Herta Miler: „Ljuljaška daha“ (odlomak)

O blagu             

Mala blaga su ona na kojima piše: Tu sam ja.

Veća blaga su ona na kojima piše: Znaš li još.

Ali, najlepša blaga su ona na kojima će pisati: Tu sam boravio ja.

TU SAM BORAVIO JA neka piše na blagu, rekao je Tur Prikulič. Pod bradom mi se penjao i spuštao grkljan, kao da sam progutao lakat. Berberin je rekao: Još smo ovde. Peti dolazi posle devetog.

Tada, u berbernici, mislio sam da ako ovde ne umremo, biće to POSLE. Kada budemo izašli iz logora, slobodni, možda čak opet kod kuće. Tada će moći da se kaže: TU SAM BORAVIO JA. Ali, peti dolazi posle devetog, imali smo malo balamuka, dakle zamršene sreće, pa moramo da kažemo gde i kako. I zašto bi neko poput Tura Prikuliča kasnije kod kuće nadmeno rekao da mu sreća uopšte nije bila neophodna.

Možda je već tada neki logoraš naumio da posle logora ubije Tura Prikuliča. Neko ko je hodao naokolo sa anđelom gladi, dok je Tur Prikulič po logorskom korzou šetao cipele kao lakovane tašnice. Možda je u vremenimakostiikože neko na postrojavanju ili u karceru bezbroj puta uvežbavao u glavi kako bi se po sredini moglo preseći telo Tura Prikuliča. Ili je taj neko tada stajao do guše ured vejavice na železničkim šinama, ili kod Jame do nosa u uglju, ili u Carjeri u pesku, ili u cementnim kulama. Ili je, mučen nesanicom, ležao na svojoj skalameriji od kreveta u žutoj dežurnoj svetlosti kada se zavetovao na osvetu. Možda je čak isplanirao ubistvo onog dana kada je Tur Prikulič u berbernici pričao o blau. Ili u trenutku kada me je pitao u ogledalu: Kako je kod vas u podrumu. Možda dok sam odgovarao: Udobno, svaka smena je umetničko delo. Možda je i ubistvo sa kravatom u ustima i sekirom na stomaku zakasnelo umetničko delo.

U međuvremenu znam da na mom blagu stoji: OVDE OSTAJEM. Logor me je pustio da se vratim kući kako bi se stvorilo nužno odstojanje, i ono u mojoj glavi postalo veliko. Od kada sam se vratio kući, na mom blagu više ne stoji TU SAM JA, ali ni TU SAM BORAVIO JA. Na mom blagu stoji: ODAVDE NE MOGU DA ODEM. Logor osvaja sve veći prostor između moje leve i desne slepoočnice. Tako o celoj lobanji moram da govorim kao o nekakvom području, području logora. Nemoguće je zaštititi se, ni ćutanjem ni pripovedanjem. Preteruješ i u jednom i u drugom, ali TU SAM BORAVIO JA ne postoji ni u jednom. A ne postoji ni prava mera.

Međutim, postoje blaga, u tome je Tur Prikulič bio u pravu. Moj povratak kući je obogaljena, neprestano zahvalna sreća, čigra preživljavanja koja se zavrti zbog svake gluposti. Drži me u šaci kao i sva moja blaga koja ne mogu da podnesem, a ne mogu ni da ih pustim. Služim se svojim blagom preko šezdeset godina. Slaba si i nasrtljiva, krajnje lična i odvratna i zlopamteća, pohabana i nova. Ona su miraz Artura Prikuliča i teško ih je razlikovati od mene. Posrćem dok ih nabrajam.

Moja ponosna podređenost.

Moje uplašene želje kojima su mi začepljena usta.

Moja nevoljna žurba, odmah skačem s nule na sve.

Moja prkosna popustljivost u kojoj svima dajem za pravo kako bih to mogao da im prebacujem.

Moj posrnuli oportunizam.

Moja učtiva škrtost.

Moja mutna čežnjiva zavist kada ljudi znaju šta hoće od života. To je osećaj nalik oštroj vuni, hladnoj i kudravoj.

Moja unutrašnja praznina, to što je sve iz mene iskusano kašikom, i spoljni pritisak, od kada više ne moram da gladujem.

Moja providnost za druge, i to što, kada pokušam sam da proniknem u sebe, počinjem da se raspadam.

Moja teskobna popodneva, vreme koje lagano klizi zajedno samnom između nameštaja.

Moja velika napuštenost. Potrebno mi je mnogo bliskosti, međutim, ne ispuštam sebe iz ruku. Ovladao sam svilenim smeškom uzmicanja. Od vremena anđela gladi više nikom ne dozvoljavam da me poseduje.

Moje najteže blago je unutrašnja prinuda da radim. To je suprotnost prinudnom radu i spasonosna je trampa. U meni čuči iznuđivač milosti, rođak anđela gladi. On zna kako se krote sva ostala blaga. Uspinje mi se u mozak i opčinjava me prinudom, zato što se plašim da budem slobodan.

