These were innocent people, so innocent that they thought poverty a crime that wealth would allow them to forget.
—from the notebooks of Celál Salik
If a man could pass thro’ Paradise in a Dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his Soul had really been there, and found that flower in his hand when he awoke—Aye? and what then?
—from the notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
First I surveyed the little trinkets on the table, her lotions and her perfumes. I picked them up and examined them one by one. I turned her little watch over in my hand. Then I looked at her wardrobe. All those dresses and accessories piled one on top of the other. These things that every woman used to complete herself—they induced in me a painful and desperate loneliness; I felt myself hers, I longed to be hers.
—from the notebooks of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar
1. The Happiest Moment of My Life
2. The Şanzelize Boutique
3. Distant Relations
4. Love at the Office
6. Füsun’s Tears
7. The Merhamet Apartments
8. Turkey’s First Fruit Soda
10. City Lights and Happiness
11. The Feast of the Sacrifice
12. Kissing on the Lips
13. Love, Courage, Modernity
14. Istanbul’s Streets, Bridges, Hills, and Squares
15. A Few Unpalatable Anthropological Truths
17. My Whole Life Depends on You Now
18. Belkıs’s Story
19. At the Funeral
20. Füsun’s Two Conditions
21. My Father’s Story: Pearl Earrings
22. The Hand of Rahmi Efendi
24. The Engagement Party
25. The Agony of Waiting
26. An Anatomical Chart of Love Pains
27. Don’t Lean Back That Way, You Might Fall
28. The Consolation of Objects
29. By Now There Was Hardly a Moment When I Wasn’t Thinking About Her
30. Füsun Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
31. The Streets That Reminded Me of Her
32. The Shadows and Ghosts I Mistook for Füsun
33. Vulgar Distractions
34. Like a Dog in Outer Space
35. The First Seeds of My Collection
36. To Entertain a Small Hope That Might Allay My Heartache
37. The Empty House
38. The End-of Summer Party
40. The Consolations of Life in a Yali
41. Swimming on My Back
42. The Melancholy of Autumn
43. Cold and Lonely November Days
44. Fatih Hotel
45. A Holiday on Uludağ
46. Is It Normal to Leave Your Fiancée in the Lurch?
47. My Father’s Death
48. The Most Important Thing in Life Is to Be Happy
49. I Was Going to Ask Her to Marry Me
50. This Is the Last Time I’ll Ever See Her!
51. Happiness Means Being Close to the One You Love, That’s All
52. A Film About Life and Agony Should Be Sincere
53. An Indignant and Broken Heart Is of No Use to Anyone
55. Come Again Tomorrow, and We Can Sit Together Again
56. Lemon Films Inc.
57. On Being Unable to Stand Up and Leave
59. Getting Past the Censors
60. Evenings on the Bosphorus, at the Huzur Restaurant
61. To Look
62. To Help Pass the Time
63. The Gossip Column
64. The Fire on the Bosphorus
65. The Dogs
66. What Is This?
68. 4,213 Cigarette Stubs
70. Broken Lives
71. You Hardly Ever Come Here Anymore, Kemal Bey
72. Life, Too, Is Just Like Love…
73. Füsun’s Driving License
74. Tarik Bey
75. The İnci Patisserie
76. The Cinemas of Beyoğlu
77. The Grand Semiramis Hotel
78. Summer Rain
79. Journey to Another World
80. After the Accident
81. The Museum of Innocence
ORHAN PAMUK expresses his gratitude to Sila Okur for ensuring fidelity to the Turkish text; to his editor and friend George Andreou, for his meticulous editing of the translation; and to Kiran Desai for generously giving her time to read the final text, and for her invaluable suggestions and ideas.
1 The Happiest Moment of My Life
IT WAS the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds, perhaps, for that luminous state to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about a quarter to three, just as we felt ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time. Kissing Füsun’s shoulder, already moist from the heat of our lovemaking, I gently entered her from behind, and as I softly bit her ear, her earring must have come free and, for all we knew, hovered in midair before falling of its own accord. Our bliss was so profound that we went on kissing, heedless of the fall of the earring, whose shape I had not even noticed.
Outside the sky was shimmering as it does only in Istanbul in the spring. In the streets people still in their winter clothes were perspiring, but inside shops and buildings, and under the linden and chestnut trees, it was still cool. We felt the same coolness rising from the musty mattress on which we were making love, the way children play, happily forgetting everything else. A breeze wafted in through the balcony window, tinged with the sea and linden leaves; it lifted the tulle curtains, and they billowed down again in slow motion, chilling our naked bodies. From the bed of the back bedroom of the second-floor apartment, we could see a group of boys playing football in the garden below, swearing furiously in the May heat, and as it dawned on us that we were enacting, word for word, exactly those indecencies, we stopped making love to look into each other’s eyes and smile. But so great was our elation that the joke life had sent us from the back garden was forgotten as quickly as the earring.
When we met the next day, Füsun told me she had lost one of her earrings. Actually, not long after she had left the preceding afternoon, I’d spotted it nestled in the blue sheets, her initial dangling at its tip, and I was about to put it aside when, by a strange compulsion, I slipped it into my pocket. So now I said, “I have it here, darling,” as I reached into the right-hand pocket of my jacket hanging on the back of a chair. “Oh, it’s gone!” For a moment, I glimpsed a bad omen, a hint of malign fate, but then I remembered that I’d put on a different jacket that morning, because of the warm weather. “It must be in the pocket of my other jacket.”
“Please bring it tomorrow. Don’t forget,” Füsun said, her eyes widening. “It is very dear to me.”
Füsun was eighteen, a poor distant relation, and before running into her a month ago, I had all but forgotten she existed. I was thirty and about to become engaged to Sibel, who, according to everyone, was the perfect match.
2 The Şanzelize Boutique
THE SERIES of events and coincidences that were to change my entire life had begun a month before on April 27, 1975, when Sibel happened to spot a handbag designed by the famous Jenny Colon in a shop window as we were walking along Valikonağı Avenue, enjoying the cool spring evening. Our formal engagement was not far off; we were tipsy and in high spirits. We’d just been to Fuaye, a posh new restaurant in NiŞantaŞı; over supper with my parents, we had discussed at length the preparations for the engagement party, which was scheduled for the middle of June so that Nurcihan, Sibel’s friend since her days at Notre Dame de Sion Lycée and then her years in Paris, could come from France to attend. Sibel had long ago arranged for her engagement dress to be made by Silky İsmet, then the most expensive and sought-after dressmaker in Istanbul, and that evening Sibel and my mother discussed how they might sew on the pearls my mother had given her for the dress. It was my future father-in-law’s express wish that his only daughter’s engagement party be as extravagant as a wedding, and my mother was only too delighted to help fulfill that wish as best as she could. As for my father, he was charmed enough by the prospect of a daughter-in-law who had “studied at the Sorbonne,” as was said in those days among the Istanbul bourgeoisie of any girl who had gone to Paris for any kind of study.
