Thursday, January 11, 2007


The most interesting chapter up to now in Ohran Pamuk’s book Istanbul is the one dealing with Hüzün, Turkisch for a specific kind of melancholy that pervades the city and marks its inhabitants. The grand era, the epic historic epoch of the country has been over for a while and the city’s grandeur is dilapidating, crumbling taking on the color of decay. The Haya Sofia looks like a old women with a worn body after a long hard life. Yet there is always the Bosphorus for Sunday outings, a clean air of sea that clears one’s mind. The city's old wooden houses are gray in summer and deep watersoaked black in winter. People live on the moods of their environment and the feeling is perceived and accepted as collective to the real Istanbulis. In Western literature melancholy, sadness, spleen, the French tristesse are portrayed as individual feelings. Sometimes so individual, that suffering from them turned a character into a hero. Other individuals, the readers of these novels or poems, embraced these heroes because they recognized that individual suffering, which was almost like a badge of honor. For a while now, I have been thinking and wandering through the desert and the dead end streets of this town nestled in the hills. All streets are deadend streets on both ends, except two streets that connect to some or other road on one end. Here too summer and winter carries its specific mood. Above 100° F, days on end in July or August, brings a languid fluidity to the body and soul. There is a dampening of the spirit, a low energy, that makes talking slower, thinking syrupy. Or if this goes on too long, tempers flare, the sharp light flattening everything, erasing nuances. Craziness comes to some, while others raise their shoulders, or if that is too much work, their eyebrows and stay in their stupor of tans, browns, dry dirt dustdevil days moistened by alcohol. Nothing happens, nothing gets done, the whole town lays paralyzed, in a coma, in a near death experience. In winter, the wind carries cold, bitterness. People refrain from talking, close up their yesterday’s too hot homes, look for wood, for warmth. Everything seems more monochrome, cactus, agaves and Joshua trees subdued by their muted green. The rust of centuries is the boldest statement of the season after the Christmas lights have been taken down. So peoples souls catch cold, close up, thinking closes down in perceived fatalistic futility. The mood is shared, it is tangible in it’s accepted discontent. And yet, we here have no word for this, unless it the ‘cattleguard blues’.

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