فصل 43

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فصل 43

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CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

The Main Reason Women Commit

Suicide Is to Save Their Pride

the final act

It was very late in the day when Sunay decided to change the title of the drama originally inspired by Thomas Kyd’s t was very late in the day when Sunay decided to change the title of The Spanish Tragedy but which in its final form showed many other influences; in fact, it was only during the last half hour of the relentless promotional campaign that the television announcers began referring to The Tragedy in Kars. The revision came too late for those already in the theater. Many had been brought in by military bus; others had seen the play advertised and came to show their faith in a strong army; a fair number didn’t care how catastrophic the result, as long as they had the chance to see it with their own eyes (there were already rumors that the “live broadcast” was really a tape shipped in from America); there were the city officials as well, whose presence had been ordered (this time they’d decided not to bring their families). Hardly any of these people were aware of the new title, but even those who were could little fathom the content and, like the rest of the city, had a hard time following the action.

Four years after its first and last performance, I found a videotape of The Tragedy in Kars in the Kars Border Television archives. The first half is almost impossible to summarize. I could make out a blood feud in some “backward, impoverished, and benighted” town, but when its inhabitants started killing one another, I had no notion of what it was that they’d been unable to share, nor could the murderers or their victims offer a clue as to the reason for so much bloodshed. Only Sunay raged against the backwardness of blood feuds and of people who allowed themselves to be drawn into them; he debated the matter with his wife and a younger woman who seemed to understand him better (this was Kadife). Though he was a rich and enlightened member of the ruling elite, Sunay’s character enjoyed dancing and joking with the poorest villagers and, indeed, engaged them in erudite discussions of the meaning of life, as well as regaling them with scenes from Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, and Brecht, if only to furnish the promised “play within the play.” He also offered an assortment of short soliloquies on such matters as city traffic, table manners, the special traits Turks and Muslims will never give up, the glories of the French Revolution, the virtues of cooking, condoms, and raki, and the way fancy prostitutes belly dance. These discussions, no more than his subsequent exposés of adulterated brands of shampoo and cosmetics, shed little light on the bloody scenes they interrupted, and as one outburst followed another, it grew harder to imagine that they conformed to any logic at all.

But the wild series of improvisations was somehow still worth watching, if only for the passion of Sunay’s performance. Whenever the action began to drag, whenever he sensed the people of Kars losing interest, Sunay could always find something to bring them back under his spell; he would fly into a fury and, borrowing a fine theatrical pose from one of the most illustrious roles of his career, he would rail against those who had brought the people low; with tragic abandon he would then pace the stage recounting youthful memories and quoting Montaigne on friendship as he mused on the quintessential loneliness of Atatürk. His face was wet with perspiration. During my visit to Kars, I was able to meet with Nuriye Hanım, the teacher who loved literature and history and had been so enthralled by Sunay’s performance on the night of the revolution; she told me that everyone in the front row for the second performance could smell the raki fumes. Still, she insisted Sunay wasn’t drunk; she preferred enthusiastic. But others in her row more than confirmed this so-called enthusiasm. It was a disparate group: Many were middle-aged officials who’d risked their lives to get as close to this great man as decorum allowed. Some were widows, others perhaps best described as young admirers of Atatürk—and they had already seen these images hundreds of times. There were also a few hungry for adventure, so to speak, or at least interested in power. But they all spoke of the light shining in Sunay’s eyes, radiating in all directions; it was dangerous, they said, to stare into those eyes for more than a few seconds.

I would one day have corroborating testimony from one of the religious high school boys who’d been piled into a military transport and frog-marched to the National Theater. His name was Mesut (he’d been the one opposed to burying atheists and believers in the same cemetery).

He confirmed how Sunay held them all spellbound. We can only assume he had no ax to grind because, after four years with a small Islamist group based in Erzurum, he had lost faith in armed struggle and returned to Kars to work in a teahouse. He told me it was very difficult for the other religious high school boys to speak openly about their attraction to Sunay.