It was as I walked Sibel home that evening, my arm wrapped lovingly around her sturdy shoulders, noting to myself with pride how happy and lucky I was, that Sibel said, “Oh what a beautiful bag!” Though my mind was clouded by the wine, I took note of the handbag and the name of the shop, and at noon the next day I went back. In fact I had never been one of those suave, chivalrous playboys always looking for the least excuse to buy women presents or send them flowers, though perhaps I longed to be one. In those days, bored Westernized housewives of the affluent neighborhoods like ŞiŞli, NiŞantaŞı, and Bebek did not open “art galleries” but boutiques, and stocked them with trinkets and whole ensembles smuggled in luggage from Paris and Milan, or copies of “the latest” dresses featured in imported magazines like Elle and Vogue, selling these goods at ridiculously inflated prices to other rich housewives who were as bored as they were. As she would remind me when I tracked her down many years later, Şenay Hanım, then proprietress of the Şanzelize (its name a transliteration of the legendary Parisian avenue), was, like Füsun, a very distant relation on my mother’s side. The fact that she gave me the shop sign that had once hung on the door as well as any other object connected to Füsun without once questioning the reasons for my excessive interest in the since-shuttered establishment led me to understand that some of the odder details of our story were known to her, and indeed had had a much wider circulation than I had assumed.
When I walked into the Şanzelize at around half past twelve the next day, the small bronze double-knobbed camel bell jingled two notes that can still make my heart pound. It was a warm spring day, and inside the shop it was cool and dark. At first I thought there was no one there, my eyes still adjusting to the gloom after the noonday sunlight. Then I felt my heart in my throat, with the force of an immense wave about to crash against the shore.
“I’d like to buy the handbag on the mannequin in the window,” I managed to say, staggered at the sight of her.
“Do you mean the cream-colored Jenny Colon?”
When we came eye to eye, I immediately remembered her.
“The handbag on the mannequin in the window,” I repeated dreamily.
“Oh, right,” she said and walked over to the window. In a flash she had slipped off her yellow high-heeled pump, extending her bare foot, whose nails she’d carefully painted red, onto the floor of the display area, stretching her arm toward the mannequin. My eyes traveled from her empty shoe over her long bare legs. It wasn’t even May yet, and they were already tanned.
Their length made her lacy yellow skirt seem even shorter. Hooking the bag, she returned to the counter and with her long, dexterous fingers she removed the balls of crumpled cream-colored tissue paper, showing me the inside of the zippered pocket, the two smaller pockets (both empty) as well as the secret compartment, from which she produced a card inscribed JENNY COLON, her whole demeanor suggesting mystery and seriousness, as if she were showing me something very personal.
“Hello, Füsun. You’re all grown up! Perhaps you don’t recognize me.”
“Not at all, Cousin Kemal, I recognized you right away, but when I saw you did not recognize me, I thought it would be better not to disturb you.”
There was a silence. I looked again into one of the pockets she had just pointed to inside the bag. Her beauty, or her skirt, which was in fact too short, or something else altogether, had unsettled me, and I couldn’t act naturally.
“Well … what are you up to these days?”
“I’m studying for my university entrance exams. And I come here every day, too. Here in the shop, I’m meeting lots of new people.”
“That’s wonderful. So tell me, how much is this handbag?”
Furrowing her brow, she peered at the handwritten price tag on the bottom: “One thousand five hundred lira.” (At the time this would have been six months’ pay for a junior civil servant.) “But I am sure Şenay Hanım would want to offer you a special price. She’s gone home for lunch and must be napping now, so I can’t phone her. But if you could come by this evening …”
“It’s not important,” I said, and taking out my wallet—a clumsy gesture that, later, at our secret meeting place, Füsun would often mimic—I counted out the damp bills. Füsun wrapped the bag in paper, carefully but with evident inexperience, and then put it into a plastic bag. Throughout this silence she knew that I was admiring her honey-hued arms, and her quick, elegant gestures. When she politely handed me the shopping bag, I thanked her. “Please give my respects to Aunt Nesibe and your father,” I said (having failed to remember Tarık Bey’s name in time). For a moment I paused: My ghost had left my body and now, in some corner of heaven, was embracing Füsun and kissing her. I made quickly for the door. What an absurd daydream, especially since Füsun wasn’t as beautiful as all that. The bell on the door jingled, and I heard a canary warbling. I went out into the street, glad to feel the heat. I was pleased with my purchase; I loved Sibel very much. I decided to forget this shop, and Füsun.
3 Distant Relations
NEVERTHELESS, AT supper that evening I mentioned to my mother that I had run into our distant relation Füsun while buying a handbag for Sibel.
“Oh, yes, Nesibe’s daughter is working in that shop of Şenay’s up there, and what a shame it is!” said my mother. “They don’t even visit us for the holidays anymore. That beauty contest put them in such an awkward position. I walk past that shop every day, but I can’t even bring myself to go inside and say hello to the poor girl—nor in fact does it even cross my mind. But when she was little, you know, I was very fond of her. When Nesibe came to sew, she’d come too sometimes. I’d get your toys out of the cupboard and while her mother sewed she’d play with them quietly. Nesibe’s mother, Aunt Mihriver, may she rest in peace—she was a wonderful person.”
“Exactly how are we related?”