Iz moje sobe može se videti sat na tornju tvrđave Šlosberg u Garacu. Kraj mog prozora stoji velika tabla za crtanje. Na mom radnom stolu leži moj poslednji građevinski nacrt kao ustreljeni stolnjak. Prašnjav je kao i leto napolju na ulicama. Gledao sam ga, ali on ne može da me se seti. Od kada je počelo proleće, ispred moje kuće svaki dan neki čovek šeta s kratkodlakim belim psom i izuzetno tankim crnim štapom s blago talasastom ručkom, kao uveličanim štapićem vanile. Kada bih hteo, mogao bih da ga pozdravim i kažem mu da njegov pas liči na belu svinju na kojoj je zavičajna čežnja nekada mogla da odjaše kući. U stvari, hteo bih da porazgovaram sa psom. Bilo bi dobro kada bi pas jednom izašao sam ili sa štapićem vanile, bez čoveka. Možda će se jednog dana to i desiti. Ja ću svakako stanovati ovde, tu će ostati i ulica, a leto će potrajati. Imam vremena i čekaću.

Najradije sedim za mojim belim resopalskim stočićem, kvadratom dugačkim i širokim metar. Kada sat na tornju otkuca pola tri, sunce obasja moju sobu. Senka mog stočića na podu je moj gramofonski kofer. Iz njega dopire pesma o hajdučkoj oputi ili melodija plisirano otplesne palome. Hvatam jastuk s fotelje i plešem kroz teskobno popodne.

Imam i druge partnere.

Plesao sam već i sa čajnikom.

S kutijom za šećer.

S keksom.

S telefonom.

S budilnikom.

S pepeljarom.

S ključem od kuće.

Moj najmanji partner bilo je otkinuto dugme s kaputa.

Nije istina.Jednom je ispod belog resopalskog stočića ležala prašnjava grožđica. Plesao sam i sa njom. Zatim sam je pojeo. A onda su me ispunile daljine.

Herta Miler, „Ljuljaška daha“, preveo Nebojša Barać, Laguna, Zlatni zmaj, Beograd, 2010.

Fotografija: David Meskhi

Patrik Modiano: „U kafeu izgubljene mladosti“ (odlomak)

Jedna knjižara i papirnica na Bulevaru Kliši ostajala je otvorena do jedan sat po ponoći. „Matei“. Na izlogu nije pisalo ništa drugo. Možda prezime vlasnika? Nisam se nikada usudila da to zapitam onog čoveka sa brkovima, tamne kose, koji je nosio karirani sako i uvek čitao za svojim pisaćim stolom. Kupci su ga stalno prekidali u čitanju da bi platitli razglednice i hartiju za pisma. U ono doba noći kada sam ja navraćala, gotovo da nije bilo kupaca osim ponekog iz kabarea „ Šansone“ iz susedstva. Međutim, najčešće smo u knjižari bili sami on i ja. U izlogu su na istaknutom mestu stajale uvek iste knjige, za koje sam ubrzo saznala da su romani naučne fantastike. Posavetovao me je da pročitam neke od njih. Sećam se tih naslova: Kamičak na nebu, Tajanstvena prolaznica, Otimači praznine. A sačuvala sam samo jedan: Kristal koji sneva.

Sa desne strane, na polici pored samog izloga, držao je polovne knjige iz astronomije. Jedna od njih, čije su narandžaste korice bile poluiscepane, posebno mi je privukla pažnju: Putovanje u beskraj. Nju još uvek čuvam. One subote uveče kada sam došla da je kupim, bila sam jedina mušterija u knjižari, u koju nije dopirala buka sa bulevara. Kroz staklo su se mogle razabrati svetleće reklame, pa i ona plavo-bela sa „Najlepšim nagim ženama na svetu“, ali su mi se činile daleke… Nisam se usudila da prekidam čoveka koji je sedeo i čitao glave zagnjurene u knjigu. Stajala sam desetak minuta ćuteći pre nego što se okrenuo ka meni. Pružila sam mu knjigu. Nasmešio se: „Vrlo dobra knjiga. Vrlo dobra.. Putovanje u beskraj…“ Već sam se pripremila da mu platim, kada je on odmahnuo rukom: „Ne… ne… poklanjam vam je … i želim vam srećno putovanje…“

Sigurno je da ta knjižara nije bila samo utočište već i etapa mog života. Često bih se u njoj zadržala do samog zatvaranja. Pored polica sa knjigama postavili su nekakvu stolicu, zapravo poveće merdevine. Smeštala sam se tu, listala knjige i stripove. Pitala sam se da li primećuje moje prisustvo. On mi se, ne prekidajući čitanje, obraćao samo jednom istom rečenicom: „Ima li ovde neki biser za vas?“ Mnogo posle toga neko me je uporno ubeđivao da je boja nečijeg glasa jedina stvar koju ne možemo upamtiti. Međutim, ja i danas u besanim noćima često čujem jedan glas sa pariskim naglaskom – naglaskom strmih ulica Monmartra – kako mi kaže: „Ima li ovde neki biser za vas?“ Ta rečenica nije izgubila ništa od svoje topline i tajanstvenosti.