Perhaps it had to do with Sunay’s absolute power, the thing to which they also aspired. It may be that they were relieved by the many restrictions he’d imposed on their movements, which made it impossible to take stupid risks like inciting a riot. “Whenever the army steps in, most people are secretly thankful,” he told me, and then confessed that his classmates had been most impressed by Sunay’s courage. There he was, the most powerful man in the city, unafraid to stride onto the stage and bare his soul to the teeming multitudes.

Watching the Kars Border Television archive videotape of the evening’s performance, I was struck by the silence in the hall; it was as if the audience had left behind the struggles that defined them—the tussle of fathers and sons, the skirmishes between the guilty and the powerful—to sink into a collective terror; and I was not immune to the power of that shimmering fiction that any citizen of an oppressive and aggressively nationalistic country will understand only too well: the magical unity conjured by the word we. In Sunay’s eyes, it was as if there were not a single outsider in the hall: all were inextricably bound by the same hopeless story.

But Kadife threatened to break this trance, and this may explain why the people of Kars couldn’t quite bring themselves to accept her presence onstage. The cameraman taping the live broadcast seems to have been aware of this ambivalence: In the happy scenes, he zoomed in on Sunay, not showing Kadife at all, so the only time the broadcast audience got a glimpse of her was when she was serving the great and the good, just like one of those maids in a boulevard comedy. Still, everyone had heard the announcements that had been running on TV since lunchtime, and they were now very curious to see whether she would bare her head. There’d been the usual spate of conflicting rumors—some holding that Kadife was merely following army orders to remove her scarf, while others had it that she was planning not to go onstage after all—but after half a day of saturation publicity, even those only vaguely acquainted with the headscarf affair now knew all about Kadife. This is why there was such broad disappointment at her low visibility in the early scenes—and her long red dress was hardly any consolation for the scarf, whose fate remained unclear.

Twenty minutes into the play, an exchange between Kadife and Sunay gave the audience the first hint of what was to come. They were alone onstage, and Sunay asked if she had made up her mind, adding that he “could not condone killing oneself just out of anger.”

Kadife gave the following reply: “In a city where men are killing each other like animals just to make it a happier place, who has the right to stop me from killing myself ?” Then, seeing Funda Eser striding toward her, she made a quick exit—leaving it unclear whether this was part of the play or a hastily improvised escape.

When I’d spoken to everyone who would speak to me, I tried to reconstruct from their testimony a minute-by-minute time line synchronizing the performance with the action offstage; and this is how I was able to establish that Blue’s last glimpse of Kadife came when she delivered this line. For according to neighbors who witnessed the raid, and also various police officers still working in Kars at the time of my visit, Blue and Hande had been watching television when the bell rang.

According to the official report, Blue took one look at the soldiers and the police officers assembled outside and rushed to get his weapon; he did not hesitate to open fire, though several neighbors and the young Islamists who would turn him into a legend almost overnight remember that after getting off a few rounds he’d cried, “Don’t shoot!” Perhaps he was hoping to save Hande, but in vain; Z Demirkol’s special operations team had already taken up positions around the perimeter, and in less than a minute not just Blue and Hande but every wall of their safe house was riddled with bullets. It was a fierce noise, but hardly anyone but a handful of curious neighborhood children paid much attention. It was not only that the people of Kars were accustomed to such nocturnal raids; they simply wouldn’t be distracted from the live broadcast from the National Theater. All the sidewalks in town were empty, all the shutters closed, and apart from the odd teahouse with a television no one was open for business.

Sunay was well aware that all eyes in the city were on him, and this made him feel not just secure but extraordinarily powerful. Knowing her very presence onstage was subject to Sunay’s sufferance, Kadife courted his approval more than she might have done otherwise; she had to make the most of the opportunities Sunay had given her if she was to have any hope of accomplishing her own ends. (Unlike Ipek, she would refuse to give me her own version of events, so I cannot know what else she was thinking.) Over the next forty minutes, as the audience began to grasp that Kadife was faced with two important decisions—one about baring her head, the other about committing suicide—their admiration for her grew and grew. And as her stature increased, the play evolved into a drama more serious than that implied by Sunay and Funda’s half didactic, half vaudevillian fury. Although they could not completely forget Kadife the head-scarf girl, many still grieving for her years later told me that her new persona had won the hearts of the people of Kars. By the middle of the play, the audience was falling into a deep silence whenever Kadife walked onstage; whenever she spoke, those watching in houses full of noisy children would frantically ask one another, “What did she say?