Because my father was watching television and paying us no mind, my mother launched into an elaborate story about her father, who was born the same year as Atatürk and later attended Şemsi Efendi School, also just like the founder of the Republic, as you can see in this school photograph I found many years later. It seems that long before he (Ethem Kemal, my grandfather) married my grandmother, he had made a very hasty first marriage at the age of twenty-three. Füsun’s great-grandmother, who was of Bosnian extraction, had died during the Balkan Wars, during the evacuation of Edirne. Though the unfortunate woman had not given Ethem Kemal children, she already had a daughter named Mihriver by a poor sheikh, whom she’d married when she was “still a child.” So Aunt Mihriver (Füsun’s grandmother, who had been brought up by a very odd assortment of people) and her daughter Aunt Nesibe (Füsun’s mother) were not strictly speaking relatives; they were more like in-laws, and though my mother had been emphasizing this for years, she had still directed us to call the women from this distant branch of the family “aunts.” During their most recent holiday visits, my mother had given these impoverished relations (who lived in the backstreets of Teşvikiye) an unusually chilly reception that led to hurt feelings because two years earlier, Aunt Nesibe, without saying a word, had allowed her sixteen-year-old daughter, then a student at Nişantaşı Lycée for Girls, to enter a beauty contest; and on sub-sequently learning that Aunt Nesibe had in fact encouraged her daughter, even taking pride in this stunt that should have caused her to feel only shame, my mother had hardened her heart toward Aunt Nesibe, whom she had once so loved and protected.
For her part, Aunt Nesibe had always esteemed my mother, who was twenty years older, and who had been supportive of her when she was a young woman going from house to house in Istanbul’s most affluent neighborhoods, in search of work as a seamstress.
“They were desperately poor,” my mother said. And lest she exaggerate, she added, “Though they were hardly the only ones, my son—all of Turkey was poor in those days.” At the time, my mother had recommended Aunt Nesibe to all her friends as “a very good person, and a very good seamstress,” and once a year (sometimes twice) she herself would call her to our house to sew a dress for some party or wedding.
Because it was almost always during school hours, I wouldn’t see her during these sewing visits. But in 1957, at the end of August, urgently needing a dress for a wedding, my mother had called Nesibe to our summer home in Suadiye. Retiring to the back room on the second floor, overlooking the sea, they set themselves up next to the window from which, peering through the fronds of the palm trees, they might see the rowboats and motorboats, and the boys jumping from the pier. Nesibe having unpacked her sewing box, with the view of Istanbul adorning its lid, they sat surrounded by her scissors, pins, measuring tape, thimbles, and swatches of material and lace, complaining of the heat, the mosquitoes, and the strain of sewing under such pressure, joking like sisters, and staying up half the night to slave away on my mother’s Singer sewing machine. I remember Bekri the cook bringing one glass of lemonade after another into that room (the hot air thick with the dust of velvet), because Nesibe, pregnant at twenty, was prone to cravings; when we all sat down to lunch, my mother would tell the cook, half joking, that “whatever a pregnant woman desires, you must let her have, or else the child will turn out ugly!” and with that in mind, I remember looking at Nesibe’s small bump with a certain interest. This must have been my first awareness of Füsun’s existence, though no one knew yet whether she would be a girl or a boy.
“Nesibe didn’t even inform her husband; she just lied about her daughter’s age and entered her in that beauty contest,” said my mother, fuming at the thought. “Thank God, she didn’t win, so they were spared the public disgrace. If the school had gotten wind of it, they would have expelled the girl…. She must have finished lycée by now. I don’t expect that she’ll be doing any further studies, but I’m not up-to-date, since they don’t come to visit on holidays anymore…. Can there be anyone in this country who doesn’t know what kind of girl, what kind of woman, enters a beauty contest? How did she behave with you?”
It was my mother’s way of suggesting that Füsun had begun to sleep with men. I’d heard the same from my Nişantaşı playboy friends when Füsun appeared in a photograph with the other finalists in the newspaper Milliyet, but as I found the whole thing embarrassing I tried to show no interest. After we had both fallen silent, my mother wagged her finger at me ominously and said, “Be careful! You’re about to become engaged to a very special, very charming, very lovely girl! Why don’t you show me this handbag you’ve bought her. Mümtaz!”—this was my father’s name—“Look—Kemal’s bought Sibel a handbag!”
“Really?” said my father, his face expressing such contentment as to suggest he had seen and approved the bag as a sign of how happy his son and his sweetheart were, but not once did he take his eyes off the screen.
4 Love at the Office
MY FATHER was looking at a rather flashy commercial that my friend Zaim had made for Meltem, “Turkey’s first domestic fruit soda,” now sold all over the country. I watched it carefully and liked it. Zaim’s father, like mine, had amassed a fortune in the past ten years, and now Zaim was using that money to pursue ventures of his own. I gave him occasional advice, so I was keen to see him succeed.
Once I’d graduated from business school in America and completed my military service, my father had demanded I follow in my brother’s footsteps and become a manager in his business, which was growing by leaps and bounds, and so when I was still very young he’d appointed me the general manager of Satsat, his Harbiye-based distribution and export firm. Satsat had an exaggerated operating budget and made hefty profits, thanks not to me but to various accounting tricks by which the profits from his other factories and businesses were funneled into Satsat (which might be translated into English as “Sell-sell”). I spent my days mastering the finer points of the business from worn-out accountants twenty or thirty years my senior and large-breasted lady clerks as old as my mother; and mindful that I would not have been in charge but for being the owner’s son, I tried to show some humility.
At quitting time, while buses and streetcars as old as Satsat’s now departed clerks rumbled down the avenue, shaking the building to its foundations, Sibel, my intended, would come to visit, and we would make love in the general manager’s office. For all her modern outlook and the feminist notions she had brought back from Europe, Sibel’s ideas about secretaries were no different from my mother’s: “Let’s not make love here. It makes me feel like a secretary!” she’d say sometimes. But as we proceeded to the leather divan in that office, the real reason for her reserve—that Turkish girls, in those days, were afraid of sex before marriage—would become obvious.
Little by little sophisticated girls from wealthy Westernized families who had spent time in Europe were beginning to break this taboo and sleep with their boyfriends before marriage. Sibel, who occasionally boasted of being one of those “brave” girls, had first slept with me eleven months earlier. But she judged this arrangement to have gone on long enough, and thought it was about time we married.
As I sit down so many years later and devote myself heart and soul to the telling of my story, though, I do not want to exaggerate my fiancée’s daring or to make light of the sexual oppression of women, because it was only when Sibel saw that my “intentions were serious,” when she believed in me as “someone who could be trusted”—in other words, when she was absolutely sure that there would in the end be a wedding—that she gave herself to me. Believing myself a decent and responsible person, I had every intention of marrying her; but even if this hadn’t been my wish, there was no question of my having a choice now that she had “given me her virginity.” Before long, this heavy responsibility cast a shadow over the common ground between us of which we were so proud—the illusion of being “free and modern” (though of course we would never use such words for ourselves) on account of having made love before marriage, and in a way this, too, brought us closer.