Patrik Modiano, „U kafeu izgubljene mladosti“, prevela Mirjana Avramović-Ouknin, Stubovi kulture, Beograd, 2010.

Gabrijel Garsija Markes: „Priče koje se pamte“

Pre više godina prvi put sam čuo za starog baštovana koji se ubio u lepoj kući u predgrađu Havane, poznatoj po tome što je u njoj živeo pisac Ernest Hemingvej. O samoubistvu su se čule razne verzije među kojima i ta da se baštovan utopio u bunaru. Već sama po sebi bizarna, priča je začinjena još bizarnijom pojedinosti da je Hemingvej iz istog bunara, ne znajući da je telo samoubice na dnu, pio vodu. Na pitanje kako nije primetio da se ukus vode promenio, odgovorio je: „Jedinu razliku koju smo uočili bila je da je voda postala slađa“.

Među mnogim pričama koje su mi ostale u sećanju duže od drugih, neke su pravi biseri. Često se događa da ne znamo ko je autor i čak da li smo ih sanjali ili zaista čuli. Jedna od dražih među njima je ona o tek rođenom mišiću koji je, izašavši prvi put iz rupe, video slepog miša i sav uzbuđen vratio se u nju vičući: „Mama, video sam anđela“. Druga priča, koja potiče iz stvarnog života, ali prevazilazi maštu, tiče se jednog radio-amatera iz Managve koji je u zoru 22. decembra 1972. godine pokušavao da stupi u vezu sa svetom kako bi izvestio da je razorni zemljotres sravnio grad sa lica zemlje. Pošto su iz slušalica ceo čas dopirali jedino astralni zvuci, jedan od preživelih ga je ubedio da odustane: „Ne vredi se truditi“, rekao je on sa više realizma, „Dogodilo se isto u celom svetu“. Po mome ukusu je još jedna priča, ne znam da li je izmišljena ili stvarna, prema kojoj je simfonijski orkestar u Parizu bio na ivici da se rasturi zbog neugodnosti  koje se ne bi setio ni Franc Kafka: zgrada u kojoj su održavane probe imala je samo jedan lift za četri osobe, te su muzičari koji su ulazili u lift u osam ujutru uspevali da se okupe na jednom od viših spratova tek posle četri časa, taman na vreme da siđu dole na ručak.

Među pričama koje su napisane tako da vas odmah zasene i koje se posle toga čitaju više puta prva je Majmunova šapa V. V. Džekobsa, a druga Slučaj doktora Valdemara Edgar Alan Poa. Obe mi izgledaju savršene. Dok o drugom piscu znamo sve, za prvog malo ko zna. Reč je o piscu koji je umro u Londonu 1943. godine doživevši skromnu starost od osamdeset godina i ostavivši iza sebe delo u osamnaest tomova. Od te bogate zaostavštine na mene je, ipak, najveći utisak ostavila priča od samo pet stranice. U njoj se govori o čoveku koji se, razočaran u život, baca u ambis sa desetog sprata. Dok munjevito pada, vidi od sprata do sprata intimne prizore iz života svojih suseda: male domaće drame, neuspele ljubavi, kratke trenutke sreće, sve dok, neposredno pre udara o asfalt, ne promeni potpuno shvatanje o svetu došavši do zaključka kako je život, ipak, vredan življenja. U priči Edgara Alana Poa govori se o dva istraživača koji su se od snežne oluje sklonili u jednu pećinu. Posle tri dana jedan od njih je umro. Preživeli istraživač je sahranio telo su snegu stotinak metara od pećine. Sutradan je, probudivši se, zatekao sahranjenog druga mrtvog i ukrućenog od leda kako sedi kraj kreveta. Pokopao ga je još jednom, ovoga puta dalje od pećine, ali je sutradan  pokojnik opet sedeo na ivici kreveta. Preživeli istraživač je sišao sa uma a Po čitaocu prepustio više mogućnosti da reši enigmu. Prema jednoj od njih nesrećni čovek je toliko bio užasnut samoćom u ledenoj pustinji, da je pomućene svesti sam otkopavao pokojnika i donosio ga u pećinu.

Priču koja je na mene, ipak, ostavila najveći utisak, brutalnu ali u isto vreme i čovečnu, ispričao mi je Rikardo Munjos Suaj. U njoj se govori o jednom republikanskom borcu koji je streljan u prvim danima Španskog građanskog rata. Vod, kome je povereno pogubljenje, izveo je zatvorenike jednog ledenog zimskog jutra da bi zajedno peške otišli do mesta za streljanje. Mada su vojnci imali šinjele i rukavice drhtali su, ipak, od zime. Zatvorenik, koji je na sebi imao samo jaknu od platna, trljao je rukama od zime ukočeno telo glasno se žaleći na nepodnošljivi mraz. U jednom trenutku, komandir voda, razjaren žalopojkama, povikao je: „Prestani da od sebe praviš mučenika. Pomisli na nas koji po ovoj govnavoj hladnoći moramo da se vratimo“.

