فصل 36

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فصل 36

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CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

You’re Not Really Going to Die, Sir, Are You?

bargaining in which life vies with

theater, and art with politics

As the M unwound the bandage with which they had attached the tape IT operatives upstairs cut through the tape and slowly unwound the bandage with which they had attached the tape recorder to his chest, Ka tried to ingratiate himself by assuming their scornful air of efficiency and making fun of Blue. This may explain why he was not preoccupied with Blue’s show of aggression downstairs.

He sent the driver of the army truck back to the hotel with instructions to wait. Flanked by military guards, he walked from one end of the garrison to the other. The officers’ quarters looked out over a large snowcovered courtyard where a number of boys were throwing snowballs among the poplar trees. Waiting there was a girl in a red and white wool coat that reminded Ka of the one he’d worn in the third year of primary school; a little farther away, two of her friends were making a snowman.

The air was crystalline. The grueling storm was over, and it was beginning to feel a little warmer.

Back at the hotel, he went straight to see Ipek. She was in the kitchen, ˙ dressed in a smock, the one all lycée girls in Turkey wore once upon a time, and over it an apron. As he gazed at her with happy eyes, he longed to throw his arms around her, but there were other people in the room, so he held himself back and instead told her of the morning’s developments. Things were going well, he said, not just for them but also for Kadife. He said that while the newspaper had in fact been circulated without amendment, he was no longer worried about being shot. There was much more to say, but just then Zahide came into the kitchen to make a request on behalf of the two soldiers guarding the door; she asked Ipek to invite them inside and give them some tea. In the few moments left to them, Ipek arranged to continue their conversa- ˙ tion upstairs.

In his room, Ka hung up his coat and sat staring at the ceiling as he waited for Ipek. With so much to discuss, Ka knew she would be there ˙ soon, and without feigning reluctance, but it wasn’t long before he fell prey to a dark pessimism. First he imagined that Ipek had been delayed ˙ because she’d run into her father; then he began to worry that because of the trouble she didn’t want to be with him. The old ache returned, spreading out from his stomach like a poison. If this was what others called love pangs, they held no promise of happiness. He was only too aware that, as his love for Ipek deepened, these dark panics descended on ˙ him all the faster. But was he right to assume that these attacks, these fearsome fantasies of deception and heartbreak, had anything to do with what others called love? He seemed alone in describing the experience as misery and defeat; unable even to imagine bragging about it as everyone else bragged of love, he could only suppose that his own feelings were abnormal, and this is what bothered him most. Even in the torment of paranoid theories (Ipek was not coming; ˙ Ipek didn’t really want to come; ˙ all three of them—Kadife, Turgut Bey, and Ipek—were having a secret ˙ meeting, discussing Ka as an enemy outsider and plotting to be rid of him), a part of him knew these fantasies to be pathological; so, for example, when his stomach began to ache at the terrible visions before his eyes of Ipek as another man’s lover, another region of his brain would repeat ˙ assurances that these were but a symptom of his sickness. Sometimes, to relieve the pain and to erase the evil scenes intruding on his thoughts (in the worst one, Ipek refused even to see Ka, much less go to Frankfurt ˙ with him), he would by force of sheer will take refuge in reason, the one part of his mind that love had not thrown off balance. Of course she loves me, he would tell himself; if she didn’t, why would she be looking so ecstatic? With such thoughtful focus, his evil anxieties would float away, but before long a new worry would inevitably come flying in to undo again his precarious inner peace.

He heard footsteps in the corridor. It couldn’t be Ipek, he told him- ˙ self; it was someone else to tell him that Ipek wasn’t coming. And so, ˙ when he opened the door to find Ipek there, he was radiating hostility as ˙ well as joy. He had been waiting for twelve long minutes. His consolation was to see that Ipek had made herself up and was wearing lipstick. ˙ “I’ve spoken to my father, and I’ve told him I’m going to Germany,” she said.