A similar shadow fell over us each time Sibel anxiously hinted that we should marry at once, but there were times, too, when Sibel and I would be very happy making love in the office, and as I wrapped my arms around her in the dark, the noise of traffic and rumbling buses rising up from Halaskârgazi Avenue, I would tell myself how lucky I was, how content I would be for the rest of my life. Once, after our exertions, as I was stubbing out my cigarette in this ashtray bearing the Satsat logo, Sibel, sitting half naked on my secretary Zeynep Hanım’s chair, started rattling the typewriter, and giggling at her best impression of the dumb blonde who featured so prominently in the jokes and humor magazines of the time.
NOW, YEARS later, and after a long search, I am exhibiting here an illustrated menu, an advertisement, a matchbook, and a napkin from Fuaye, one of the European-style (imitation French) restaurants most loved by the tiny circle of wealthy people who lived in neighborhoods like Beyoğlu, Şişli, and Nişantaşı (were we to affect the snide tone of gossip columnists, we might call such folk “society”). Because they wished to give their customers a subtler illusion of being in a European city, they shied away from pompous Western names like the Ambassador, the Majestic, or the Royal, preferring others like Kulis (backstage), Merdiven (stairway), and Fuaye (lobby), names that reminded one of being on the edge of Europe, in Istanbul. The next generation of nouveaux riches would prefer gaudy restaurants that offered the same food their grandmothers cooked, combining tradition and ostentation with names such as Hanedan (dynasty), Hünkar (sovereign), Pasha, Vezir (vizier), and Sultan—and under the pressure of their pretensions Fuaye sank into oblivion.
Over dinner at Fuaye on the evening of the day I had bought the handbag, I asked Sibel, “Wouldn’t it be better if from now on we met in that flat my mother has in the Merhamet Apartments? It looks out over such a pretty garden.”
“Are you expecting some delay in moving to our own house once we’ve married?” she asked.
“No, darling, I meant nothing of the sort.”
“I don’t want any more skulking about in secret apartments as if I were your mistress.”
“Where did this idea come from, to meet in that apartment?”
“Never mind,” I said. I looked at the cheerful crowd around me as I brought out the handbag, still hidden in its plastic bag.
“What’s this?” asked Sibel, sensing a present.
“A surprise! Open and see.”
“Is it really?” As she opened the plastic bag and saw the handbag, the childish joy on her face gave way first to a quizzical look, and then to a disappointment that she tried to hide.
“Do you remember?” I ventured. “When I was walking you home last night, you saw it in the window of that shop and admired it.”
“Oh, yes. How thoughtful of you.”
“I’m glad you like it. It will look so elegant on you at our engagement party.”
“I hate to say it, but the handbag I’m taking to our engagement party was chosen a long time ago,” said Sibel. “Oh, don’t look so downcast! It was so thoughtful of you, to go to all the effort of buying this lovely present for me…. All right then, just so you don’t think I’m being unkind to you, I could never put this handbag on my arm at our engagement party, because this handbag is a fake!”
“This is not a genuine Jenny Colon, my dear Kemal. It is an imitation.”
“How can you tell?”
“Just by looking at it, dear. See the way the label is stitched to the leather? Now look at the stitching on this real Jenny Colon I bought in Paris. It’s not for nothing that it’s an exclusive brand in France and all over the world. For one thing, she would never use such cheap thread.”
There was a moment, as I looked at the genuine stitching, when I asked myself why my future bride was taking such a triumphal tone. Sibel was the daughter of a retired ambassador who’d long ago sold off the last of his pasha grandfather’s land and was now penniless; technically this made her the daughter of a civil servant, and this status sometimes caused her to feel uneasy and insecure. Whenever her anxieties overtook her, she would talk about her paternal grandmother, who had played the piano, or about her paternal grandfather, who had fought in the War of Independence, or she’d tell me how close her maternal grandfather had been to Sultan Abdülhamit; but her timidity moved me, and I loved her all the more for it. With the expansion of the textiles and exports trade during the early 1970s, and the consequent tripling of Istanbul’s population, the price of land had skyrocketed throughout the city and most particularly in neighborhoods like ours. Although, carried on this wave, my father’s fortune had grown extravagantly over the past decade, increasing fivefold, our surname (Basmacı, “cloth printer”) left no doubt that we owed our wealth to three generations of cloth manufacture. It made me uneasy to be troubled by the “fake” handbag despite three generations of cumulative progress.
When she saw my spirits sink, Sibel caressed my hand. “How much did you pay for the bag?”
“Fifteen hundred lira,” I said. “If you don’t want it, I can exchange it tomorrow.”
“Don’t exchange it, darling, ask for your money back, because they really cheated you.”
“The owner of the shop is Şenay Hanım, and we’re distantly related!” I said, raising my eyebrows in dismay.
Sibel took back the bag, whose interiors I had been quietly exploring. “You’re so knowledgeable, darling, so clever and cultured,” she said, with a tender smile, “but you have absolutely no idea how easily women can trick you.”
6 Füsun’s Tears
AT NOON the next day I went back to the Şanzelize Boutique carrying the same plastic bag. The bell rang as I walked in, but once again the shop was so gloomy that at first I thought no one was there. In the strange silence of the ill-lit shop the canary sang chik, chik, chik. Then I made out Füsun’s shadow through a screen and between the leaves of a huge vase of cyclamens. She was waiting on a fat lady who was trying on an outfit in the fitting room. This time she was wearing a charming and flattering blouse, a print of hyacinths intertwined with leaves and wildflowers. When she saw me she smiled sweetly.
“You seem busy,” I said, indicating the fitting room with my eyes.
“We’re just about finished,” she said, as if to imply she and her customer were at this point just talking idly.
My eyes flitted from the canary fluttering up and down in its cage, a pile of fashion magazines in the corner, and the assortment of accessories imported from Europe, and I couldn’t fix my attention on anything. As much as I wanted to dismiss the feeling as ordinary, I could not deny the startling truth that when looking at Füsun, I saw someone familiar, someone I felt I knew intimately. She resembled me. That same sort of hair that grew curly and dark in childhood only to straighten as I grew older. Now it was a shade of blond that, like her clear complexion, was complemented by her printed blouse. I felt I could easily put myself in her place, could understand her deeply. A painful memory came to me: my friends, referring to her as “something out of Playboy.” Could she have slept with them? “Return the handbag, take your money and run,” I told myself. “You’re about to become engaged to a wonderful girl.” I turned to look outside, in the direction of Nişantaşı Square, but soon Füsun’s reflection appeared ghostlike in the smoky glass.
