window to the mystery



 istanbul

I’ve seen it Topkapi Palace’s garden

New Life

I

One day I read a book and my whole life changed. Even at the very first pages I felt the power of the book to such an extent that I thought my body would break off and drift away from the chair and desk where I was sit­ting. But although I thought that my body had broken off, and drifted away from me, I was more than ever at my desk with my whole being, and the effect of the book was not only on my soul but on everything that made me “Me.” It was such a strong effect that I thought light was springing at my face from the pages of the book: a light blinding and at the same time dazzling my reason. With this light I thought I’d make myself anew; I sen­sed that I’d be corrupted by this light; in this light I felt the shadows of a life I would get close to, of a life I would get to know. Sitting at the desk and knowing in a corner of my mind that I was sitting, I was turning the pages; as my whole life was changing I was reading the new words and pages. After a while I felt so unprepared and helpless regarding all that would befall me that I drew back my face for a moment with an impulse to protect myself from the force being emitted from the book. At that mo­ment, I noticed with fear that the whole world around me was changing and I felt a sort of solitude I had never experienced before. It was as if I was alone in a land whose language, habits, and geography were alien to me.


The helplessness which this solitude caused attached me to the book all the more. It was this book that was going to show me what I was to do in the new land which I had stepped into, the things I would believe in, the things I would see, the way my life would take its course. Turning the pages one by one I was now reading the book as a guide that would show me the way in a savage and alien land. Help me, I felt like saying, help me find my way into this new life without an accident or a calamity befalling me. I knew, however, that this life was created through the words of its guide. Reading the words one at a time, I was trying to find my path, and at the same time I was amazingly creating, one by one, wonders of imagi­nation that would make me lose my path.


All this time, while the book sat on my desk and reflected its light on my face, it resembled all the other furniture in my room which was so fa­miliar. This I felt while I welcomed with wonder and joy the existence of a new life, of a new world that opened up in front of me: The book which was about to change my life was in fact simply an ordinary object. As the windows and doors of my mind opened themselves step by step to the mi­racles and fears of the new world promised by words, I was thinking about the coincidence that had led me to the book; but this in my mind was a surface image, unable to penetrate very deep. As I continued to read, it see­med as if I was returning to this image out of a fear of some sort: The world opened up by the book was so alien, so strange, and so amazing that I felt the need for something connected to the present so that I wouldn’t be totally captivated by this world. Because, now, dawning upon me was the fear of not finding the world the way I had left it when I would lift my head, look at my room, my wardrobe, my bed, and glance out my window.


Minutes and pages pursued each other, far away trains passed, I heard my mother leave, and then after a long while I heard her return; I heard the familiar buzz of the city, the bell of the yogurt seller passing in the street, and the engines of the cars, and I heard all these familiar sounds as if I was hearing them for the first time. I thought that it had started to rain out­side but then the voices of the girls jumping rope and shouting came. I tho­ught the sun was coming out, clearing the day, but raindrops started to dance upon my window. I read the next page, and the one after, and other pages; I saw the light penetrating through the threshold of the other life; I saw what I didn’t know until now and what I knew; I saw my own life, the way I thought my life would take its course.


As I was turning the pages slowly, a world I didn’t know, didn’t think about, didn’t sense, sank into my soul and settled there. Many things that I had known about, and thought about became unnecessary details; the things I didn’t know came out from where they were hiding and sent me signs. If someone asked me what they were while reading the book, I wo­uldnt be able to answer, because as I was reading I knew I was pro­ceeding slowly on a one-way road, losing my interest and curiosity in some things I was leaving behind as I moved on, but I was at the same time feeling so much excitement and curiosity towards the new life ope­ning in front of me that everything that existed appeared to be worthy of interest. When I was flustered with the excitement of this interest and my legs started to shake, the abundance, richness, and complexity of the things that could happen transformed into a kind of terror inside me.


With this terror, I saw run-down rooms, mad buses, tired people, pale letters, lost towns and lives in the light darting from the book into my face. There was a journey, there was always a journey, everything was a journey. During this journey I saw a gaze constantly following me, acting as if it would appear in the most inappropriate place, and then vanishing; a gaze being searched for because it had gone out of sight, a soft look purifi­ed from guilt and sin… I wished I were that gaze. I wished I were in the world of that gaze. I longed for all this to such an extent that I almost beli­eved I was living there. No, there was no need to believe — I was living there. And since I was living there, the book was talking about me. This was so because somebody had thought about the things that I was thinking of before I had, and had written about them.


It was through this that I understood why the words and what they were telling had to be different. Because since the very first pages I had sensed that the book was written for me. This was the reason why every single word and sentence was affecting me deeply. It was not because these were extraordinary sentences or dazzling words, no, it was because I had felt that the book was talking about me. I couldn’t figure out how I got this feeling. Maybe I did but I forgot; because I was trying to find my way among murderers, accidents, deaths, and lost signs.


Thus, as I kept reading, my outlook became the words of the book, the words of the book became my outlook. My eyes, dazzled by the light, couldn’t differentiate the world in the book from the book in the world. It was as if the only world, everything that existed, every possible color and object was in the book and among the words; with my reason, with wonder and joy I was realizing everything as I kept reading. What the book was at first whispering, then throbbing and then showing me in ruthless violence had been dormant within the depths of my soul for years — this I understood while reading it. The book was discovering and bringing up from the deep waters the long-lost treasure, and I wanted to call everything I was finding between the lines and words my own. Somewhere in the last pages of the book I wanted to say that I had thought of the same thing. Later on, when I had totally entered the world of the book, I saw death coming out between darkness and twilight like an angel. My own death…

Orhan Pamuk
from “NEW LIFE”
Yeni Hayat (1994). Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, pp. 7-10.

translated by Banu Akdenizli



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One response to “window to the mystery

  1. Pingback: My Suggestions for May-2008 « Istanbul through my eyes

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