Ka was still so much in thrall to the dark images in his head that his first response was disappointment; he couldn’t give Ipek his full atten- ˙ tion. This failure to show any pleasure at her news planted some doubts in her own mind—or, more to the point, a disillusionment that proposed a way out. She still knew that Ka was madly in love and already bound to her like a hapless five-year-old who can’t bear to be apart from his mother. She also knew that he wanted to take her to Germany not merely to share his happy home in Frankfurt; his far greater hope was that, when they were far away from all these eyes in Kars, he would know for sure that he possessed her absolutely.

“Darling, is something bothering you?”

In later years, when racked with pangs of love, Ka would recall a thousand times how softly and sweetly Ipek had asked this question. For ˙ now he replied by telling her about the terrible thoughts that had been running through his head. One by one he recounted them for her: the dreaded abandonment, the worst scenes of horror that had played before his eyes.

“If love pangs cause you such dread, I can’t help thinking there was a woman earlier in your life who hurt you very badly.”

“I’ve known a bit of suffering in my life, but already I’m terrified of how much you could hurt me.”

“I’m not going to hurt you at all,” said Ipek. “I’m in love with you; ˙ I’m going back to Germany with you. Everything will be fine.” She threw her arms around Ka, embracing him with all her strength, and they made love with such ease Ka could hardly believe it. Now he felt no urge to be rough with her; instead, he took pleasure in the strong but tender embrace, glorying in the whiteness of her delicate skin, but they were both aware that their lovemaking was neither as deep nor as intense as the night before.

Ka’s mind was on his mediation plans. He believed that if, for once in his life, he could be happy, and if, by using his head, he could manage to get out of Kars not just in one piece but with his lover on his arm, that happiness might last forever. He had been thinking this for some time, as he smiled and gazed out the window, when to his great surprise he realized another poem was beckoning. He wrote it down very fast, just as it came, as Ipek watched in loving admiration. He would later recite ˙ this poem, called “Love,” at six readings in Germany. Those who heard it told me that, although apparently concerned with the familiar tension between peace and isolation, or security and fear, and special relations with a woman (though only one listener thought to ask afterward who this woman might be), the poem in fact emanated from the darkest, most incomprehensible part of Ka’s being. As for the notes Ka later made, these were mostly explicit remembrances of Ipek, and how he missed ˙ her, and scattered remarks about how she dressed and moved. (It may be because I’d read these notes so many times that Ipek made such a strong ˙ impression on me on our first meeting.)

Ipek dressed quickly and left; she had to say goodbye to her sister. ˙ But a moment later, Kadife was at his door. Seeing her eyes larger than ever, and her evident anxiety, Ka assured her she had nothing to fear and in particular that no one had laid a hand on Blue. He then told her he’d come to see what a very brave man Blue was by the difficulty he had had in persuading him to agree to the plan.

Then all at once a lie he had sketched out in advance occurred to him in glorious detail. He began by saying that the hardest part had been convincing Blue that Kadife would agree to the plan. He said Blue had been worried that Kadife might be offended, and he couldn’t agree before having talked it over with her; here Kadife raised an eyebrow, so Ka retreated a bit, giving his lie a more truthful ring by expressing doubt that Blue had spoken those words in absolute sincerity. Then, not merely to keep the lie afloat but also to help Kadife save face, he added that Blue’s reluctance (in other words, the respect he showed for a woman’s feelings) was a positive thing—especially for him.

It cheered Ka to be spinning lies for these luckless people who’d allowed themselves to be swept into the asinine political feuds of this stupid city, the city that had taught him so late in life that the only important thing was happiness. But a part of him knew he needed to spin them because Kadife was so much braver than he was, so much readier to make sacrifices, and as he sensed how much unhappiness lay before him, his mood darkened. That’s why, before cutting his story short, he told one more white lie: that just as he was leaving, Blue had asked him in a whisper to give Kadife his best.

Ka then proceeded to set out the plan, and when he had finished, he asked her what she thought of it.

“I’ll bare my head, but I’ll be the one to decide how,” said Kadife.