After the woman in the fitting room had huffed and puffed her way out of a skirt and left without buying anything, Füsun folded up the discarded items and put them back where they belonged. “I saw you walking down the street yesterday evening,” she said, turning up her beautiful lips. She was wearing a light pink lipstick, sold under the brand name Misslyn, and though a common Turkish product, on her it looked exotic and alluring.
“When did you see me?” I asked.
“Early in the evening. You were with Sibel Hanım. I was walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Were you going out to eat?”
“You make a handsome couple!” she said, in the way that the elderly do when taking pleasure at the sight of happy young people.
I did not ask her where she knew Sibel from. “There’s a small favor we’d like to ask of you.” As I took out the bag, I felt both shame and panic. “We’d like to return this bag.”
“Certainly. I’d be happy to exchange it for you. You might like these chic new gloves and we have this hat, which has just arrived from Paris. Sibel Hanım didn’t like the bag?”
“I’d prefer not to exchange it,” I said shamefacedly. “I’d like to ask for my money back.”
I saw shock on her face, even a bit of fear. “Why?” she asked.
“Apparently this bag is not a genuine Jenny Colon,” I whispered. “It seems that it’s a fake.”
“I don’t really understand these things,” I said helplessly.
“Nothing like that ever happens here!” she said in a harsh voice. “Do you want your money back right now?”
“Yes!” I blurted out.
She looked deeply pained. Dear God, I thought, why hadn’t I just disposed of this bag and told Sibel I’d gotten the money back? “Look, this has nothing to do with you or Şenay Hanım. We Turks, praise God, manage to make imitations of every European fashion,” I said, struggling to smile. “For me—or should I have said for us—it’s enough for a bag to fulfill its function, to look lovely in a woman’s hand. It’s not important what the brand is, or who made it, or if it’s an original.” But she, like me, didn’t believe a word I was saying.
“No, I am going to give you your money back,” she said in that same harsh voice. I looked down and remained silent, prepared to meet my fate, and ashamed of my brutishness.
As determined as she sounded, I sensed that Füsun could not do what she was supposed to do; there was something strange in the intensely embarrassing moment. She was looking at the till as if someone had put a spell on it, as if it were possessed by demons, so that she couldn’t bring herself to touch it. When I saw her face redden and crinkle up, her eyes welling with tears, I panicked and drew two steps closer.
She began to cry softly. I have never worked out exactly how it happened, but I wrapped my arms around her and she leaned her head against my chest and wept. “Füsun, I’m so sorry,” I whispered. I caressed her soft hair and her forehead. “Please, just forget this ever happened. It’s a fake handbag, that’s all.”
Like a child she took a deep breath, sobbed once or twice, and burst into tears again. To touch her body and her lovely long arms, to feel her breasts pressed against my chest, to hold her like that, if only for a moment, made my head spin: Perhaps it was because I was trying to repress the desire, more intense each time I touched her, that I conjured up this illusion that we had known each other for years, that we were already very close. This was my sweet, inconsolable, grief-stricken, beautiful sister! For a moment—and perhaps because I knew we were related, however slightly—her body, with its long limbs, fine bones, and fragile shoulders, reminded me of my own. Had I been a girl, had I been twelve years younger, this is what my body would be like. “There’s nothing to be upset about,” I said as I caressed the blond hair.
“I can’t open the till to give you back your money,” she explained. “Because when Şenay Hanım goes home for lunch, she locks it and takes the key with her, I’m ashamed to say.” Leaning her head against my chest, she began to cry again, as I continued my careful and compassionate caresses of her hair. “I just work here to meet people and pass the time. It’s not for the money,” she sobbed.
“Working for money is nothing to be embarrassed about,” I said stupidly, heartlessly.
“Yes,” she said, like a dejected child. “My father is a retired teacher…. I turned eighteen two weeks ago, and I didn’t want to be a burden.”
Fearful of the sexual beast now threatening to rear its head, I took my hand from her hair. She understood at once and collected herself; we both stepped back.
“Please don’t tell anyone I cried,” she said after she had rubbed her eyes.
“It’s a promise,” I said. “A solemn promise between friends, Füsun. We can trust each other with our secrets….”
I saw her smile. “Let me leave the handbag here,” I said. “I can come back for the money later.”
“Leave the bag if you wish, but you had better not come back here for the money. Şenay Hanım will insist that it isn’t a fake and you’ll come to regret you ever suggested otherwise.”
“Then let’s exchange it for something,” I said.
“I can no longer do that,” she said, sounding like a proud and tetchy girl.
“No really, it’s not important,” I offered.
“But it is to me,” she said firmly. “When she comes back to the shop, I’ll get the money for the bag from Şenay Hanım.”
“I don’t want that woman causing you any more upset,” I replied.
“Don’t worry, I’ve just worked out how to do this,” she said with the faintest of smiles. “I’m going to say that Sibel Hanım already has exactly the same bag, and that’s why she’s returning it. Is that all right?”
“Wonderful idea,” I said. “But why don’t I say the same thing to Şenay Hanım?”
“No, don’t you say anything to her,” Füsun said emphatically. “Because she’ll only try to trick you, to extract personal information from you. Don’t come to the shop at all. I can leave the money with Aunt Vecihe.”
“Oh please, don’t involve my mother in this. She’s even nosier.”
“Then where shall I leave your money?” Füsun asked, raising her eyebrows.
“At the Merhamet Apartments, 131 Teşvikiye Avenue, where my mother has a flat,” I said. “Before I went to America I used it as my hideout—I’d go there to study and listen to music. It’s a delightful place that looks out over a garden in the back…. I still go there every lunchtime between two and four and shut myself in there to catch up on paperwork.”
“Of course. I can bring your money there. What’s the apartment number?”
“Four,” I whispered. I could barely get out the next three words, which seemed to die in my throat. “Second floor. Good-bye.”
My heart had figured it all out and it was beating madly. Before rushing outside, I gathered up all my strength and, pretending nothing unusual had happened, I gave her one last look. Back in the street, my shame and guilt mixed with so many images of bliss amid the unseasonable warmth of that May afternoon that the very sidewalks of Nişantaşı seemed aglow with a mysterious yellow. My feet chose the shaded path, taking me under the eaves of the buildings and the blue-and-white-striped awnings of the shop windows, and when in one of those windows I saw a yellow jug I felt compelled to go inside and buy it. Unlike any other object acquired so casually, this yellow jug drew no comment from anyone during the twenty years it sat on the table where my mother and father, and later, my mother and I, ate our meals. Every time I touched the handle of that jug, I would remember those days when I first felt the misery that was to turn me in on myself, leaving my mother to watch me in silence at supper, her eyes filled half with sadness, half with reproach.