What did she say?”

It was with the National Theater caught in just such a moment of silence that one could hear the whistle of the first train to leave Kars in four days. Ka was riding in the compartment in which the army had forcibly planted him. When my dear friend had seen the army transport return not with Ipek but only his valise, he desperately implored his ˙ guards to let him see her or at least talk to her; when they refused, he persuaded them to send the army transport back to the hotel; when the transport returned empty a second time, he begged the officers to hold the train for five more minutes. When the whistle blew, there was still no sign of Ipek, and even as the train began to move, Ka’s wet eyes were still ˙ scanning the crowds on the platform; training them on the station entrance, the door that looked out at the statue of Kâzım Karabekir, he continued trying to conjure up a tall woman walking straight toward him, bag in hand.

As the train gathered speed, it blew its whistle once again. Ipek and ˙ Turgut Bey were on their way from the Snow Palace Hotel to the National Theater when they heard it.

“The train’s on its way,” said Turgut Bey.

“Yes,” said Ipek, “and any minute now the roads will be reopened. ˙ The governor and the military chief of staff will be back in the city soon.” They talked for a while about how this ridiculous coup would now draw to a close and everything would soon return to normal, but Ipek would ˙ later allow that she had no particular interest in these subjects; she wanted to speak lest her father deduce from her silence that she was thinking about Ka. Was her mind really on Ka, though? How much was she thinking about Blue’s death? Even four years later, she herself wasn’t sure, and finding my questions and my suspicions irksome, she tried to deflect them. But she did say that far stronger than any regret at missing her chance for happiness was her anger at Ka. After that night, she knew, there was no hope of ever loving him again. When she heard Ka’s train pull out of the station, the only thing she felt was heartbreak, and perhaps that came with a bit of surprise. In any case, all she wanted was to share her grief with Kadife.

“It’s so desolate, you’d think everyone’s fled the city,” Turgut Bey said.

“It’s a ghost city,” said Ipek, just to say something. ˙ A convoy of three army transports turned the corner to pass in front of them. Turgut Bey took this as proof that the roads had reopened. They watched the trucks roll off into the night until only their lights were visible. According to my later inquiries, but at the time unbeknownst to them, the middle jeep was carrying the bodies of Blue and Hande.

A moment earlier, the lights of the last jeep had shone on the offices of the Border City Gazette just long enough for Turgut to see that tomorrow’s edition was hanging in the window. He stopped to read the headlines: DEATH ONSTAGE; ILLUSTRIOUS ACTOR SUNAY ZAIM SHOT AND KILLED DURING YESTERDAY’S PERFORMANCE.

They read it twice and then walked as fast as they could to the National Theater. The same police cars were standing outside the entrance, and down the road, far, far away, the same tank nestled in the shadows.

As they were searched at the entrance, Turgut Bey announced that he was the leading lady’s father. The second act had begun, but they found two empty seats in the very last row and sat down.

This act also contained a number of the stock gags that Sunay had been falling back on for so many years, including a modified belly-dance parody by Funda Eser. But the atmosphere had grown heavier, and the silence in the hall deeper, from the cumulative effect of Kadife and Sunay’s long scenes alone onstage.

“May I again insist that you explain to me why you wish to kill yourself ?” said Sunay.

“It’s not a question anyone can really answer,” said Kadife.

“What do you mean?”

“If a person knew exactly why she was committing suicide and could state her reasons openly, she wouldn’t have to kill herself,” said Kadife.