Prevod: Dušan Miklja, Igor Miklja

Izdanje: Gabrijel Garsija Markes, „Riba je crvena“, Narodna knjiga, Beograd, 1999.

Нобелов говор Орхана Памука

Orhan Pamuk

Орхан Памук

У једном од раних дела једне веома популарне списатељице главна јунакиња, још увек девојчица, после мајчине смрти нема никаквих емоционалних реакција, тупост је једино што је првих неколико дана, па и месеци, прожима после немилог догађаја. Онда, након одређеног времена, десило се нешто што је проузроковало страховиту реакцију, ону коју би свако очекивао, како то патетичне претпоставке сугеришу, одмах по сазнању да је вероватно најбитније биће у вашем животу нестало, да је, грозне ли речи! – умрло. Јунакиња једног топлог и пријатног поднева, из непознатих разлога, одлази у подрум куће у којој је становала и тамо, већ на почетку просторије, затиче кофер са старим стварима своје мајке. Ту проналази махом гардеробу по којој претура да би, у једном тренутку, рукама напипала старе мајчине ципеле. Јунакиња их полако вади из безобрличне масе и по некаквом необјашњивом правилу одмах окреће. Тада jунакиња сазнаје да су једине ципеле које је њена мајка носила последњих дана свог кратког живота заправо имале бушно дно.

У коферу свог родитеља дете не мора нужно затећи пријатан садржај. Нажалост, или на срећу, непријатност долази увек после, онда када родитељ није жив. За писце су њихови родитељи неисцрпна грађа, нарочито родитељи које, упркос заједничком животу, писац није упознао, али које, баш из тог разлога непознанице, сада може по својој вољи да конструише, изнова ствара и кроз стваралачки процес упознаје. Кофер је метафора онога што је живот, или бар онога што га је већим делом чинило. Садржај кофера оца турског нобеловца Орхана Памука је далеко другачији од кофера мајке поменуте јунакиње, али је и он, баш као и у првом примеру, резултат детета, његове списатељске интенције, дара запажања и, што је најважније, он је резултат упорности памћења. Прошлост увек своје место, са правом или не, жели у садашњости и будућности.

Ако је кофер садржај нечијег живота, онда је отац је оно прошло у нама, оно што је наследство предака, традиција, култура из које потичемо и која нас, хтели ми то да прихватимо и признамо или не, обликује и одређује. Са тим у вези појављује се проблем идентитета. Како прихватити и учинити садржај прошлости инхерентним али му не допустити да управља нашим бићем и да нам одређује садашњост и будућност? Родитеље, као и земљу у којој смо рођени, нажалост, не можемо да бирамо. При спознаји те чињенице теорија о предестинацији може постати прихватљива. Али, свет је и доживљавао изнова мале и велике прогресе управо зато што појединац није желео да прихвати идеју предестинације, идеју да је његова судбина унапред одређена и да начин на који ће проживети свој живот није у моћи његове индивидуалне воље.

Сви наслеђујемо кофер. Садржаји у њима подједнако утичу на наша схватања и разумевања родитеља, али и нас самих. Подједнак је проблем када са микро нивоа пређемо на макро ниво, када са родитеља пређемо на културу државе у којој смо одрастали и која нас је васпитала (чак и онда када се одричемо њеног васпитања, то нас је она васпитала да тако реагујемо). Проблем Орхана Памука управо је у томе. Традиција и култура из које потиче и традиција и култура чије је утицаје Турска трпела током његовог одрастања далеко су једна од друге. Разапетост на том нивоу није пожељна, с обзиром на какве тектонске поремећаје личности може довести, али је од Памука начинила писца, и то не било каквог писца. Његов говор одржан по прихватању Нобелове награде управо је сликовито и скоро фикционално предочено искушење прихватања садржаја који нам се не мора нужно допасти, али који би требало, нарочито ако је реч о уметнику, преокренути у споствену корист прилагодивши га свом свету речи.

*

MY FATHER’S SUITCASE

December 7, 2006

Two years before his death, my father gave me a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts and notebooks. Assuming his usual joking, mocking air, he told me he wanted me to read them after he was gone, by which he meant after he died.

‘Just take a look,’ he said, looking slightly embarrassed. ‘See if there’s anything inside that you can use. Maybe after I’m gone you can make a selection and publish it.’

We were in my study, surrounded by books. My father was searching for a place to set down the suitcase, wandering back and forth like a man who wished to rid himself of a painful burden. In the end, he deposited it quietly in an unobtrusive corner. It was a shaming moment that neither of us ever forgot, but once it had passed and we had gone back into our usual roles, taking life lightly, our joking, mocking personas took over and we relaxed. We talked as we always did, about the trivial things of everyday life, and Turkey’s neverending political troubles, and my father’s mostly failed business ventures, without feeling too much sorrow.

I remember that after my father left, I spent several days walking back and forth past the suitcase without once touching it. I was already familiar with this small, black, leather suitcase, and its lock, and its rounded corners. My father would take it with him on short trips and sometimes use it to carry documents to work. I remembered that when I was a child, and my father came home from a trip, I would open this little suitcase and rummage through his things, savouring the scent of cologne and foreign countries. This suitcase was a familiar friend, a powerful reminder of my childhood, my past, but now I couldn’t even touch it. Why? No doubt it was because of the mysterious weight of its contents.

