Respectful whore, Paris; her legs spread, Rome; crazy courtesan, Venice; strict pimp, saint Petersburg; daughter of unseen flames, London – sole hermaphrodite among all of Europe’s girls: Istanbul, queen city, king city, fallen city, riven city, thousand-and-one leaves, city of moans and deep silences. Multicoloured (its rainbow incomplete: the White wiped out), multilingual (horizontal Babel), a city rendered separate from its sources, city sat squeezed between its layers, its crusades of the cross in a broad bunch of roses, its conquest attempts, earthquakes and fires, nightmare city met with great trials, mother city, city of the art of death, city that fitted within the lives of many, many roses.
Istanbul branded me, riddled me with holes, suckled me from its single teat, syringed its poison into to me, contorted me, broke me, live alive it burned me, coagulated me, made me fly, pushed me, pulled me back – for half a century it made me the inner voice that moved through its mind.
At early forenoon, afternoon, in night’s deep, I listened to it, its breath mixed with mine, I suckled it and sicked it. Its sent its blood-vessels travelling my body. I saw its dreams in my dream. At three of its points, most sheltered depths, I joined with its colossal body of water whose shores wend over and erode it.
Istanbul was in the whirlpool of a waltz set to infinity: I, you, we were all the victims of its times, its movements and its defective pulse. Its jumbled brain’s every element made of the letters of a sand inscription belonging to a boundless desert and History, its history, an unsorted pile stretching from its emperors and sultans to those society had excommunicated, from rich families to vagabonds, from its poets to its martyrs, its shared language to street language, from its folded map to its special scent, to its crescendos of anger, to its attainment of rapture: At sunset, on the Quay of the Blind, we would face the special light whose identity was defined by flames of hell, and we’d stand there locked and languageless.
First page of the Preface to ‘Cinlerin Istanbul’u’ (Istanbul of the Djinnspirits/Genies/Ghosts)
by Enis Batur
publisher: Remzi Kitabevi 2015
tr: C.Stockford 2016