“No! It’s not like that at all,” said Sunay. “Some people kill themselves for love; others kill because they can’t bear their husbands’ beatings any longer or because poverty is piercing them to the bone, like a knife.” “You have a very simple way of looking at life,” said Kadife. “A woman who wants to kill herself for love still knows that if she waits a little her love will fade. Poverty’s not a real reason for suicide either. And a woman doesn’t have to commit suicide to escape her husband; all she has to do is steal some of his money and leave him.”

“Very well, then, what is the real reason?”

“The main reason women commit suicide is to save their pride. At least that’s what most women kill themselves for.”

“You mean they’ve been humiliated by love?”

“You don’t understand a thing!” said Kadife. “A woman doesn’t commit suicide because she’s lost her pride, she does it to show her pride.” “Is that why your friends committed suicide?”

“I can’t speak for them. Everyone has her own reasons. But every time I have ideas of killing myself, I can’t help thinking they were thinking the same way I am. The moment of suicide is the time when they understand best how lonely it is to be a woman and what being a woman really means.”

“Did you use these arguments to push your friends toward suicide?” “They came to their own decisions. The choice to commit suicide was theirs.”

“But everyone knows that here in Kars there’s no such thing as free choice; all people want is to escape from the next beating, to take refuge in the nearest community. Admit it, Kadife, you met secretly with these women and pushed them toward suicide.”

“But how could that be?” said Kadife. “All they achieved by killing themselves was an even greater loneliness. Many were disowned by their families, who in some cases refused even to arrange the funeral prayers.” “So are you trying to tell me that you plan to kill yourself just to prove that they are not alone, just to show that you’re all in this together? You’re suddenly very quiet, Kadife. But if you kill yourself before explaining your reasons, don’t you run the risk of letting your message be misinterpreted?” “I’m not killing myself to send any message,” said Kadife.

“But still, there are so many people watching you, and they’re all curious. The least you can do is say the first thing that comes into your mind.”

“Women kill themselves because they hope to gain something,” said Kadife. “Men kill themselves because they’ve lost hope of gaining anything.”

“That’s true,” said Sunay, and he took his Kırıkkale gun out of his pocket. Everyone in the hall could see it flashing. “When you’re sure that I’m utterly defeated, will you please use this to shoot me?” “I don’t want to end up in jail.”

“Why worry about that when you’re planning to kill yourself too?” said Sunay. “After all, if you commit suicide you’ll go to hell, so it makes no sense to worry about the punishment you might receive for any other crime—in this world or the next.”

“But this is exactly why women commit suicide,” said Kadife. “To escape all forms of punishment.”

“When I arrive at the moment of my defeat, I want my death to be at the hands of just such a woman!” cried Sunay, now spreading his arms theatrically and facing the audience. He paused for effect. Then he launched into some tale of Atatürk’s amorous indiscretions, cutting it short when he sensed interest flagging.

When the second act ended, Turgut Bey and Ipek rushed backstage ˙ to find Kadife. Her dressing room—once used by acrobats from St.

Petersburg and Moscow, Armenians playing Molière, and dancers and musicians who’d toured Russia—was ice cold.

“I thought you were leaving,” said Kadife to Ipek. ˙

“I’m so proud of you, darling; you were wonderful!” said Turgut Bey, embracing Kadife. “But if he’d handed you that gun and said, ‘Shoot me,’ I’m afraid I would have jumped up and interrupted the play, shouting, ‘Kadife, whatever you do, don’t shoot!’ ”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because the gun could be loaded!” said Turgut Bey. He told her about the story he’d read in tomorrow’s edition of the Border City Gazette.

“I know that Serdar Bey is always hoping he can make things happen by writing about them first, but most of his stories turn out to be false alarms. I wouldn’t especially care about this one’s coming true anyway,” he said. “But I know that Serdar would never dream of proclaiming an assassination like this unless Sunay had talked him into it—and I find that very ominous. It may just be more self-promotion, but who knows; he could be planning to have you kill him onstage. My darling girl, please don’t pull that trigger unless you’re sure the gun isn’t loaded! And don’t bare your head just because this man wants you to. Ipek isn’t leaving. We’re going to be living in this city for some time to come, so please don’t anger the Islamists over nothing.”