I am now going to speak of this weight’s meaning. It is what a person creates when he shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and retires to a corner to express his thoughts – that is, the meaning of literature.

When I did touch my father’s suitcase, I still could not bring myself to open it, but I did know what was inside some of those notebooks. I had seen my father writing things in a few of them. This was not the first time I had heard of the heavy load inside the suitcase. My father had a large library; in his youth, in the late 1940s, he had wanted to be an Istanbul poet, and had translated Valéry into Turkish, but he had not wanted to live the sort of life that came with writing poetry in a poor country with few readers. My father’s father – my grandfather – had been a wealthy business man; my father had led a comfortable life as a child and a young man, and he had no wish to endure hardship for the sake of literature, for writing. He loved life with all its beauties – this I understood.

The first thing that kept me distant from the contents of my father’s suitcase was, of course, the fear that I might not like what I read. Because my father knew this, he had taken the precaution of acting as if he did not take its contents seriously. After working as a writer for 25 years, it pained me to see this. But I did not even want to be angry at my father for failing to take literature seriously enough … My real fear, the crucial thing that I did not wish to know or discover, was the possibility that my father might be a good writer. I couldn’t open my father’s suitcase because I feared this. Even worse, I couldn’t even admit this myself openly. If true and great literature emerged from my father’s suitcase, I would have to acknowledge that inside my father there existed an entirely different man. This was a frightening possibility. Because even at my advanced age I wanted my father to be only my father – not a writer.

A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.

The writer’s secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind. In the old stories, I love the patience of Ferhat, who digs through mountains for his love – and I understand it, too. In my novel, My Name is Red, when I wrote about the old Persian miniaturists who had drawn the same horse with the same passion for so many years, memorising each stroke, that they could recreate that beautiful horse even with their eyes closed, I knew I was talking about the writing profession, and my own life. If a writer is to tell his own story – tell it slowly, and as if it were a story about other people – if he is to feel the power of the story rise up inside him, if he is to sit down at a table and patiently give himself over to this art – this craft – he must first have been given some hope. The angel of inspiration (who pays regular visits to some and rarely calls on others) favours the hopeful and the confident, and it is when a writer feels most lonely, when he feels most doubtful about his efforts, his dreams, and the value of his writing – when he thinks his story is only his story – it is at such moments that the angel chooses to reveal to him stories, images and dreams that will draw out the world he wishes to build. If I think back on the books to which I have devoted my entire life, I am most surprised by those moments when I have felt as if the sentences, dreams, and pages that have made me so ecstatically happy have not come from my own imagination – that another power has found them and generously presented them to me.

I was afraid of opening my father’s suitcase and reading his notebooks because I knew that he would not tolerate the difficulties I had endured, that it was not solitude he loved but mixing with friends, crowds, salons, jokes, company. But later my thoughts took a different turn. These thoughts, these dreams of renunciation and patience, were prejudices I had derived from my own life and my own experience as a writer. There were plenty of brilliant writers who wrote surrounded by crowds and family life, in the glow of company and happy chatter. In addition, my father had, when we were young, tired of the monotony of family life, and left us to go to Paris, where – like so many writers – he’d sat in his hotel room filling notebooks. I knew, too, that some of those very notebooks were in this suitcase, because during the years before he brought it to me, my father had finally begun to talk to me about that period in his life. He spoke about those years even when I was a child, but he would not mention his vulnerabilities, his dreams of becoming a writer, or the questions of identity that had plagued him in his hotel room. He would tell me instead about all the times he’d seen Sartre on the pavements of Paris, about the books he’d read and the films he’d seen, all with the elated sincerity of someone imparting very important news. When I became a writer, I never forgot that it was partly thanks to the fact that I had a father who would talk of world writers so much more than he spoke of pashas or great religious leaders. So perhaps I had to read my father’s notebooks with this in mind, and remembering how indebted I was to his large library. I had to bear in mind that when he was living with us, my father, like me, enjoyed being alone with his books and his thoughts – and not pay too much attention to the literary quality of his writing.

But as I gazed so anxiously at the suitcase my father had bequeathed me, I also felt that this was the very thing I would not be able to do. My father would sometimes stretch out on the divan in front of his books, abandon the book in his hand, or the magazine and drift off into a dream, lose himself for the longest time in his thoughts. When I saw on his face an expression so very different from the one he wore amid the joking, teasing, and bickering of family life – when I saw the first signs of an inward gaze – I would, especially during my childhood and my early youth, understand, with trepidation, that he was discontent. Now, so many years later, I know that this discontent is the basic trait that turns a person into a writer. To become a writer, patience and toil are not enough: we must first feel compelled to escape crowds, company, the stuff of ordinary, everyday life, and shut ourselves up in a room. We wish for patience and hope so that we can create a deep world in our writing. But the desire to shut oneself up in a room is what pushes us into action. The precursor of this sort of independent writer – who reads his books to his heart’s content, and who, by listening only to the voice of his own conscience, disputes with other’s words, who, by entering into conversation with his books develops his own thoughts, and his own world – was most certainly Montaigne, in the earliest days of modern literature. Montaigne was a writer to whom my father returned often, a writer he recommended to me. I would like to see myself as belonging to the tradition of writers who – wherever they are in the world, in the East or in the West – cut themselves off from society, and shut themselves up with their books in their room. The starting point of true literature is the man who shuts himself up in his room with his books.