Ka tried to convince her that Blue didn’t mind her wearing a wig or something along those lines, but he stopped when he saw he’d angered her. The plan now went like this: First they were to release Blue; Blue was to go into hiding, somewhere he felt safe; only then would Kadife bare her head (in a manner of her own choosing). Could Kadife write out the plan as she understood it on a sheet of paper and sign it at once? Ka handed her the statement Blue had given him, hoping she would use it as a model for her own. But seeing the emotion on Kadife’s face at the mere sight of Blue’s handwriting, Ka felt an unexpected wave of affection for her. As she read, Kadife did her best to keep Ka from looking on too, and at one point she even sniffed the paper.

Sensing some hesitation, Ka told her he would use the statement to persuade Sunay and his associates that they should set Blue free. The army was probably angry with Kadife, and certainly the head-scarf affair had not won her any friends in high circles, but everyone in Kars respected her courage and her honesty. Ka handed Kadife a fresh sheet of paper and watched as she threw herself into the assignment. He thought about the Kadife with whom he’d discussed astrological signs and walked down Butcher Street on the first evening of his visit; the Kadife now sitting before him looked much older.

As he put her statement into his pocket, he said that, assuming Sunay could be made to agree, their next task would be to find a haven for Blue after his release. Was Kadife prepared to help find Blue a hiding place?

She gave her assent with a grave nod.

“Don’t worry,” said Ka. “At the end of this we’ll all be happy.” “Doing the right thing doesn’t always end in happiness,” said Kadife.

“The right thing is the thing that makes us happy,” said Ka. He imagined a day not far off when Kadife would come to Frankfurt and see the happy life he and her big sister had made for themselves. Ipek would take ˙ Kadife to the Kaufhof and buy her a chic new raincoat; the three of them would go to the cinema together; afterward they would stop off at a restaurant on the Kaiserstrasse for beer and sausages.

They put on their coats, and Kadife followed Ka downstairs to the army truck waiting in the courtyard. The two bodyguards took the backseat. Ka wondered whether he’d been right to worry about being attacked walking the streets alone. From the front seat of an army truck, the streets of Kars didn’t look at all frightening. He watched women clutching string bags on their way to the market, children throwing snowballs, and elderly men and women clinging to one another to keep from slipping on the ice, and he imagined himself with Ipek at a cinema in Frankfurt, ˙ holding hands.

Sunay was with Colonel Osman Nuri Çolak, the coup’s other mastermind. What Ka told them was colored by the optimism engendered by his happy daydreams. He said that everything had been arranged: Kadife would take part in the play and bare her head at the appointed moment, and Blue was only too eager to allow this condition of his release. He sensed a quiet understanding between these two men, the sort one found only between two people who spent their youths reading the same books.

In a careful but confident voice, Ka explained how delicate the mediation had been. “First I had to flatter Kadife, and then I had to flatter Blue,” he said, presenting Sunay with their statements. As Sunay read them, Ka could sense that the actor had been drinking though it wasn’t even noon.

Moving nearer to Sunay’s mouth for a moment, he was sure of it.

“This guy wants us to release him before Kadife goes onstage to bare her head,” said Sunay. “He has his eyes open, this one. He’s no fool.” “And Kadife wants the same thing,” said Ka. “I really tried hard, but this was the best deal I could make.”

“We represent the state. Why should we believe either of them?” said Colonel Osman Nuri Çolak.

“They don’t trust the state any more than you trust them,” said Ka.

“If we don’t accept some mutual assurances, we won’t get anywhere.” “He could be hanged as an example to others and then, when the authorities hear what a drunken actor and a broken-down colonel have done in the name of a military coup, they could use this to destroy us.

Hasn’t any of this occurred to Blue?” asked the colonel.

“He’s very good at acting unafraid to die. I can’t tell you what’s really going on in his head, but he did imply that hanging him would make him a saint, an icon.”

“OK, let’s say we release Blue first,” said Sunay. “How can we be sure that Kadife will keep her word about appearing in the play?”

“If you bear in mind that Turgut Bey once endured a bitter trial and terrible suffering to preserve his honor, and that Kadife is this man’s daughter, it should be clear that we can trust her to keep her word—far more than we can trust Blue. Still, if you told her now that Blue was certain to be released, it’s possible that she wouldn’t yet know her own mind as to appearing onstage this evening. She does have a temper, and she is given to snap decisions.”

