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This text was kind­ly entrust­ed to us by the author in order to share it with our readers.

Mid-June: There I am, at night behind a pic­ture win­dow, at the end of an end­less hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dor… “Panoram­ic” they call this view out on the world offered to the patients who can still ambu­la­to­ry, large impec­ca­bly trans­par­ent win­dows open­ing out on an “out­side world” made of promis­es of a future and revived mem­o­ries, and that can­not be opened even by one mil­lime­ter. Out­side, the storm. Howls from the wind muf­fle the famil­iar sounds from the hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dor – cough­ing fits, heavy steps, dumb, limp­ing, bursts from the tele­vi­sion, a bell des­per­ate­ly call­ing the nurse – they lead the night towards its depths, its abysses, its secret dark­ness. For the first time in five months, I con­tem­plate Berlin search­ing for an image to car­ry away with me. The city and I, face to face on both sides of a huge win­dow that does­n’t open, sus­pi­cious and mute, look­ing at one anoth­er. And in this dou­ble gaze closed to all appeals, all promis­es, we both grieve a bit more… The deaf gran­ite pro­file of the city eras­es my frail sil­hou­ette as you would erase a stain. Plunged in the night that bars dream­ing of else­where, of anoth­er time, the night bars the access to all words… I walked, walked, pac­ing the long unhap­py cor­ri­dors of fate, to come to a stand­still in front of the glass wall. Floods, tor­rents of rain, end of the world… It is too late now for a tale where life cross­es my road, every­thing is too murky… The dove escap­ing from this ulti­mate flood car­ries no olive branch in its beak.

Jan­u­ary: After an autumn spent in the hos­pi­tal, med­ical exams, etc, some­what recov­ered, I set­tle in Berlin after a four-month delay. In Gene­va, they inter­pret Mozart’s The Abduc­tion from the Seraglio on the text from The Mirac­u­lous Man­darin, in a pro­duc­tion by Luk Perce­val. First trip in months! Per­haps the road that will lead me back to writ­ing, no mat­ter how life­less, pass­es through this town where I wrote my first two books! On the final two days in Gene­va, I am placed under police pro­tec­tion because of death threats.

Feb­ru­ary: the ver­dict of my tri­al, now ongo­ing for three and a half years, will be pro­nounced this month. The pros­e­cu­tor is requir­ing nine years. Wait­ing for news I will not be able to face alone, I go to Paris.

Valen­tine’s Day: I AM ACQUITTED!!! When I receive the ver­dict, sit­ting next to amazed gen­darmes, I cry like a child for sev­er­al min­utes. In a café, place Saint-Sulpice, I cry. As it becomes con­crete, my hap­pi­ness veers toward sad­ness, or the opposite…

Plans, pro­grams… At the end of the month, pub­li­ca­tion of The City in Crim­son Cloak in Italy, of Requiem for a lost town in France, trans­lat­ed for the first time, of the Stone Build­ing in Spain. Three months of trav­el­ling between Italy, France and Spain! I look at the world sud­den­ly open­ing up before me, like Lazarus return­ing from the dead…

March: PANDEMIC! On the last day pri­or to con­fine­ment, I make an emer­gency vis­it to the hair dresser’s, vis­it the Geno­cide Muse­um. Masks and toi­let paper are not to be found. All pro­grams annulled. The Span­ish pub­lish­er moves back the release date of The City in Crim­som Cloak, like a still-born await­ing bur­ial in Milan’s closed book stores.

Fear and anguish land on me, lat­er than expect­ed no doubt, but mas­sive­ly, implaca­bly. The night­mare begins.

April 1st: the med­ical doc­tor I’m see­ing for a rou­tine check-up sud­den­ly starts to pan­ic. Fever. On the morn­ing fol­low­ing an infer­nal night, for the first time, I can no longer breathe. Ambulance.

April 2: Hos­pi­tal. The prob­lem: in an unex­pect­ed place, my heart, this heart in which I have always trusted…

Sun­day night: Very late. My moth­er calls. Pan­icked… In the retire­ment home where she lives, every­one is forced to take a test.

Three days lat­er: my moth­er’s tone of voice on the phone, calm, poised. Too calm… She says the test results are not avail­able yet. I know this voice that crossed the wall of fear and anguish on the day when, I also knew I was going to be arrest­ed, I had tak­en one step beyond fear, I had sud­den­ly become calm, very calm, like at no oth­er time in my life. And now, even on the phone, I can rec­og­nize the voic­es from hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dors (or from prison)…

My moth­er in the hos­pi­tal, I sense that wor­ry will make me lose my mind.

The fol­low­ing week: the media takes hold of the scan­dal. Some fifty women from a retire­ment home were forcibly pushed on to a bus, on a Sun­day night, in the mid­dle of the night, to be tak­en to the hos­pi­tal. Faint­ing, cries, howls, good­byes… My moth­er is among these women who are dragged to the hos­pi­tal, she spends the first night in a packed cor­ri­dor, crammed in with the oth­ers. In a few days, they are sub­mit­ted again to test­ing, then every­one is lib­er­at­ed at once, or rather, thown out on the street. The retire­ment home, argu­ing risks of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from the hos­pi­tal, refus­es the return of dozens of women, includ­ing my mother.

May: fear, anguish, depres­sion, insom­nia… Youtube doc­u­men­taries, meet­ings on Zoom. Spring is already here, but I can­not find a sin­gle rea­son to step out­side my place. The hos­pi­tal, again…

Mid-June: With grave and deter­mined faces, four med­ical doc­tors, the head of the Depart­ment and his assis­tants, enter my room. I under­stand… The diag­no­sis has been estab­lished. I suf­fer from an auto-immune dis­ease for which there is no cure, one of the rarest in exis­tence. Very rare, very vio­lent… Despite the pan­dem­ic, my immune sys­tem must urgent­ly be weak­ened, I must begin chemother­a­py on that very day… My eyes fill with tears, “I am in exile”, I say as my only reply… Every­one under­stand what I have real­ized: the per­pe­tu­ity of this exile, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of a return… But I am the only one who can under­stand the mean­ing of the sen­tence that fol­lows: per­haps I will go to Paris. A love sto­ry, they must have thought.

To whom could I explain this? It was in this city, Paris, that I was acquit­ted for the first time, where I saw all the roads open­ing before me, where I cried the tears of Lazarus in a café on place Saint-Sulpice. For the first and for the last time.

Evening, in the gar­den of the hos­pi­tal. On the oth­er side of the gates, a heli­copter takes off, the pilots salute a woman of whom we under­stand that she is ill, con­demned… I open my palms, I release all the doves that have sur­vived the flood, toward the East, toward the hori­zon, toward the hori­zon of return.

P.S.: Sev­er­al months after the legal delay has expired, against every fun­da­men­tal rule of law, my tri­al begins again in Istan­bul, instruct­ed by anoth­er prosecutor.

Aslı Erdoğan


Illustration: by Naz Oke
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges, from the French version by Julien Lapeyre de Cabanes, at the author’s request.
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