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The 90s… such a dark, evil time it was! And now? Is it so much different?

- No, don’t say that, don’t say it that way, answered the woman Makbule…

It was “Lovers’ Day” and it was rain­ing. I was wet, I was wound­ed and I nev­er recovered…

The wild hon­ey of the area is famous, because flow­ers grow here on these moun­tains that you don’t find any­where else. Every plant is a cure to a thou­sand ills, such as Luq­man the wise. They say this is where you find the roots of the tree that awakes the dead, the roots bleed when you scrape them. In the spring, the scent of thyme spreads from here to all cor­ners. This exha­la­tion is like a sis­ter soul, like the musk and amber ema­nat­ing from paradise.

Only the does and peo­ple like Mak­bule know these moun­tains paths.

Makbule’s vil­lage is a small moun­tain ham­let. It holds some ten, or let’s say 15 house­holds, all of them relat­ed…. It is one of these vil­lages set in the high moun­tains, from afar like look like stork nests perched at the top of cliffs, where the inhab­i­tants nev­er hear oth­er voic­es than their own, where not even the trace of a stranger can be found, a desert­ed, iso­lat­ed vil­lage where unknowns nev­er set foot.

At the utmost edge of this vil­lage, built on a rock face dom­i­nat­ing the cliff, a stone house, detached from the oth­ers, dis­tant, remote… It faces the oth­er build­ings with a melt­ed heart, melt­ed by soli­tude, it bur­rows in its inner­most depths, it remains enclosed with­in itself. No one can guess at the hell reign­ing inside this house, no one can hear it, no one can… Bewitched, each pain suf­fered here is a deep and impen­e­tra­ble secret. No vis­its, no table laid out guests, nev­er so much as a sin­gle cup of water as a share for a visitor.

Hasan and Mak­bule had 9 chil­dren. In the spring, Hasan would grab his mason’s trow­el, his pick­axe and his chis­el and take off to build stone hous­es. Hasan was a mas­ter mason. He took roads nev­er fol­lowed by con­voys or birds, he built new homes on the lips of moun­tains. He worked for three sea­sons, con­sumed the rev­enue of his labor in the vil­lage where the road was shut off dur­ing the win­ter; he took to the roads again in the spring, built new hous­es… this was how he lived…

Hasan did not talk much at home. His was  of a self­ish nature. Some­times, he kept his earn­ings against his chest and it also hap­pened some­times that he did not return home for the whole win­ter. Edirne, Amasya, Adana and oth­er sim­i­lar towns, were  where he wan­dered and when his mon­ey ran out, he would come back as if noth­ing had hap­pened, take shel­ter in this house on the edge of the cliff. In this house that became his refuge once again, after his mean­der­ings from town to town, after spend­ing every­thing he had earned, he had fits of anger that explod­ed over noth­ing. He beat Mak­bule to the point of break­ing her bones. Mak­bule was as frayed as threshed cotton.

He car­ried a long and thin oak staff and let him not hear a sin­gle child mak­ing the slight­est noise, he would draw his blood from head to foot. Every­one was afraid of him, ter­rorised, every soul in the house scat­tered into the cor­ners, petrified.

Frozen pupils, cold eyes, this Hasan who glared at you with the warm­nth of a corpse whose nose the size of an egg­plant he blew  con­stant­ly, this life­less, jeal­ous, self­ish, unfeel­ing man was the supreme author­i­ty in his home. He was like a State, the name of which was always men­tioned rel­a­tive to vio­lence. All deci­sions and author­i­ty belonged to him, “Hasan the Male”.

Mak­bule was an attrac­tive woman… A frail woman, as pret­ty as the excep­tion­al flow­ers grow­ing on these beau­ti­ful moun­tains. When she was still just a young growth in his vil­lage, as fresh as a green twig, one night Hasan clapped her mouth shut, loaded her on his back and abduct­ed her. Hasan and Mak­bule are relat­ed. No one said a word about this abduc­tion. And from this day on, Mak­bule became a chained slave in Hasan’s hands, “come here Mak­bule, go away Mak­bule, die Makbule…”

Mak­bule only knew how to say “ahh­hh”. This “ah” was some­times so deep, so ter­ri­fy­ing  that, like a rock tear­ing itself from a moun­tain, it would crash loud­ly to the ground. Where it  would break in the field, in sharp sliv­ers pierc­ing your very heart. Her “ah” from deep inside her, wound­ed all those who heard it, because it con­tained all of death in one syllable.

She was hard-work­ing and pro­duc­tive, Mak­bule, but always alone. She was her only friend. She only talked to her­self, only argued against her­self, she expressed all her anger on her­self until her mouth foamed with it. Makbule’s strength was only suf­fi­cient for herself.

Snow fell on the land, the pains poured down, the young seedlings turned into trees, laden with fruit. The chil­dren in the stone house grew over time. This stone house, this house with a stone-heart­ed father, fed the desire to leave, the ambi­tion for a high­er posi­tion, the hur­ry to tear one’s self away from the moun­tain and go the town and re-clas­si­fy one’s self.