“Why did Ipek decide not to go?” ˙

“Because she loves her father and you and her family more,” said Turgut Bey, taking Kadife’s hand.

“Father dear, would you mind if we spoke alone again?” said Ipek, ˙ instantly seeing her sister’s face go cold with alarm. Turgut Bey crossed to the other end of the dusty high-ceilinged room, joining Sunay and Funda Eser, and Ipek hugged Kadife tightly and sat her on her lap. Seeing the ˙ gesture had only made her sister more fearful, Ipek took her by the hand ˙ toward a corner separated from the rest of the room by a curtain. Just then, Funda Eser emerged with a tray of glasses and a bottle of Kanyak.

“You were excellent, Kadife,” she said. “You two make yourselves at home.”

As Kadife’s anxieties mounted with every second that passed, Ipek ˙ looked into her eyes in a manner that said, unambiguously, I have some very bad news. Then she spoke. “Hande and Blue were killed during a raid.”

Kadife shrank into herself. “Were they at the same house? Who told you?” she asked. But seeing the sternness in Ipek’s face, she fell silent. ˙ “It was Fazıl, that religious high school boy, who told us, and I believed him because he saw it with his own eyes.” She paused for a moment, to give Kadife a chance to take it in. Kadife grew only paler, but Ipek pressed on. “Ka knew where he was hiding, and after his last visit to ˙ see you here, he never returned to the hotel. I think Ka betrayed them to the special operations team. That’s why I didn’t go back to Germany with him.”

“How can you be so sure?” said Kadife. “Maybe it wasn’t him; maybe someone else told them.”

“It’s possible. I’ve considered that myself. But I’m so sure in my heart that it was Ka, it almost doesn’t matter: I know I’d never be able to convince my rational self that he didn’t do it. And so I didn’t go to Germany because I knew I could never love him.”

Kadife was spent, trying to absorb the news. Only on seeing Kadife’s strength failing could Ipek tell that her sister had begun to accept that ˙ Blue was really dead.

Kadife buried her face in her hands and began to sob. Ipek folded her ˙ arms around Kadife’s and they cried together, though Ipek knew they ˙ were crying for different reasons. They had cried this way before, once or twice during those shameful days when neither of them could give up Blue and they dueled mercilessly for his affections. Now Ipek realized ˙ that this terrible vendetta was over, once and for all; she wasn’t going to leave Kars. She felt herself age suddenly. To reconcile and grow old in peace, and have the wit to want nothing from the world—this was her wish now.

She could see that her sister’s pain was deeper and more destructive than her own. For a moment she was thankful not to be in Kadife’s place—was it the sweetness of revenge?—and guilt swept over her. In the background they were playing the familiar taped medley that the National Theater’s management always played during intermissions to encourage sales of soda and dried chickpeas: The song right then was one she remembered from the earliest years of their youth in Istanbul: “Baby, come closer, closer to me.” In those days, both of them had wanted to learn to speak good English; neither succeeded. It seemed to Ipek that ˙ her sister only cried harder on hearing this song. Peeking through the curtains, she could see her father and Sunay in animated conversation at the other end of the room, as Funda filled their glasses with more Kanyak.

“Kadife Hanım, I’m Colonel Osman Nuri Çolak.” A middle-aged soldier had yanked open the curtain. With a gesture evidently acquired from a film, he bowed so low he almost wiped the floor with his pate.

“With all due respect, miss, how can I ease your pain? If you do not wish to go onstage, I have some good news for you: The roads have reopened and the armed forces will be entering the city at any moment.” Later on, at his court-martial, Osman Nuri Çolak would offer these words as evidence that he’d been doing all he could to save the city from the ludicrous officers who’d staged the coup.

“I’m absolutely fine, but thank you, sir, for your concern,” said Kadife.

Ipek saw that Kadife had already assumed a number of Funda’s affec- ˙ tations. At the same time, she had to admire her sister’s determination to pull herself together. Kadife forced herself to stand: She drank a glass of water and then began to pace quietly up and down the long backstage room like a theater ghost.

