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Istanbul Istanbul

by Burhan Sönmez

'It’s actually a long story but I’ll be brief.' Demirtay's phrase is perfect for this book, where the story meanders between illusion and truth, cruelty and love, past and future and life and death. Its varied, many-layered tales require very careful reading. I was captivated by the beautiful city of Istanbul, repelled by the horrors of the underworld prison and seduced by the intriguing and cunning eastern way of storytelling, all at once.

Extract

'People? They’re the real people, Uncle Küheylan. Haven’t you realised that yet? When God created nature and the earth and the sky, Satan laid his own claim on people, and fed them with fruit from the tree of knowledge. Once people had acquired knowledge they did what no other living thing had been able to do, they became aware of their existence. And the more aware they became of their existence, the more they admired it. They loved no one but themselves, not even God. The only reason for their attachment to God was their desire for life after death. They measured everything against their own existence. They trampled nature and exterminated living things. When the time came they would kill God too. That’s why evil had the upper hand in the world. I told the torturers that too. Satan’s bastards! They stuck needles in my ear. They poured some strange substance down it. It was boiling hot. They tried to bore into my brain. I struggled to stop myself from going mad, I tried to break free of my chains. I banged my head on the wall. When they ordered me to beg, I cursed. Sometimes I groaned, sometimes I roared with laughter. You’re people, I said, you’re the real people. Bloodcurdling screams I never thought I was capable of came out of my mouth. They stuck my head in water. They kept my mind alert to make sure I felt the pain properly. They works like surgeons, craftsmen, butchers. They got into my blood vessels and unblocked the channels of pain. They did what being people required of them.'
Translated by Ümit Hussein

Parallels

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvinho
The Dream of the City by Andres Vidal
 

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