Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blood Soaked Dresses

Among the many delicate books I’ve recieved over past two months, one of them especially drew my interest for a number of reasons.
It was a poetry collection called “Blood Soaked Dresses” by Gloria Mindock, the woman who handles the editorial position of Istanbul Literature Review ever since she took over it. Another reason was the theme of the book- El Salvador Massacare.
In Blood Soaked Dresses, the poet tells the story in five beautiful and well organised chapters: The Atrocities, Countryside Thoughts, Hearts, Exile and Looking Back. What makes this collection this unique for me is that Gloria is literally living the story as she is telling it. The events on this 62 page-collection frequently give you shivers from up and down your spine and you are always a subject to a set of emotions.

In El Mozote she says:
Bones on the side of the path
are collected, put into sacks.
I want to grab them. Empty them
On the ground and make a pattern.
How many sacks must I have to do this?
This is like playing pick-up sticks.

And she further develops her thoughts in Knife:
I am in pieces.
I close my eyes and cry slowly as
to not flood myself.

On the rear cover, John Minczeski says “A poet must never shy from necessary, no matter how hard it is. In poetry, that is both elegant and brutal, Gloria Mindock exposes the horror of the Salvadorian conflict especially on women…” This is an idea any poetry reader in today’s world should definetely agree with. And that’s what she really mastered in the book.

Back to the poems, as a closing scene, in the final poem Hope she says:
Everything means something to me.
I store my own leaves
of darkness
so do not worry.
Death moves at a incredible speed
but I move faster.
So fast in fact, that the boundaries between us
Can only dream.

Blood Soaked Dresses has a documentary quality. The dreadful events took place in El Mozote is ot something to forget and with these set of poems, the picture grows more vivid than ever in our memories.
A big congratulations to my dear friend Gloria.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Istrati's Misery

It’s not that geographic proximity that attracts me to Panait Istrati, but it’s the proximity in literary terms. Well, that’s to say, being a man of true friendship, Adrian Zogaffi is one of my long-time companions.

I first met Zogaffi in Istrati’s Mediterranean – as far as I’m concerned his most successful novel- and impressed by the overwhelming characters and the genius plot. And then came Unchle Angel, Mes Departs, Kyra Kyralina and many other masterpieces. If most of the authorities do not include his works in their classics list, that’s just because we oversaw him. Unlike what he deserved, few know his name and even fewer know his intelligent work.

Istrati’s life is an interesting story, itself. He was first discovered by the infamous French author Romain Rolland and was constantly encouraged by him. This royal support resulted in his first novel, Kyra Kyralina which Rolland claimed was the greatest novel of the time. But one thing, he was writing in French and this was a distress for Istrati. On many occasions, he stated how difficult it was to write in a language in which he had no proficiency. Before putting together a sentence, he was looking up the dictionary for hours.

Istrati had a deep sympathy for communism throughout the first half of his life. He wrote a number of articles for periodicals in Romania. Later on, in 1927, he was invited to the 10th year anniversary of the October Revolution with the close friend of his, Nikos Kazantzakis. He even applied for soviet citizenship, but his application was gone unanswered. Shortly after that, he traveled to USSR and consequently, he lost all his belief in the ideology.

He drew every little sentence from his own life. His experiences are clearly visible. Towards the end of his life, he wrote “The man who will adhere to nothing” and his was the most remarkable experience of him.

Taking my childhood and early life into account, Adrian Zogaffi was virtually what I had beside me for years even if I did not know him until I was 20. Devoted, sincere and always supportive. Because of the occupation my father has, we were always on the move. Therefore, I failed to make any constant friendship at those fragile times of childhood and that was what I was longing for. I just found out the name of my friend who never left me traveling from city to city. Nostalgia or something, I couldn’t help recalling subtle memories between the lines.

And the end of the story. As his time was fast approaching, he was dying slowly. Dying of tuberculosis outside, and of a desperate love inside. He had no one around him when he bid farewell.

But Zogaffi is accompanying us all along our way and we are never deprived of his true friendship.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Top of My Bookshelf

Many of my friends often ask me the infamous question. Since it's such a challenging task, I refrain from answering it.

What is your top 10 of all time?

Yes, it's challenging, because when you have a great number of books you keep reading again and again, how can you pick some of them and label as the Top 10? Perhaps it depends on the mood you are in, season of the year and many other factors.

Anyway, I eventually decided to declare my personal Top 10 here. But considering what I've just mentioned above, maybe I should do this here periodically.
Now, let's take a look at the top of my bookshelf:

1. The Devil Tree by Jerzy Kosinski

2. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

4. War and Piece by Lev Tolstoy

5. Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell

6. White Nights by Fyodor Dostoevsky

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

8. Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

9. My Sweet Orange Tree by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos

10. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Probably that's it for this season of the year. But I may give you a totally different list six months after. Well, wouldn't you do so?

That's the joy of literature.