Ipek was hoping to get ˙ away before her father could talk to Kadife, but Turgut Bey crept up to join them just as the third act had begun.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Sunay, nodding to his friends. “These people are modern.”

The third act began with Funda Eser singing a folk song about a woman who’d been raped, an engaging number to make up for earlier parts of the drama that the audience had found too intellectual or otherwise obscure. It was Funda’s usual routine: One moment she was crying and cursing the men in the audience, and the next moment she was showering them with whatever compliments came into her head. Following two songs and a little commercial parody only the children thought funny (she tried to suggest that Aygaz filled their canisters not with propane gas but with farts), the stage grew dark, and—in an ominous reprise of the finale two days earlier—two armed soldiers marched onstage. The audience watched in tense silence as they erected a gallows center stage. Sunay limped confidently across the stage with Kadife to stand right beneath the noose.

“I never expected things to happen so quickly,” he said.

“Is this your way of admitting you’ve failed at this thing you’ve set out to accomplish, or is it simply that you’re old and tired now and looking for a way to go out in style?” said Kadife.

Ipek saw Kadife was drawing on unsuspected reserves of strength. ˙ “You’re very intelligent, Kadife,” said Sunay.

“Does this frighten you?” said Kadife, her voice taut and angry.

“Yes,” said Sunay in a lecherous languor.

“It’s not my intelligence that frightens you, you fear me because I’m my own person,” said Kadife. “Because here in our city, men don’t fear their women’s intelligence, they fear their independence.” “To the contrary,” said Sunay. “I staged this revolution precisely so you women could be as independent as women in Europe. That’s why I’m asking you to remove that scarf.”

“I am going to bare my head now,” said Kadife, “and then, to prove that I’m motivated neither by your coercion nor by any wish to be a European, I’m going to hang myself.”

“You do realize, don’t you, Kadife, that when you act like an individual and commit suicide, the Europeans will applaud you? Don’t think you haven’t already turned some heads with your animated performance in the so-called secret meeting at the Hotel Asia. There are even rumors that you organized the suicide girls, just as you did the head-scarf girls.” “There was only one suicide who was involved in the head-scarf protest, and that was Teslime.”

“And now you mean to be the second.”

“No, because before I kill myself, I’m going to bare my head.” “Have you thought this through?”

“Yes,” said Kadife. “I have.”

“Then you must have thought about this, too: Suicides go to hell. And since I’m going to hell anyway, you can kill me first with a clear conscience.” “No,” said Kadife. “Because I don’t believe I’m going to hell after I kill myself. I’m going to kill you to rid our country of a microbe, an enemy of our nation, our religion, and our women!”

“You’re a courageous woman, Kadife, and you speak with great frankness. But our religion prohibits suicide.”

“Yes, it’s certainly true the Nisa verse of the glorious Koran proclaims that we shouldn’t kill ourselves. But this does not prevent God in his greatness from finding it in his heart to pardon the suicide girls and spare them from going to hell after all.”

“In other words, you’ve found a way to twist the Koran to suit your purposes.”

“In fact, the contrary is true,” said Kadife. “It happens that a few young women in Kars killed themselves because they were forbidden to cover their heads as they wished. As surely as the world is God’s creation, he can see their suffering. So long as I feel the love of God in my heart, there’s no place for me in Kars, so I’m going to do as they did and end my life.”

“You’re going to anger all those religious leaders who’ve come to Kars through snow and ice to deliver their sermons hoping the helpless women of Kars might be delivered from their suicidal wishes—you do know that, Kadife, don’t you? And while we’re on the subject, the Koran—”

“I am not prepared to discuss my religion with atheists or, for that matter, with those who profess belief in God out of fear.”

“Of course you’re right. Mind you, I don’t bring it up to interfere with your spiritual life; it’s only that I thought the fear of hell might keep you from shooting me with a clear conscience.”

“You have nothing to worry about. I am going to kill you with a clear conscience.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Sunay, looking a little offended at the alacrity of the reply. “Now let me tell you the most important thing I’ve learned in my twenty-five years of professional theater: When any dialogue goes on longer than this, our audiences can’t follow it without getting bored. So with your permission we will stop our conversation here and turn our words to deeds.”

