windows iced over no one saw Ka walking by down Army Avenue. He knew now that if he could remain within the silence of the snow until he reached his hotel room, he’d be able to preserve not just the new poem in his head but the memory that had emerged with it.

Halfway down the slope he heard a noise on the opposite pavement and slowed down. Two people were trying to kick in the door to the telephone office. The headlights of a car beamed through the snow, and then Ka heard the satisfying rattle of snow chains. As a black unmarked police car pulled up in front of the telephone office, Ka saw two men in the front seat; he remembered seeing one of them in the theater only minutes earlier, just as he’d begun to think about leaving; that man now remained seated as his partner, in a woolen beret and armed, stepped out of the car.

There followed a discussion among those assembled outside the door of the telephone office. They were standing under the streetlamp and Ka could hear their voices, so it was not long before he had realized that the men were Z Demirkol and his friends.

“What do you mean, you don’t have a key?” one of them was saying. “Aren’t you the head manager of the telephone office? Didn’t they send you here to cut the lines? How could you have forgotten your key?” “We can’t cut off the phones from this office. We’ll have to go to the new center on Station Avenue,” said the head manager, Recai Bey.

“This is a revolution and we want to get into this office,” said Z Demirkol. “If we decide to go to the other office later, we’ll do it, understand? Now, where’s the key?”

“My child, this snow will be gone in two days and then the roads will be open, and when they are the state will call us all to account.” “So you’re afraid of the state? Well, hear this: We are the state you fear!” Z Demirkol bellowed. “Are you going to open the door for us or what?”

“I can’t open that door for you without a written order.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Z Demirkol. He took out his gun and fired two shots in the air. “Take this man and spread him against the wall,” he said. “If he makes any more trouble we’ll execute him.” No one believed him, but Demirkol’s two assistants dutifully took Recai Bey and spread him against the wall. Not wishing to damage any windows, they pushed him slightly to their right. Because the snow was very soft in that corner, the manager tripped and fell. The men apologized and helped him back to his feet. They removed his tie and used it to bind his arms behind him. Meanwhile, they announced that this was a cleanup operation and all enemies of the fatherland would be eliminated from the streets of Kars by morning.

When Z Demirkol gave the order, they cocked their rifles and, like a firing squad, lined up in front of Recai Bey. Just then there were gunshots in the distance. (These came from the dormitory garden of the religious high school, where soldiers were firing shots in the air to frighten the students.) They all fell silent and waited. For the first time all day, the snow was abating. The silence was extraordinarily beautiful—bewitching, even.

After a few moments, one of the men said that the old man (who wasn’t old at all) was entitled to a last cigarette. They put a cigarette into Recai Bey’s mouth and lit it for him; perhaps having grown a bit restless while the manager was smoking, they started kicking the door of the phone office and ramming it with the butts of their rifles.

“I can’t bear to see you destroy state property,” said the manager from the wall. “Undo my hands and I’ll let you in.”

Once the men were inside, Ka went on his way. He continued to hear the odd gunshot, but he now paid no more attention than he paid to the howling dogs. His whole mind was fixed on the beauty of the silent night.

For a time, he tarried before an empty old Armenian house. Then he stopped at an Armenian church to pay his respects; the trees in its gardens were dripping with icicles and looked like ghosts. The yellow streetlamps cast such a deathly glow over the city that it looked like a strange sad dream, and for some reason Ka felt guilty. Still, he was mightily thankful to be present in this silent and forgotten country, now filling him with poems.

A little farther on, he happened on an agitated mother standing at a window and telling her son to come home; the boy was saying he was just going out to see what was going on. Ka passed between them. At the corner of Faikbey Avenue, he saw two men about his age coming rushing out of a shoemaker’s shop; one was rather large, the other slim as a child.

Twice a week for the past twelve years, each of these two lovers had been telling his wife that he was going to stop in at the coffeehouse, and they would then meet secretly in this shop that stank of glue; but hearing on the upstairs neighbor’s television set that a curfew had been announced, the couple panicked. Ka turned into Faikbey Avenue; two streets down, opposite a shop he remembered from his morning walk—he had stopped at the trout counter just outside its doors—he saw a tank. Like the street, the tank seemed suffused with a magical silence; it was so still and deathly that he thought it must be empty. But the door opened, and a head popped out to tell him to go home at once. Ka asked the head if it could direct him to the Snow Palace Hotel, but before the soldier could answer Ka noticed across the street the darkened offices of the Border City Gazette and knew he could work out the way to go.

The lights in the hotel lobby were blazing; walking into that warmth was like coming home. A number of guests were in pajamas and puffing on cigarettes, watching the lobby television, and it was clear from their expressions that something extraordinary had happened, but like a child eager to avoid a dreaded subject, Ka refused to notice. After letting his eyes skate swiftly over the scene, he proceeded lightheartedly into Turgut Bey’s apartment. The whole group was still at the table and still watching television. When Turgut Bey saw Ka, he jumped to his feet, scolding him for being so late and telling him how worried they’d all been. He went on to say a few other things, but by now Ka’s gaze had met Ipek’s. ˙ “You read your poem beautifully,” Ipek said. “I felt very proud.” ˙ Ka knew at once that he would remember this moment until he died. He felt such joy that, even with the other girls’ tedious questions and Turgut Bey’s exhausted hectoring, he had to fight back tears.

“It looks as if the army is up to something,” said Turgut Bey. To judge from his voice he was in a foul temper, unable to decide whether this was good or bad.

The table was in disarray. Someone had stubbed out a cigarette in an orange peel—most probably it was Ipek. Ka remembered seeing Aunt ˙ Munire, a distant young relative of his father’s, doing the same thing when he was a child, and although she had never once forgotten to say madam when speaking to Ka’s mother, everyone despised her for her bad manners.

“They’ve just announced a curfew,” said Turgut Bey. “Tell us what happened at the theater.”

“I have no interest in politics,” said Ka.

Although everyone and especially Ipek was aware that this was ˙another voice inside him speaking, Ka still felt sorry.

All he wanted to do now was to sit quietly and look at Ipek, but he ˙ knew it was out of the question; the house, ablaze with revolutionary fever, made him uncomfortable. It wasn’t just the bad memories of the military takeovers during his childhood; it was the fact that everyone was talking at once. Hande had fallen asleep in the corner. Kadife went back to the television screen that Ka refused to watch, and Turgut Bey seemed at once pleased and disturbed that these were interesting times.

For a while Ka sat next to Ipek and held her hand; he asked her with- ˙ out success to come up to his room. When it became too painful to keep his distance, he went upstairs alone and hung his coat with great care on the hook behind the door. There was a familiar smell of wood in his room. As he lit the small lamp at the head of the bed, a wave of sleep passed over him; he could barely keep his eyes open; he felt himself floating, as if the whole room, the whole hotel, were floating with him. This is why the new poem, which he jotted down in his notebook line by line as it came to him, portrayed the bed, the hotel in which he lay, and the snowy city of Kars as a single divine unity.

The title he gave this poem was “The Night of the Revolution.” It began with his childhood memories of other coups, when the whole family would wake up to sit around the radio, listening to military marches; it went on to describe the holiday meals they’d had together. This was why he would later decide this poem was not about a coup at all and assign it to the branch of the snowflake entitled Memory. One of its important ideas was the poet’s ability to shut off part of his mind even while the world is in turmoil. If this meant that a poet had no more connection to the present than a ghost did, such was the price a poet had to pay for his art! After he finished his poem, Ka lit a cigarette and went to the window.

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