Français | English

I was taught to always begin a short sto­ry with a pret­ty word, a note, a love­ly sen­tence out of con­text. A real coun­ter­feit­er’s job. That way the male read­er would be car­ried away, the female read­er conquered.

If the word was filled with ori­en­tal­ism, if it sug­gest­ed the Bospho­rus, the sen­tence would linger like the smoke from a vapur. Don’t for­get to describe the cry of the seag­ull fly­ing by, to under­line the dis­tress of the love­less woman writer, the cold seep­ing into the August evening.

At that point, the prey is almost inside the cage. You have man­aged to hold him all the way to the sev­enth line, the exact num­ber of a cat’s lives.

But I’ve for­got­ten this lying, false poet­ry. I have become deval­ued by con­tact with the real.

So ask you­self how I, a mere Kedis­tan scrib­bler, can appre­hend as a jour­nal­ist, the mys­te­ri­ous alche­my of emp­ty words expa­ti­at­ing on caged Art?

Luck­i­ly, I can do with­out when, set­ting aside time spent review­ing the trans­la­tion of her let­ters, I sim­ply  put impres­sions on images giv­en to see with eyes wide open by Zehra Doğan.

She would hate it if, com­fort­ably sit­ting in front of screen, we talked about her as a vic­tim, and devel­opped pathos drag­ging her to the depths where an adven­turess would have lost her­self, where float­ing pale and enrap­tured, a thought­ful drowned one some­times descends… To make peo­ple cry and moan is an easy way to carve out a stat­ue for a lucky two-bit humanist.

Zehra, and her co-detainees with her, will nev­er claim the role of vic­tim the Ankara Ubu Reis wish­es them to play. Nor does she, at twen­ty-eight, aspire to that of Antigone or that of K. No doubt, she is held pris­on­er by absurd walls in a stone cas­tle, but she claims their dis­ap­pear­ance and her freedom.

 ” I used to fear that in the absolute dark­ness of the walls built around me, with no knowl­edge of my roots, I would set­tle into the sit­u­a­tion, rec­on­cile myself with the per­se­cu­tion to which I am sub­ject­ed, that I would lock myself into the jail of my inner world. 

If truth be told, it is eas­i­er to get rid of the jail in its con­crete aspect than to extract one’s self from the jail of one’s own ego. For it is much eas­i­er to build up in your head the dis­gust­ing per­cep­tion of this jail which then appears before your eyes with great clar­i­ty, in all its naked­ness. You must car­ry out this inter­nal bat­tle 24 hours a day. And this strug­gle frees your thoughts. We are in a con­stant exis­ten­tial bat­tle and we learn to stand tall, head straight, fac­ing this will to anni­hi­late us. 

In this space where every­thing is con­stant­ly restrict­ed, where even a pen­cil is hard to find, I will learn how to cre­ate exis­tence out of a void.”

Last Octo­ber when her jail­ers con­fis­cat­ed the works she was exfil­trat­ing one after the oth­er, she must have dried a tear, no doubt, but expect­ed none from oth­ers, and espe­cial­ly not from the dramatizers.

Sev­er­al months spent in the din of a town under siege, with only com­pan­ion the smell of blood, teach­es you not to ask for peo­ple to cry over you. So “false poets with paper han­kies”, move on!

Zehra draws, Zehra paints, Zehra writes. She trans­forms the dai­ly real­i­ty of col­lec­tive con­fine­ment into tiny space for thought, exchanges, learn­ing. Words on so many ills.

” I set aside 4 hours every day with one of my co-detainees to write a nov­el based on her life sto­ry. I draw and I paint when­ev­er I can. And I’ve also start­ed giv­ing draw­ing class­es to my friends here. In a way, I social­ize art in my fash­ion. They love to draw. Soon, I’ll be able to teach them how to make a paint­brush out of bird feath­ers found in the yard.” 

So, these same free birds have brought here draw­ings, can­vass­es, com­po­si­tions that slow­ly, will be exhib­it­ed on white walls, like so many traces of fresh blood.

In her draw­ings, in the col­ors hasti­ly thrown on news­pa­per, are mixed rem­i­nis­cences of Edvard Munch’s Cry, and of The Rite of Spring where the Turk­ish State sac­ri­ficed a young musi­cian, the way a tor­tured body is offered up to geno­cide. “No, Kemal Kurkut was not a human bomb”, the title read on a paper that will yel­low with age. She paint­ed what her eyes, even wide open, could not see from with­in her tem­po­rary refuge, while she went in hid­ing await­ing her prison term in the ear­ly months of 2017. No doubt, she paint­ed it with thoughts of her loathing of the deaths she wit­nessed in Nusay­bin’s shat­tered decom­po­si­tion. The young man holds the water of life in his hands and his head sounds like a break­ing violin.

As a shaman would have done to ward off death by dip­ping the chick­en’s paw in the blood of the car­cass, Zehra could not keep her­self from putting her own red hand on the paper.

On the right, in black and white, the police will hold the pose for all eter­ni­ty, weapon in hand, as a reminder of the State’s pow­er. On all the pub­lic squares in Turkey, the stat­ues have nev­er done a bet­ter job. See the Turk’s pow­er!

It is Kemal Kurkut being assassinated.

How many black and white pho­tos were done at Babi Yar?
How many fin­gers had Vic­tor Jara ?

Off-top­ic, they will yell at me. Wrong note.


Added 21 March 2021:

Zehra has since been released. This work is now in the col­lec­tions of the MUCEM in Marseille.

For more infor­ma­tion, con­sult the spe­cial dossier on Zehra Doğan

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Daniel Fleury on FacebookDaniel Fleury on Twitter
Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…