“Fine.”

Sunay produced the Kırıkkale gun he had brandished in the last act and showed it both to Kadife and to the audience. “Now you are going to bare your head. Then I shall place my gun in your hands and you will shoot me. And as this is the first time anything like this has happened on live television, let me take this last opportunity to explain to our audience how they are to understand—”

“Let’s get on with it,” said Kadife. “I’m sick of hearing men talking about why suicide girls commit suicide.”

“Right you are,” said Sunay, playing with the gun in his hand. “But there are still one or two things I wish to say. Just so our viewers in Kars won’t be unduly alarmed—after all, some may have actually believed the rumors in the papers—please look at this gun’s magazine clip.” He removed the clip, showing it to Kadife and for effect to the audience as well before putting it back again. “Did you see that it was empty?” he asked, with the assurance of a master illusionist.

“Yes.”

“Let’s be absolutely certain about this!” said Sunay. He took the clip out again, and like a magician about to saw a woman in half he showed it to the audience again before snapping it back. “Now, finally, let me say a few words on my own behalf. A moment ago, you promised you would shoot me with a clear conscience. You probably detest me for having staged this coup and opening fire on the audience, just because they weren’t living like Westerners. But I want you to know I did it all for the fatherland.”

“Fine,” said Kadife. “Now I’m going to bare my head. And please, I want everyone to watch.”

Her face flashed with pain and then, with a single clean stroke, she lifted her hand and pulled her scarf off.

There was not a sound in the hall. For a moment Sunay stared stupidly at Kadife, as if she had just done the utterly unexpected. Both then turned to the audience and gaped like acting students who’d forgotten their lines.

All of Kars gazed in awe at Kadife’s long, beautiful brown hair, which the cameraman finally screwed up his courage to show in tight focus.

When he had found the nerve to zoom in on her face, it became clear that Kadife was deeply embarrassed, like a woman whose dress had come undone in a crowded public place. Her every movement bespoke a terrible pain.

“Hand me the gun, please!” she said impatiently.

“Here you are,” said Sunay. He was holding it by the barrel, and when she had taken it in hand, he smiled. “This is where you pull the trigger.” Everyone in Kars expected the dialogue to continue. And perhaps Sunay did too, because he said, “Your hair is so beautiful, Kadife. Even I would certainly want to guard you jealously, to keep other men from seeing—”

Kadife pulled the trigger.

A gunshot sounded in the hall. All of Kars watched in wonder as Sunay shuddered violently—as if he’d really been shot—and then fell to the floor.

“How stupid all this is!” said Sunay. “They know nothing about modern art, they’ll never be modern!” The audience expected Sunay now to launch into a long death monologue; instead, Kadife rushed forward with the gun and fired again and again: four times in smart succession. With each shot, Sunay’s body shuddered and lurched upward; every time it fell back to the floor, it seemed heavier.

There were still many who thought Sunay was only acting; they were ready for him to sit up at any moment and deliver a long instructive tirade on death; but at the uncommonly realistic sight of his bloodied face, they lost hope. Nuriye Hanım, whose admiration for theatrical effects surpassed even her reverence for the script itself, rose to her feet; she was just about to applaud Sunay when she too saw his bloody face and sank fearfully back into her seat.

“I guess I killed him!” said Kadife, turning to the audience.

“You did well!” shouted a religious high school student from the back of the hall.

The security forces were so preoccupied by the murder they’d just witnessed onstage they failed to identify the student agitator who’d broken the silence. And when Nuriye Hanım, who’d spent the last two days watching the awesome Sunay on television and who’d determined, before the announcement of free admission, to sit in the front row regardless of the cost so long as she had her chance to see him up close—when Nuriye Hanım broke down in tears, everyone else in the hall, and everyone else in Kars, was forced to accept the reality of what they had just seen.

Two soldiers, running toward each other with clownish steps, pulled the curtains shut.

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