Ciwanmerd Kulek – The Return, Fate

Read the novel excerpt by Ciwanmerd Kulek, the writer from Kurdistan / Turkey selected as one of ten Literary Europe Live’s “New Voices from Europe”.

Posted by Luka Ostojic on 26 August 2016 Literary Europe Live, Literature Across Frontiers

 

Written by Ciwanmerd Kulek.

Translated from the original Kurdish into English by Kawa Nemir.

The chapter from the novel Defterên Perrîdankan (The Butterfly Notebooks, 2014.)

***

1

I came from Istanbul to Cîzre on Friday, March 21. I had read Mr So and So’s notebooks twice. As the saying goes, people don’t always wear their heart on their sleeve, much less in the things they write. But here, at every reading, I was discovering so many familiar things, personally speaking, that even if all those pieces had not revealed his identity, I would have still guessed who Mr So and So was. Apparently, having disguised himself with a new identity, he had run into someone from the old days, though he had not wanted to be recognized. So, this was all a misunderstanding.

Tens of pages recounting our student life adventures in hair-splitting, nitpicking detail he had captured and unfolded, and, through the vertigo and confusion stemming from his passion for literature, he was piling them up somewhere in his narrative as well in a deeper and broader sense. As I made the connection between the past and present, he appeared in front of my eyes as if he had never left, as if we had suddenly met by chance in the street after all those years with no news of one another, and were deep in conversation in some teahouse, exchanging news and reminiscences,. He was none other but Ferzende. Who else would always draw butterflies on the margins of every piece of available paper? Neither the newspaper which we would read at breakfast, nor the banned political magazines which back in those days were brought to our home by friends, were safe from these butterflies drawn with a pen. Both volumes of The Anthology of Turkish Poetry, which he had borrowed from me and kept for some months, had taken a bizarre shape by the time he gave them back to me. Some poems had been invaded by butterflies to the extent that you could no longer read them. Therefore, it didn’t seem strange that when I read his notebooks teeming with butterflies, on a page he filled with them for the sake of his love for Luz, I saw that, when the time would come and they had a daughter, he would wish to call her Mariposa. Butterfly.

In fact, what surprised me more than anything was that I recognized Gulten on those pages, when I no longer believed I would ever see her again, though sometimes a far and sudden voice or emotion would remind me of her and stir up memories. Ferzende had not changed his mind; but he had changed her name and her fate as though it also had no pity on her. Deceiving myself in the course of the years when I had been thinking of her, I had given her a hard time; nevertheless, Gulten was still herself in my mind. The fact was that whatever had changed about her circumstances had not been able to change her. Even a tiny detail sufficed to reawaken that semblance which I would recall from the bottom of my heart. While reading the never-­‐ending pages in which Mr So and So was talking about her, I felt as if I myself had written those lines. We had felt similar things. In some places where he could not have mentioned her name directly, he had placed a blue butterfly bearing three black spots on its little wings instead of it, and I instantly recognized her and rejoiced. I was floating on air, not only because I could see that that semblance was still there, but also because my feelings were still alive. I was unable to contain myself discovering these secret mentions, and it was obvious that Ferzende also found it difficult to write them.

I didn’t dare tell my friends in Istanbul that I was off to see her, in just the same way as I could not resign myself to the fact that what I had been feeling for her all those years was similar to Mr So and So’s own feelings. I wondered whether Ferzende had become more suspicious of Evdo than of me when he had discovered that the one Luz had fallen in love with and whose name she changed and called him Rêzan, was one of us, one of his own housemates, and had been consumed with jealousy? I wondered whether Gulten had ever made him notice this love, which both I and Evdo had felt for her after his departure, but were hiding it from each other and from her, while somehow laying our cards on the table as well? When I decided to go and see Luz, the matter that worried me most was that whatever I was to ask and do to examine the issue and persuade her that his diaries should be published along with the novel because they were like a colourful garden and a rich treasury of his oeuvre, the matter was becoming directly relevant to me and to this secret feeling I harboured. And I felt uneasy and hopeless about making her understand how I felt.

I waited for her at a bagel shop on Orhan Doğan street. During my journey I was preoccupied with the emotionally charged sentences of the diaries and the heavy, vague atmosphere of Mr So and So’s novel. Having immersed myself in his recounting of what happened, although I had lost my way many times, lost my bearings and, finally, I could see that I had moved away from understanding what he had written, I was feeling ashamed because I knew some things I would rather not have known. After I had heard about so much of what went on, could Luz love me? It was possible that precisely because of this she would never be able to warm up to me.

Sitting at a table in a corner having my tea, I remembered Ferzende, how it was here that he had informed Hîr about his decision to leave. Had Gulten ever read his notebooks? Had she ever discovered that he had an affair with Hîr? Probably she had been aware of his hidden feelings on that last night and had taken a tolerant view of them when he had brought Hîr to her house. Could it have been like that? Even though Ferzende would excitedly mention that Luz also knew how to read Kurdish, he did not say whether she had in fact read his writings. Anyway, there were frequent passages in which he was angrily and sadly mourning the fact that nobody read him, the ones who did failed to understand and that even he didn’t understand that much about himself and, so far, had not really written what he desired to write and could write.