But once we shut ourselves away, we soon discover that we are not as alone as we thought. We are in the company of the words of those who came before us, of other people’s stories, other people’s books, other people’s words, the thing we call tradition. I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us. But literature is never just a national concern. The writer who shuts himself up in a room and first goes on a journey inside himself will, over the years, discover literature’s eternal rule: he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they were other people’s stories, and to tell other people’s stories as if they were his own, for this is what literature is. But we must first travel through other people’s stories and books.

My father had a good library – 1 500 volumes in all – more than enough for a writer. By the age of 22, I had perhaps not read them all, but I was familiar with each book – I knew which were important, which were light but easy to read, which were classics, which an essential part of any education, which were forgettable but amusing accounts of local history, and which French authors my father rated very highly. Sometimes I would look at this library from a distance and imagine that one day, in a different house, I would build my own library, an even better library – build myself a world. When I looked at my father’s library from afar, it seemed to me to be a small picture of the real world. But this was a world seen from our own corner, from Istanbul. The library was evidence of this. My father had built his library from his trips abroad, mostly with books from Paris and America, but also with books bought from the shops that sold books in foreign languages in the 40s and 50s and Istanbul’s old and new booksellers, whom I also knew. My world is a mixture of the local – the national – and the West. In the 70s, I, too, began, somewhat ambitiously, to build my own library. I had not quite decided to become a writer – as I related in Istanbul, I had come to feel that I would not, after all, become a painter, but I was not sure what path my life would take. There was inside me a relentless curiosity, a hope-driven desire to read and learn, but at the same time I felt that my life was in some way lacking, that I would not be able to live like others. Part of this feeling was connected to what I felt when I gazed at my father’s library – to be living far from the centre of things, as all of us who lived in Istanbul in those days were made to feel, that feeling of living in the provinces. There was another reason for feeling anxious and somehow lacking, for I knew only too well that I lived in a country that showed little interest in its artists – be they painters or writers – and that gave them no hope. In the 70s, when I would take the money my father gave me and greedily buy faded, dusty, dog-eared books from Istanbul’s old booksellers, I would be as affected by the pitiable state of these second-hand bookstores – and by the despairing dishevelment of the poor, bedraggled booksellers who laid out their wares on roadsides, in mosque courtyards, and in the niches of crumbling walls – as I was by their books.

As for my place in the world – in life, as in literature, my basic feeling was that I was ‘not in the centre’. In the centre of the world, there was a life richer and more exciting than our own, and with all of Istanbul, all of Turkey, I was outside it. Today I think that I share this feeling with most people in the world. In the same way, there was a world literature, and its centre, too, was very far away from me. Actually what I had in mind was Western, not world, literature, and we Turks were outside it. My father’s library was evidence of this. At one end, there were Istanbul’s books – our literature, our local world, in all its beloved detail – and at the other end were the books from this other, Western, world, to which our own bore no resemblance, to which our lack of resemblance gave us both pain and hope. To write, to read, was like leaving one world to find consolation in the other world’s otherness, the strange and the wondrous. I felt that my father had read novels to escape his life and flee to the West – just as I would do later. Or it seemed to me that books in those days were things we picked up to escape our own culture, which we found so lacking. It wasn’t just by reading that we left our Istanbul lives to travel West – it was by writing, too. To fill those notebooks of his, my father had gone to Paris, shut himself up in his room, and then brought his writings back to Turkey. As I gazed at my father’s suitcase, it seemed to me that this was what was causing me disquiet. After working in a room for 25 years to survive as a writer in Turkey, it galled me to see my father hide his deep thoughts inside this suitcase, to act as if writing was work that had to be done in secret, far from the eyes of society, the state, the people. Perhaps this was the main reason why I felt angry at my father for not taking literature as seriously as I did.

Actually I was angry at my father because he had not led a life like mine, because he had never quarrelled with his life, and had spent his life happily laughing with his friends and his loved ones. But part of me knew that I could also say that I was not so much ‘angry’ as ‘jealous’, that the second word was more accurate, and this, too, made me uneasy. That would be when I would ask myself in my usual scornful, angry voice: ‘What is happiness?’ Was happiness thinking that I lived a deep life in that lonely room? Or was happiness leading a comfortable life in society, believing in the same things as everyone else, or acting as if you did? Was it happiness, or unhappiness, to go through life writing in secret, while seeming to be in harmony with all around one? But these were overly ill-tempered questions. Wherever had I got this idea that the measure of a good life was happiness? People, papers, everyone acted as if the most important measure of a life was happiness. Did this alone not suggest that it might be worth trying to find out if the exact opposite was true? After all, my father had run away from his family so many times – how well did I know him, and how well could I say I understood his disquiet?