“What do you suggest?”

“I know that you staged this coup not just for the sake of politics but also as a thing of beauty and in the name of art,” said Ka. “Just to look at his career is to see that Sunay Bey’s every political involvement has been for the sake of art. If what you want to do now is see this as an ordinary political matter, you won’t want to set Blue free and put yourself in considerable danger. But at the same time, you know only too well that a play in which Kadife bares her head for all in Kars to see will be no mere artistic triumph; it will also have profound political consequences.” “If she’s really going to bare her head, we’ll let Blue go,” Osman Nuri Çolak decided. “But we must make sure everyone in the city sees the play.”

Sunay wrapped his arms around his old army comrade and kissed

him. When the colonel had left the room, he took Ka’s hand and led him deeper into the house. “I’d like to tell my wife all about this!” They approached an unfurnished room, still cold despite an electric heater burning in the corner, and there was Funda Eser, posing dramatically as she read a script. She saw Sunay and Ka looking at her through the open doorway, but she continued reading without losing her composure. Dazzled by the dark rings of kohl around her eyes, her thick rouged lips, the great breasts swelling out of her low-cut dress, and her exaggerated gestures, Ka found it impossible to grasp what she was saying.

“Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy: the rebellious rape victim’s tragic speech,” Sunay said proudly, “with some alterations inspired by Brecht’s The Good Woman of Szechuan, though most of the changes are the fruits of my own imagination. When Funda delivers this speech tonight, Kadife will not yet have found the courage to bare her head, but she will be using the edge of her scarf to wipe the tears from her eyes.”

“If Kadife Hanım is ready, let’s start rehearsals at once.” The desire in her voice not only made clear to Ka how much Funda Eser loved the theater, it also reminded him of the oft-repeated claim of those who’d wanted to deny Sunay the chance to play Atatürk—that Funda was a lesbian. Looking less the soldier of the revolution than the proud theater producer, Sunay was just explaining to his wife that Kadife had not yet resolved all the questions concerning her decision to “accept the role” when an orderly came to report they had just brought in Serdar Bey.

Standing face-to-face with the owner of the Border City Gazette, Ka felt himself succumbing to an impulse unknown to him since the time when he still lived in Turkey: For a moment he was tempted to punch Serdar Bey in the face. But now as they welcomed this man to a carefully laid meal, with white cheese soon, he was sure, to be accompanied by raki, it was clear to Ka that such urges had no place at the table of revolutionary leaders, who sat down with an easy confidence known only to those for whom it has become second nature to decide other people’s fates.

As they ate and drank, they discussed the affairs of the world with merciless assurance. At Sunay’s request, Ka told Funda Eser what he’d just been saying about art and politics. When he saw how much these words excited her, the newspaperman said he wanted to write them down for use in a future article, but Sunay roughly put him in his place. First he had to correct the lies he’d printed about Ka in today’s edition. And so it wasn’t long before Serdar Bey had promised to print a new and very positive front-page article that would, he hoped, encourage the already forgetful readers of Kars to forget that they’d ever been encouraged to think ill of Ka.

“And the headline must mention the play we’re putting on this evening,” said Funda Eser.

Serdar Bey promised to publish the article they wanted; they could dictate every detail, even to the point size of the headlines. But as he wasn’t very knowledgeable about classical or modern theater, it might be better, he said, if Sunay would describe this evening’s play in his own words—that is to say, if Sunay would write the article himself, just to ensure that tomorrow’s front page was one hundred percent accurate. He reminded everyone that for most of his working life, he’d been writing about events before they happened: This, it could be said, was his forte.

But there were still four hours to work with: They were operating on a special schedule in accordance with martial law, so the edition would not be put to bed until four that afternoon.

“It won’t take me much time to give you a rundown of the performance,” said Sunay. They hadn’t been sitting at the table for long, but he’d already finished a glass of raki, Ka noticed. As Sunay knocked back a second, Ka could see pain and passion flicker in his eyes.