Arriving home, I greeted my mother with a kiss; though pleased to see me early in the afternoon, she was nevertheless surprised. I told her that I had bought the jug on a whim, adding, “Could you give me the key to the Merhamet Apartments? Sometimes the office gets so noisy I just can’t concentrate. I was wondering if I might have better luck at the apartment. It always worked when I was young.”
My mother said, “It must be an inch thick with dust,” but she went straight to her room to fetch me the key to the building, which was held together with the key to the apartment by a red ribbon. “Do you remember that Kütahya vase with the red flowers?” she asked as she handed me the keys. “I can’t find it anywhere in the house, so can you check to see if I took it over there? And don’t work so hard…. Your father spent his whole life working hard so that you young ones could have some fun in life. You deserve to be happy. Take Sibel out, enjoy the spring air.” Then, pressing the keys into my hand, she gave me a strange look and said, “Be careful!” It was that look my mother would give us when we were children, to warn us that life held unsuspected traps that were far deeper and more treacherous than, for instance, any consequence of failing to take proper care of a key.
7 The Merhamet Apartments
MY MOTHER had bought the flat in the Merhamet Apartments twenty years earlier, partly as an investment, and partly as a place where she could retire occasionally for some peace and quiet; but before long she began to use it as a depot for old furniture she deemed to have gone out of fashion and new acquisitions that she immediately found tiresome. As a boy I had liked the back garden, where neighborhood children used to play football in the shade of the giant trees, and I had always loved the story my mother enjoyed telling about the name.
After Atatürk instructed the Turkish people to take surnames for themselves in 1934, it became fashionable to attach one’s new name to one’s newly constructed apartment building. Since in those days there was no consistent system for street names and numbers, and large, wealthy families tended to live collectively under one roof, just as they had done in the days of the Ottoman Empire, it made sense for the sake of navigating the city that these new apartment buildings be known by the name of the owners. (Many of the rich families I shall mention own eponymous apartment buildings.) Another aspirational fashion was for people to name buildings after high-minded principles; but my mother would say that those who gave their buildings names like Hürriyet (freedom), İnayet (benevolence), or Fazilet (charity) were generally the ones who had spent their entire lives making a mockery of those same virtues. The Merhamet (mercy) Apartments had been built by a rich old man who had controlled the black market in sugar during the First World War and later felt compelled to philanthropy. His two sons (the daughter of one of them was my classmate in primary school), upon discovering that their father planned to turn the apartment house over to a charity, distributing any income it generated to the poor, had their father declared incompetent and put him into a home for the indigent, whereupon they took possession of the building, but without bothering to change the name that I had found so peculiar as a child.
On the following day, Wednesday, April 30, 1975, I sat in the Merhamet Apartments between 2 and 4 p.m., waiting for Füsun, who never came. I was a little heartbroken and confused; returning to the office, I felt troubled. The next day I went back to the apartment, as if to temper my disquiet, but again Füsun didn’t come. Sitting in those airless rooms, surrounded by my mother’s old vases and dresses and dusty discarded furniture, going one by one through my father’s amateurish snapshots, I recalled moments from my childhood and youth that I hadn’t even realized I’d forgotten, and it seemed as if these artifacts had the power to calm my nerves. The next day, while eating lunch at Hacı Arif’s Restaurant in Beyoğlu with Abdülkerim, the Kayseri dealer of Satsat (and a friend from my army days), I recalled with shame that I had spent two consecutive afternoons waiting for Füsun in an empty apartment. I was so embarrassed I decided to forget about her, the fake handbag, and everything else. But twenty minutes later, as I glanced at my watch, it occurred to me that Füsun might be walking toward the Merhamet Apartments at that very moment with the refund for the handbag; making up a lie for Abdülkerim, I wolfed down my food and rushed off.
Twenty minutes after I got there, Füsun rang the bell. Or rather, the person who could only be Füsun rang the bell. As I ran to the door I remembered that the previous night I had opened the door to her in a dream.
In her hand was an umbrella. Her hair was dripping wet. She was wearing a yellow pointille dress.
“Well, well, well, I thought you’d forgotten all about me. Come on in.”
“I don’t want to disturb you. Let me just give you the money and go.” In her hand was a worn envelope on which were imprinted the words “Outstanding Achievement Course,” but I didn’t take it. Taking hold of her shoulder, I pulled her inside and shut the door.
“It’s raining hard,” I said, although I’d not noticed the rain myself. “Sit for a while. There’s no reason why you should rush out into the rain and get wet again so soon. I’m making some tea. At least warm yourself up.” I headed for the kitchen.
When I returned, Füsun was looking over my mother’s old furniture, her antiques, dusty clocks, hatboxes, and accessories. To make her feel more at home, and to encourage conversation, I told her how my mother had bought all these things on impulse from the most fashionable shops of Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı, pashas’ mansions whose furnishings were being sold off, Bosphorus yalis half destroyed by fire, antique dealers, and even vacated dervish lodges, not to mention all the shops she visited on her European travels, but that after using them for a short while she brought them here and forgot all about them. At the same time I was opening trunks packed with clothes reeking of mothballs, and the tricycle that we’d both ridden as children (my mother was in the habit of giving our old ones to poor relations), a chamber pot, and finally the Kütahya vase that my mother had asked me to find for her; then I showed her the hats, box by box.
A crystal sweet bowl reminded us of holiday feasts she had attended. When she’d arrive with her parents for their holiday visit, they’d be offered an assortment of sugar and almond candies, marzipan, sugar-covered coconut “lion bars,” and lokum, or Turkish delight.
“Once when we came here for the Feast of the Sacrifice, I remember we went out for a ride in the car,” said Füsun, her eyes shining.
I remembered that outing. “You were a child then,” I said. “Now you have become a very beautiful and enchanting young woman.”
“Thank you. I should leave now.”
“You haven’t even drunk your tea. And the rain hasn’t stopped.” I pulled her over to the balcony door, gently parting the tulle curtain. She looked out the window; in her eyes was the light that you see only in children arriving at a new place, or in young people still open to new influences, still curious about the world because they have not yet been scarred by life. For a moment I gazed longingly at her neck, the nape of her neck, and her fine complexion, which made her cheeks so beautiful, and the countless freckles on her skin, which were invisible from a distance (hadn’t my grandmother had such freckles?). My hand, as if it was someone else’s, reached out and took hold of the barrette in her hair. Painted on it were four sprigs of verbena.