So this was what was driving me when I first opened my father’s suitcase. Did my father have a secret, an unhappiness in his life about which I knew nothing, something he could only endure by pouring it into his writing? As soon as I opened the suitcase, I recalled its scent of travel, recognised several notebooks, and noted that my father had shown them to me years earlier, but without dwelling on them very long. Most of the notebooks I now took into my hands he had filled when he had left us and gone to Paris as a young man. Whereas I, like so many writers I admired – writers whose biographies I had read – wished to know what my father had written, and what he had thought, when he was the age I was now. It did not take me long to realise that I would find nothing like that here. What caused me most disquiet was when, here and there in my father’s notebooks, I came upon a writerly voice. This was not my father’s voice, I told myself; it wasn’t authentic, or at least it did not belong to the man I’d known as my father. Underneath my fear that my father might not have been my father when he wrote, was a deeper fear: the fear that deep inside I was not authentic, that I would find nothing good in my father’s writing, this increased my fear of finding my father to have been overly influenced by other writers and plunged me into a despair that had afflicted me so badly when I was young, casting my life, my very being, my desire to write, and my work into question. During my first ten years as a writer, I felt these anxieties more deeply, and even as I fought them off, I would sometimes fear that one day, I would have to admit to defeat – just as I had done with painting – and succumbing to disquiet, give up novel writing, too.

I have already mentioned the two essential feelings that rose up in me as I closed my father’s suitcase and put it away: the sense of being marooned in the provinces, and the fear that I lacked authenticity. This was certainly not the first time they had made themselves felt. For years I had, in my reading and my writing, been studying, discovering, deepening these emotions, in all their variety and unintended consequences, their nerve endings, their triggers, and their many colours. Certainly my spirits had been jarred by the confusions, the sensitivities and the fleeting pains that life and books had sprung on me, most often as a young man. But it was only by writing books that I came to a fuller understanding of the problems of authenticity (as in My Name is Red and The Black Book) and the problems of life on the periphery (as inSnow and Istanbul). For me, to be a writer is to acknowledge the secret wounds that we carry inside us, the wounds so secret that we ourselves are barely aware of them, and to patiently explore them, know them, illuminate them, to own these pains and wounds, and to make them a conscious part of our spirits and our writing.

A writer talks of things that everyone knows but does not know they know. To explore this knowledge, and to watch it grow, is a pleasurable thing; the reader is visiting a world at once familiar and miraculous. When a writer shuts himself up in a room for years on end to hone his craft – to create a world – if he uses his secret wounds as his starting point, he is, whether he knows it or not, putting a great faith in humanity. My confidence comes from the belief that all human beings resemble each other, that others carry wounds like mine – that they will therefore understand. All true literature rises from this childish, hopeful certainty that all people resemble each other. When a writer shuts himself up in a room for years on end, with this gesture he suggests a single humanity, a world without a centre.

But as can be seen from my father’s suitcase and the pale colours of our lives in Istanbul, the world did have a centre, and it was far away from us. In my books I have described in some detail how this basic fact evoked a Checkovian sense of provinciality, and how, by another route, it led to my questioning my authenticity. I know from experience that the great majority of people on this earth live with these same feelings, and that many suffer from an even deeper sense of insufficiency, lack of security and sense of degradation, than I do. Yes, the greatest dilemmas facing humanity are still landlessness, homelessness, and hunger … But today our televisions and newspapers tell us about these fundamental problems more quickly and more simply than literature can ever do. What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity’s basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind … Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world – and I can identify with them easily – succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the West – a world with which I can identify with the same ease – nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.

This means that my father was not the only one, that we all give too much importance to the idea of a world with a centre. Whereas the thing that compels us to shut ourselves up to write in our rooms for years on end is a faith in the opposite; the belief that one day our writings will be read and understood, because people all the world over resemble each other. But this, as I know from my own and my father’s writing, is a troubled optimism, scarred by the anger of being consigned to the margins, of being left outside. The love and hate that Dostoyevsky felt towards the West all his life – I have felt this too, on many occasions. But if I have grasped an essential truth, if I have cause for optimism, it is because I have travelled with this great writer through his love-hate relationship with the West, to behold the other world he has built on the other side.

All writers who have devoted their lives to this task know this reality: whatever our original purpose, the world that we create after years and years of hopeful writing, will, in the end, move to other very different places. It will take us far away from the table at which we have worked with sadness or anger, take us to the other side of that sadness and anger, into another world. Could my father have not reached such a world himself? Like the land that slowly begins to take shape, slowly rising from the mist in all its colours like an island after a long sea journey, this other world enchants us. We are as beguiled as the western travellers who voyaged from the south to behold Istanbul rising from the mist. At the end of a journey begun in hope and curiosity, there lies before them a city of mosques and minarets, a medley of houses, streets, hills, bridges, and slopes, an entire world. Seeing it, we wish to enter into this world and lose ourselves inside it, just as we might a book. After sitting down at a table because we felt provincial, excluded, on the margins, angry, or deeply melancholic, we have found an entire world beyond these sentiments.