“Write this down, Mr. Journalist!” Sunay bellowed, glaring at Serdar Bey as if delivering a threat. “The headline is as follows: DEATH ONSTAGE.” He paused to think. “And then another headline right below, in smaller print: ILLUSTRIOUS ACTOR SUNAY ZAIM SHOT DEAD DURING YESTERDAY’S PERFORMANCE.” He was speaking with an intensity Ka could not help but admire. He listened, unsmiling and utterly respectful, as Sunay continued, speaking only when Serdar Bey needed help to make sense of his words.

From time to time Sunay stopped to ponder what he’d said and clear his head with another raki, so it took him about an hour to complete the article. I was to acquire the final version from Serdar Bey during my visit to Kars four years later.

DEATH ONSTAGE

ILLUSTRIOUS ACTOR SUNAY ZAIM SHOT DEAD

DURING YESTERDAY’S PERFORMANCE

YESTERDAY, WHILE APPEARING IN A HISTORIC PLAY AT THE

NATIONAL THEATER, KADIFE THE HEAD-SCARF GIRL SHOCKED

AUDIENCES FIRST BY BARING HER HEAD IN A MOMENT OF

ENLIGHTENMENT FERVOR AND THEN BY POINTING A WEAPON

AT SUNAY ZAIM, THE ACTOR PLAYING THE VILLAIN, AND

FIRING. HER PERFORMANCE, BROADCAST LIVE, HAS LEFT THE

PEOPLE OF KARS TREMBLING IN HORROR.

On Tuesday night, the Sunay Zaim Theater Company stunned the

people of Kars with an evening of original revolutionary plays that gave way to a real-life revolution before their very eyes. Last night, during their second gala, the Sunay Zaim Players shocked us yet

again. The vehicle on this occasion was an adaptation of a drama penned by Thomas Kyd, a wrongfully neglected sixteenth-century

English playwright who nevertheless is said to have influenced the work of Shakespeare. Sunay Zaim, who has spent the last twenty years touring the forgotten towns of Anatolia, pacing its empty stages and bringing culture to its teahouses, brought his love of the theater to a climax in the closing scene. In a moment of excitement induced by this daring modern drama that paid homage to both French Jacobin and English Jacobean drama, Kadife, the stubborn leader of the

head-scarf girls, brashly bared her head for all to see and, as the people of Kars watched in amazement, she then produced a gun,

the contents of which she proceeded to empty into Sunay Zaim, the illustrious actor who was playing the villain and whose name, like Kyd’s, has languished in the shadows for too long. This real-life drama reminded onlookers of the performance two days earlier, in which the bullets flying across the stage turned out to be real, and so it was in the horrified knowledge that these also were real bullets that the people of Kars watched Sunay fall. The death of the great Turkish actor Sunay Zaim was for the audience more shattering than life itself. Although the people of Kars were fully aware that the play was about a person liberating herself from tradition and religious oppression, they were still unable to accept that Sunay Zaim was really dying, even as bullets pierced his body and blood gushed from his wounds. But they had no trouble understanding the actor’s last words, and never will they forget that he sacrificed his life for Art.

When Sunay had made his last corrections, Serdar read out the final draft to the assembled guests. “If this meets with your approval, I shall print it word for word in tomorrow’s edition,” he said. “But in all my years of writing news before it’s happened, this is the first time I’ll be praying that an article doesn’t come true! You’re not really going to die, sir, are you?”

“What I am trying to do is push the truths of Art to their outer limits, to become one with Myth,” said Sunay. “Anyway, once the snow melts tomorrow and the roads open again, my death will cease to be of the slightest importance.”

For a moment Sunay’s eye caught Funda’s. Seeing how deeply these two understood each other, Ka felt a pang of jealousy. Would he and Ipek ˙ ever learn to share their souls like this or enjoy such deep happiness?