“Your hair is very wet.”
“Did you tell anyone that I cried in the shop?”
“No. But I’m very curious to know what made you cry.”
“I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about you,” I said. “You’re very beautiful, very different from anyone else. I remember so well what a lovely little dark-haired girl you were. But I never imagined you would turn into such a beauty.”
She smiled the measured smile of well-mannered beauties accustomed to compliments, but at the same time she raised her eyebrows in suspicion. There was a silence. She took one step back.
“So what did Şenay Hanım say?” I asked, changing the subject. “Did she happen to acknowledge that the handbag was a fake anyway?”
“She was very annoyed when she realized you had demanded your money back, but she didn’t want to make a drama about it. She told me just to forget the whole thing. She knew the bag was a fake, I guess. She doesn’t know I’m here. I told her that you’d stopped by at lunchtime to collect the money. I really have to go now.”
“But you haven’t had your tea!”
I brought the tea in from the kitchen. I watched her as she blew lightly on the surface to cool it, before taking careful, hurried sips. I was caught between admiration and shame, tenderness and joy…. Again answering its own will, my hand reached out to caress her hair. I brought my face close to hers; seeing that she did not pull away, I gave her a quick delicate kiss on the side of her lips. She blushed. As she was holding the hot teacup with both hands, she couldn’t defend herself. She was both angry and confused. I could see this, too.
“I like kissing,” she said proudly. “But now, with you, of course it is out of the question.”
“Have you done a lot of kissing?” I asked, in a clumsy imitation of a child.
“I’ve kissed, of course. But that’s all.”
With a look to suggest that men, alas, were all alike, she cast her eyes around the room one last time, eyeing the furniture, and the bed with blue sheets in the corner, which, with evil intentions, I had contrived to leave half made. She had sized up the situation, but I—perhaps out of shame—could think of no way to keep the game going.
When I’d arrived, I’d found sitting on a chest a fez of the type they make for tourists, and I’d placed it on a coffee table as a sort of ironic statement. Now I could see that when I’d gone to fetch the tea she’d left the money envelope propped against it. She saw me notice the envelope against the fez but still she said, “I left the money over there.”
“You can’t leave until you’ve finished your tea.”
“It’s getting late,” she said, a little more assertively, but she didn’t leave.
As we drank our tea, we chatted about our relatives, our childhood years, and our shared memories, and we spoke ill of no one. They had all been afraid of my mother, for whom her mother had a great deal of respect, but who, when Füsun was a child, had been so attentive to her; when her mother came to sew, my mother would lay out our toys for her—our windup animals, the dog and the chicken, which Füsun loved so much but was afraid of breaking. Every year, until the beauty contest, my mother had sent our chauffeur Çetin Efendi over to bring her a present on her birthday: There had been a kaleidoscope, for example, and she still had it…. If my mother sent her a dress, she would always get it a few sizes too big lest the girl outgrow it too quickly. So there had been a tartan skirt fastened with a large safety pin that Füsun had been unable to wear for a whole year: She loved it so much that even later, when it was not in fashion, she’d worn it as a miniskirt. I told her that I had seen her in Nişantaşı once wearing that skirt. We changed the subject to avoid mentioning her fine waist and her beautiful legs. There was an uncle Süreyya who was not right in the head. Every time he came from Germany, he would pay ceremonious visits to all the branches of the family, now mostly scattered and out of touch, but thanks to him, they were all kept aware of what the others were doing.
“That time we came to visit you for the Feast of the Sacrifice and you and I went out in the car—Uncle Süreyya was in the house that day, too,” said Füsun excitedly. She threw on her raincoat and she began to hunt for her umbrella. She couldn’t find it, because on one of my trips to the kitchen I’d thrown it behind the mirrored wardrobe ın the entrance hall.
“Do you remember where you left it?” I said as I helped her conduct a thorough search.
“I think I left it here,” she said innocently, pointing at the mirrored wardrobe.
As we scoured the apartment, looking even in the most unlikely places, I asked her what she did in her “spare time”—as it was called in the celebrity magazines. The year before, she had not scored high enough on her university entrance exam to gain admission to the university course of study she had wanted. So now, whatever time she had left over from the Şanzelize Boutique, she spent on the Outstanding Achievement Course. There were only forty-five days left before this year’s examination, so she was studying very hard.
“What course do you want to take?”
“I don’t know,” she said, a bit embarrassed. “What I’d like, actually, is to go to the conservatory to train as an actress.”
“Those classes are good for nothing; they’re all in it for profit, every last one of them,” I said. “If you find you’re struggling, especially with mathematics, why don’t you come over, since I’m here working every afternoon? I can teach you quickly.”
“Do you help other girls with mathematics?” she asked mockingly, raising her eyebrows in that way again.
“There are no other girls.”
“Sibel Hanım comes to our shop. She’s very beautiful, and very charming, too. When are you getting married?”
“The engagement party is in a month and a half. Will this umbrella suit you?” I said, offering her a parasol my mother had brought back from Nice. She said that of course she could not return to the shop with such an oddity. She wanted to leave now and was prepared to abandon her umbrella. “The rain has stopped,” she said joyfully. As she opened the door, I panicked, thinking I might never see her again.
“Please, come again and we’ll just drink tea,” I said.
“Don’t be angry, Kemal, but I don’t want to come back. And you know I am not going to. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you kissed me.”
“What about the umbrella?”
“The umbrella belongs to Şenay Hanım but it can stay here,” she said, giving me a kiss on the cheek that was hasty but not devoid of emotion.