What I feel now is the opposite of what I felt as a child and a young man: for me the centre of the world is Istanbul. This is not just because I have lived there all my life, but because, for the last 33 years, I have been narrating its streets, its bridges, its people, its dogs, its houses, its mosques, its fountains, its strange heroes, its shops, its famous characters, its dark spots, its days and its nights, making them part of me, embracing them all. A point arrived when this world I had made with my own hands, this world that existed only in my head, was more real to me than the city in which I actually lived. That was when all these people and streets, objects and buildings would seem to begin to talk amongst themselves, and begin to interact in ways I had not anticipated, as if they lived not just in my imagination or my books, but for themselves. This world that I had created like a man digging a well with a needle would then seem truer than all else.

My father might also have discovered this kind of happiness during the years he spent writing, I thought as I gazed at my father’s suitcase: I should not prejudge him. I was so grateful to him, after all: he’d never been a commanding, forbidding, overpowering, punishing, ordinary father, but a father who always left me free, always showed me the utmost respect. I had often thought that if I had, from time to time, been able to draw from my imagination, be it in freedom or childishness, it was because, unlike so many of my friends from childhood and youth, I had no fear of my father, and I had sometimes believed very deeply that I had been able to become a writer because my father had, in his youth, wished to be one, too. I had to read him with tolerance – seek to understand what he had written in those hotel rooms.

It was with these hopeful thoughts that I walked over to the suitcase, which was still sitting where my father had left it; using all my willpower, I read through a few manuscripts and notebooks. What had my father written about? I recall a few views from the windows of Parisian hotels, a few poems, paradoxes, analyses … As I write I feel like someone who has just been in a traffic accident and is struggling to remember how it happened, while at the same time dreading the prospect of remembering too much. When I was a child, and my father and mother were on the brink of a quarrel – when they fell into one of those deadly silences – my father would at once turn on the radio, to change the mood, and the music would help us forget it all faster.

Let me change the mood with a few sweet words that will, I hope, serve as well as that music. As you know, the question we writers are asked most often, the favourite question, is; why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can’t do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can’t quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.

A week after he came to my office and left me his suitcase, my father came to pay me another visit; as always, he brought me a bar of chocolate (he had forgotten I was 48 years old). As always, we chatted and laughed about life, politics and family gossip. A moment arrived when my father’s eyes went to the corner where he had left his suitcase and saw that I had moved it. We looked each other in the eye. There followed a pressing silence. I did not tell him that I had opened the suitcase and tried to read its contents; instead I looked away. But he understood. Just as I understood that he had understood. Just as he understood that I had understood that he had understood. But all this understanding only went so far as it can go in a few seconds. Because my father was a happy, easygoing man who had faith in himself: he smiled at me the way he always did. And as he left the house, he repeated all the lovely and encouraging things that he always said to me, like a father.

As always, I watched him leave, envying his happiness, his carefree and unflappable temperament. But I remember that on that day there was also a flash of joy inside me that made me ashamed. It was prompted by the thought that maybe I wasn’t as comfortable in life as he was, maybe I had not led as happy or footloose a life as he had, but that I had devoted it to writing – you’ve understood … I was ashamed to be thinking such things at my father’s expense. Of all people, my father, who had never been the source of my pain – who had left me free. All this should remind us that writing and literature are intimately linked to a lack at the centre of our lives, and to our feelings of happiness and guilt.

But my story has a symmetry that immediately reminded me of something else that day, and that brought me an even deeper sense of guilt. Twenty-three years before my father left me his suitcase, and four years after I had decided, aged 22, to become a novelist, and, abandoning all else, shut myself up in a room, I finished my first novel, Cevdet Bey and Sons; with trembling hands I had given my father a typescript of the still unpublished novel, so that he could read it and tell me what he thought. This was not simply because I had confidence in his taste and his intellect: his opinion was very important to me because he, unlike my mother, had not opposed my wish to become a writer. At that point, my father was not with us, but far away. I waited impatiently for his return. When he arrived two weeks later, I ran to open the door. My father said nothing, but he at once threw his arms around me in a way that told me he had liked it very much. For a while, we were plunged into the sort of awkward silence that so often accompanies moments of great emotion. Then, when we had calmed down and begun to talk, my father resorted to highly charged and exaggerated language to express his confidence in me or my first novel: he told me that one day I would win the prize that I am here to receive with such great happiness.

He said this not because he was trying to convince me of his good opinion, or to set this prize as a goal; he said it like a Turkish father, giving support to his son, encouraging him by saying, ‘One day you’ll become a pasha!’ For years, whenever he saw me, he would encourage me with the same words.

My father died in December 2002.

Today, as I stand before the Swedish Academy and the distinguished members who have awarded me this great prize – this great honour – and their distinguished guests, I dearly wish he could be amongst us.

Translation from Turkish by Maureen Freely

Izvor: Nobelprize.org