“Mr. Newspaperman, the time has come for you to leave, dear sir; our work is done, so please prepare the presses,” said Sunay. “In view of the historical importance of this edition, I shall see to it that my orderly provides you with a plate of my photograph.” As soon as Serdar Bey had left, Sunay dropped the mocking tone that Ka had attributed to too much raki. “I accept Blue’s and Kadife’s conditions,” he said. He then turned to Funda Eser, whose eyebrows rose as he explained that Kadife was willing to bare her head onstage only if they would release Blue first.

“Kadife Hanım is a very brave woman. I am sure we’ll come to an understanding once we start rehearsals,” said Funda Eser.

“You can go to her together,” said Sunay. “But first Kadife must be convinced that Blue has been released and that no one has followed him to his hiding place. This will take time.”

Thus ignoring Funda Eser’s desire to launch immediately into

rehearsals with Kadife, Sunay turned to Ka to discuss how best to organize Blue’s release. My sense from studying his notes of this meeting is that Ka was still taking Sunay’s promises at face value. In other words, Ka did not think Sunay would have Blue followed to a hiding place after his release and recaptured once Kadife had bared her head onstage. It is likely that this concealed plan emerged slowly, and that its masterminds were in fact the secret police, still planting microphones everywhere and struggling to decipher the intelligence furnished by their double agents in the hopes of staying one step ahead of everyone.

Perhaps they were even manipulating Colonel Osman Nuri Çolak to their own advantage. The secret police knew they were outnumbered—as long as Sunay, the disgruntled colonel, and his small gang of like-minded officers were in control of the army, there was no chance of MIT taking ˙ charge of the revolution—but nevertheless they had men everywhere doing everything in their power to keep Sunay’s “artistic” lunacies in check. Before the article he’d written out at the raki table went to be typeset, Serdar Bey had used his walkie-talkie to read it out to his friends at the Kars branch of MIT, causing great consternation and not a little con- ˙ cern about Sunay’s mental health and stability. As for Sunay’s actual plan to release Blue, until the very last moment it was generally unknown how much MIT knew. ˙

Today I would say that these details have little bearing on the end of our story, so I shall not dwell overmuch on the minutiae of the plan to release Blue. Suffice it to say that Sunay and Ka decided to leave the job to Fazıl and Sunay’s Sivas-born orderly. Sunay dispatched an army truck the moment he got Fazıl’s address from the secret police: Ten minutes later, they’d brought him in. This time there was fear in his face and he no longer reminded Ka of Necip. It was quickly decided that he and the orderly should head for the army garrison in the city center; they immediately left the tailor shop by the back door, shaking off the detectives who’d been following them. For while the MIT people by now had grave ˙ doubts about Sunay and were eager to keep him from doing any mischief, they were caught so unprepared by the speed of events that they still hadn’t posted a guard at every exit.

So the plan moved forward, and Sunay’s assurances that there would be no double cross were not contradicted: Blue was removed from his cell and put into an army truck, and the Sivas-born orderly drove straight to the Iron Bridge over the Kars River. With the truck parked on the near bank, Blue followed faithfully the instructions he’d been given; he made straight for a grocery store, its windows plastered with posters featuring special deals on garlic sausages; he then slipped out the back, where a horse-drawn carriage was waiting. Taking cover under the tarpaulin and making himself comfortable among the Aygaz canisters, he was whisked off to a safe house. Ka would hear of all this only after the fact. The sole person who knew where the horse-drawn carriage had taken Blue was Fazıl.

It was an hour and a half before this business was concluded. At about half past three, as the oleander and chestnut trees were losing their shadows, disappearing like ghosts, giving way to the first shades of darkness to descend on the empty streets of Kars, Fazıl came to tell Kadife that Blue had reached his hiding place. From the door leading from the courtyard to the kitchen, he stared at Kadife as if having just come in from outer space, but Kadife, just as she’d always failed to notice Necip, took no note of Fazıl. Instead she ran upstairs joyfully. Ipek was just leav- ˙ ing Ka’s room, where she’d been for over an hour. It had been an hour of undiluted bliss, and my dear friend’s heart was soaring as never before at the prospect of his future happiness—as I shall undertake to explain in the opening pages of the next chapter.

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