I checked my watch. There were still ten minutes left before Gulten’s arrival. When I had first called her school and spoke to her, I was in a quandary, not knowing how to introduce myself to her and what to say. She recognized me at once. She calmly listened to me and didn’t say “no”, as if she were not at all surprised. Having bought my ticket two days before I said to her that I intended to visit. She became slightly anxious and was at a loss for words, as if she had forgotten that there ever was such a plan, and told me she wondered whether there was any point in discussing that matter again. According to her, the damage had been done and she was ready to forget all that happened. Nevertheless, having eventually dropped the subject in a kind manner, she agreed that I should come.

As I kept waiting for her, time was hanging heavy on my hands, I was ceaselessly drinking tea, curious to know how she would greet me when she saw me. I felt fear and I was trembling. After those ten minutes passed too, I hanged my head with the shame of probably not recognizing her. Hearing the sound of high heels I saw a woman directly coming towards me. I was terrified to my bones. She left a heavy cloud of perfume behind as she passed me. I lifted my head. She was carrying a large black bag and had brown streaks in her bleached hair and a fringe. She was quickly glancing around the tables. She was chubby, even a little fat. Her thighs in a pair of blue trousers that looked like tights but were in fact blue jeans were unexpectedly round and full. She appeared older in her movements. Good heavens! Intending to leave, I knocked my cup of tea and close to splashing the contents all over my clothes. A sweet dark-haired waitress in a lilac smock quickly came running towards me.

“It’s alright,” I said in a low voice revealing my embarrassment, and threw my napkin onto the table. The woman had passed me, as though relieving me with a miracle, and stopped in front of a man who had hung his jacket on the chair and buried his face in a newspaper. She held his hand and sat down. “It’s alright,” I said to the waitress again, but she fetched a cloth, wiped the table and removed the empty cup. “Bring me another one.”

I finished that tea too, but Luz still had not come. Should I give her a call? If something had happened and she couldn’t come, she would have called me, wouldn’t she? If she was to come, then, what was her reason for not turning up on time? Why can’t she send a message to tell me that she was running late? I took out my mobile and checked it. The last message was from Xidiro. After I had landed at Mêrdîn Airport and taken a bus from there to go to Cîzre through Nisêbîn, he texted me to bring him two or three kilos of herb cheese, half a kilo of smuggled tea and a crate of Prestige cigarettes on my return.

“Hi!”

Lifting my head, I saw that she was standing in front of me. She was wearing oversized sunglasses with black frames. I was surprised how I could have suspected her of having changed and mistaken her for someone else, for that chubby woman who had nothing in common with her at all. I became nervous for a moment. Faltering, I stood up before her. It took me some time before I could reach out to shake her hand and greet her.

“Welcome,” said Luz, taking off her glasses and placing them above her forehead. She walked to the other side of the table, to the chair I had pulled out for her. Her wavy red hair tied in a in ponytail halved her back like a ribbon glowed vividly against her thin white T-shirt with a grotesque picture of a cartoon character on the front. I became dazed as I kept on looking in her eyes that resembled the eyes of the women of the Amazon Dessana tribe: bright and clear like agate, like a bottle of water in the beams of the sun setting behind the summit of a high snowy mountain. Her eyes were dispersed in the universe, as if no written letter had ever shaded them, as if no the lines of a sentence had taken malicious mirages from them, as if no spiritual discrepancies, contradictions and rifts had spoiled their light, no filthy void had leaked into them through words not completing each other, though a pen had gathered them to a single place. Could they be contact lenses? I was astonished that my memories, on which I had relied so much and never imagined that they would fail me, were also covered with the dust and dirt of time. I realised that never before had I been able to look in her eyes. I understood that I had been mistaken. I was transported years back, not by fancy and reminiscence, but by truth and the present moment to a time when I felt that none of tis was impossible. Until that moment I had always been aware that there was no way. Now I was astounded at my good fortune of having been given one more opportunity for something that I thought would never happen. Perhaps I hadn’t loved enough before, and now I was to fall in love once again, and suffer more of that heart-piercing ache and experience again the fire that had been on the verge of dying and would be fanned again until I burnt with it. It was much better for me to withdraw that love from Plato’s world and be defeated. I quietly recited her name in my heart: Luz. Now I understood why Ferzende had given her that name. She was the kind of woman who, the more she is loved, the more luminous and beautiful she becomes. I easily jotted down the manifestation of her mesmerizing beauty in this genuine identity, in which two letters carved it out with peerless magic as they came together. The lovely and remarkable coalescence of L and Z, the marvellous collaboration of the U, sounding just like the vowel Û in Kurdish, like an ancient bridge with arches, solemnizing their marriage as an unprecedented alliance, and letting the most beautiful, shortest name come forth. Lûz: it filled my mouth like a morsel of food; I couldn’t chew it and I gasped for breath.

“I didn’t expect you to come,” I said.

New Voices from Europe

Ciwanmerd Kulek has been selected as one of the New Voices from Europe, ten of the most interesting writers working in Europe today. The New Voices from Europe selection is part of the Literary Europe Live project which is co-ordinated by Literature Across Frontiers and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, with support from Arts Council Wales.