8 Turkey’s First Fruit Soda
HERE I am exhibiting the newspaper advertisements, the commercials, and the bottles of strawberry, peach, orange, and sour cherry flavors of Turkey’s first domestic fruit soda, Meltem, in memory of our optimism and the happy-go-lucky spirit of the day. That evening Zaim was celebrating the launch of his new product with an extravagant party in his perfectly situated Ayaspaşa apartment which had a sweeping view of the Bosphorus. Our whole group would be together again. Sibel was happy to be among my rich friends—she enjoyed the yacht trips down the Bosphorus, the surprise birthday parties, and the nights at clubs, which would end with all of us piling into our cars to roam the streets of Istanbul—but she didn’t like Zaim. She thought he was a show-off, too much a playboy and rather “coarse;” and his party tricks—like the “surprise” belly dancer at the end of the evening or his habit of lighting girls’ cigarettes with a lighter bearing the Playboy logo—she found “banal.” Sibel was even more disapproving of his dalliances with minor actresses and models (the latter a new phenomenon in Turkey, and still viewed with suspicion), whom he knew of course he would never marry, on account of their being known to have had sex; nor could she bear his misleading the nice girls he also took out with no intention of letting a relationship develop. That is why, when I phoned her to say that I was feeling unwell and unable to attend the party, or to go out at all, I was surprised to find Sibel disappointed.
“They say the German model in the Meltem campaign is going to be there!” Sibel said.
“But I thought you felt that Zaim was a bad influence on me….”
“If you can’t even drag yourself to a Zaim party, you really must be sick. Now you have me worried. Shall I come over?”
“There’s no need. My mother and Fatma Hanım are looking after me. I should be fine by tomorrow.”
As I stretched out on my bed, fully clothed, I thought about Füsun; I decided once more to forget her, in fact never to see her again for as long as I lived.
THE NEXT day, May 3, 1975, Füsun arrived at the Merhamet Apartments at half past two in the afternoon and for the first time in her life she made love. I did not go to the apartment that day with the hope of seeing her. As I tell my story so many years later, I wonder how this could be true, but on that day it honestly hadn’t occurred to me that she might appear…. I’d been thinking about what we’d talked about the day before, and our common childhood possessions, and my mother’s antiques, the old clocks, the tricycle, the strange light in the dim apartment, the smell of dust and decay, and I longed to be alone, to gaze down at that back garden…. These must have been the thoughts that drew me there. True, I wanted to reflect on our meeting the day before, to relive it, to pick up Füsun’s teacups and wash them, to tidy my mother’s belongings and forget my transgression. While I was tidying up the room, I found a picture my father had taken from the back room, showing the bed, the window, and the garden, and it struck me how very little the place had changed in all those years. When the doorbell rang, my first thought was “Mother!”
“I came to collect my umbrella,” said Füsun.
She wouldn’t come in. “Why don’t you come in?” I said. For a moment she hesitated. Perhaps deciding it would be rude to stand there at the door, she stepped inside. I shut the door behind her. This is the fuchsia dress in which she appeared to mesmerizing effect that day, with its white buttons and the white belt with the large buckle, which made her waist seem all the more slender. In my youth, I like so many other men had found myself unnerved by girls I found beautiful and mysterious; my way of overcoming this unease was blunt candor, and though I thought I had outgrown this frankness and innocence, I was wrong: “Your umbrella is here,” I said. Reaching behind the mirrored wardrobe, I didn’t even ask myself why I hadn’t retrieved it beforehand.
“How did it get back there?”
“Actually, I hid it there yesterday, so that you wouldn’t leave right away.”
For a moment she was not sure whether to smile or scowl. Taking her by the hand, I led her into the kitchen, on the pretext of making tea. It was dark in the kitchen and smelled of dust and damp. Everything speeded up once we were in there; unable to restrain ourselves, we began to kiss. The kisses got longer and more passionate. She gave so much of herself away with those kisses, wrapping her arms around my neck and shutting her eyes so tightly, that I sensed the prospect of “going all the way,” as was said.
Since she was a virgin this could not happen, of course. Though as our kissing continued, there was a moment when it dawned on me that Füsun had perhaps made one of the most important decisions of her life in coming here. I quickly reminded myself, however, that such things only happened in foreign films. It seemed strange that a girl would suddenly choose to give herself to me here, of all places. So, perhaps, I reasoned, she wasn’t actually a virgin at all….
Kissing still, we left the kitchen and sat down on the edge of the bed, and with scarcely any coyness, though never once looking each other in the eye, we took off most of our clothes and slipped under the blanket. The rough blanket was too heavy and scratched my skin, just as it had done when I was a child, so after a while I pulled it off, and we lay there, half naked. We were both perspiring, and for some reason this relaxed us. The sun filtering through the drawn curtains was a yellowish orange, and that made her moist skin look more tanned than it was. That Füsun could look at my body as I could hers, that she could gaze down at my nether regions so near her without panicking, that, far from finding it strange, she could even look at my sex with calm desire and something akin to tenderness—seemed proof enough that she had seen other men naked in other beds, on divans and car seats, and that made me jealous.
Soon the worried looks we were giving each other betrayed how daunted we both were by the difficult task we’d set ourselves. Füsun removed her earrings (one of which is now the first exhibit in our museum) and placed them on the side table. She did this as carefully as a nearsighted girl might remove her glasses before swimming, and once again I sensed her determination. In those days it was the style for young people to wear bracelets, necklaces, and rings bearing their names or initials but that afternoon I didn’t notice if her earrings were of this kind. But once she had peeled off her outer garments item by item, she removed her little panties in the same purposeful manner and I saw the indisputable evidence of what she was prepared to do. In those days, girls who did not wish to “go all the way” were in the habit of keeping at least their panties on, as Western girls might when trying to sun themselves.
I kissed her shoulders, which smelled of almond, and with my tongue I felt her damp velvety skin, and when I saw that even by May her breasts were one shade lighter than her robust Mediterranean skin, I shivered. If the lycée teachers studying this book in their class are now beginning to get nervous, they can advise the students to skip this page. If there are visitors to my museum who wish to know more, I would suggest that they kindly cast their eyes on the furnishings; the scene will be enough to make them understand that what I had to do I did first and foremost for Füsun, looking at me with such frightened and sorrowful eyes, and second for our common good, and only after all these imperatives were satisfied, just a little for my own pleasure. It was as if we were hoping to overcome an obstacle that life had thrown in our way. So as her eyes stared into mine and as I pressed against her uttering tender words, asking, Does it hurt, darling?, her silence did not alarm me. At the moment when we were closest I felt the fragility of her trembling so deeply (think of sunflowers quivering in a faint breeze) it was as if her pain became mine.
Seeing her eyes slip away to examine the lower regions of her body with a doctor’s scrutiny, I understood that she wanted to experience this alone, and I wanted to finish what I was doing, to concentrate on my own satisfaction so that I could emerge from this arduous challenge feeling some relief. By now we both intuitively knew that to savor fully the pleasures that would bind us together meant to savor them in solitude as well; in that merciless embrace, greedy and unsparing, we were using each other for our own ple