They reg­is­tered the chil­dren as board­ers in State schools. As time went by, they filled their school desks, rose accord­ing to the brand name on the back of their neck­ties. They for­got the mis­er­able rur­al life, they changed. They were no longer pari­ahs, they were proud. They now had petit bour­geois lives and looked down on the poor as con­temptible and piti­ful beings…

Hence­forth, they were the mas­ters of the world. Each of them had flown off like an eaglet toward heav­i­ly pro­le­tar­i­an towns where they became small Hasans. They had become peo­ple who both denied their own selves, cut­ting off their roots, as well as filled with them­selves and them­selves only.

No one was bet­ter, more impor­tant, more lead­ing edge than they were.

They were per­fect­ly self­ish. They wouldn’t even have peed on a wound­ed fin­ger, each door on which they knocked, it was for per­son­al inter­est and gain, they would have stepped on the back of a mis­er­able one in their way, with­out car­ing about his tears, they would have crushed him and gone on their way. With­out so much as turn­ing around, if only to see what had become of him.

All ends, all means, all noto­ri­ety were owed to them, as a right…They were to mar­ry either the ones with the rich­est dowries or again, the most beau­ti­ful. Which is what they did… They made their way with­out pro­vid­ing the slight­est glimpse at the secret to the self­ish­ness of the stone house, plant­ed like knives in the soft­est of bellies.

They were undis­tin­guis­able the one from the oth­er, all pro­duced in the same mold, and all of them were Hasans…

It was on a Lovers’ Day. Like in a tale, and the sky had split open giv­ing birth to rain pour­ing in streams and del­uges on the plaine of Harput.

How could the plaine of Harput know the slight­est thing about these Hasans, all car­bon copies of one anoth­er? Long tables were set up, a loaf of bread was split into forty shares, dis­trib­uted among forty house­holds. Syrups were poured in slim-waist­ed glass­es, liven­ing the throats of young girls and beard­less orphans. Red apples were sent to the dervishes…

An “Ağır halay” was played. The wise dervish­es, the long-lived moth­ers joined hands, rest­ed against one anoth­er, stomped the humid ground with their naked feet like dancers… With­out even real­is­ing it, in their hap­pi­ness they start­ed oth­er Mak­bules on the way. These peo­ple bled them­selves dry for oth­er Hasans.

A villain’s skirt may graze you slight­ly, stand apart my beau­ti­ful grey crane. “1

It was in the 90s… The moun­tains that once were fra­grant with thyme now reeked of gun­pow­der, the does had been killed one after the oth­er. With canons in their backs, the peo­ple were forced to migrate, pro­pelled like uproot­ed trees, from burnt out, destroyed vil­lages, the region was purged.

In the vil­lage, in the stone house at the edge of the cliff, there only remained Hasan and Mak­bule. Hasan no longer said a sin­gle word to Mak­bule but the bed was his fortress. Hasan’s sol­id fortress in which at night, silent­ly, he removed the stones from Makbule’s body and struck her down with them. His fortress was the bed in which Mak­bule endured, teeth clenched to the blood on her lips…

Hasan was now a bee­keep­er. He was done with cut­ting stones. He had bees in one hun­dred hives. Then, one win­ter day, sol­diers came from the com­mis­sari­at, “the vil­lage will be evac­u­at­ed”, they said. They evac­u­at­ed. And the bees? What would become of them?  The vil­lage school was emp­ty, the hives were set up inside. Their chil­dren bought a house in the town in the dis­trict where stood the vil­lage, Hasan and Mak­bule moved in there.

When spring came, Hasan would obtain an autho­ri­sa­tion from the com­mis­sari­at to go up to see his bees, and sleep in one of the emp­ty class­rooms. Because all these emp­ty vil­lage hous­es were in ruins. This went on for sev­er­al years. How­ev­er, one winter’s day, Hasan had the hives loaded onto a truck and threw him­self on the roads of Adana. He lined up his hives in an orange grove that autho­rised his access.

Hasan’s depar­ture was a bless­ing for Mak­bule. It should be said that when­ev­er he left, Mak­bule became spring­like again, she blos­somed anew. She seemed to become younger as if she had drunk a life-giv­ing water. She changed the atmos­phere in the house, she no longer lived in fear.

As for Hasan, in the gen­tle Mediter­ranean cli­mate of Adana, he had spot­ted a young woman, the moth­er of three chil­dren. He had intro­duced him­self as being wealthy, had said bee-keep­ing was some­thing of a hob­by for him. May the dev­il take her, pover­ty makes you blind, the woman believed him.

Hasan then threw away his cap, died his hair, shaved off his grey beard. He dressed care­ful­ly also, after all, he was now liv­ing with a “spring chicken”.

You see, all my chil­dren are wealthy, they all have high-rank­ing jobs. One of them is in Ger­many. All you have to do is ask and see if I don’t spread the whole world at your feet, such a soft­ie I am,” he would tell her.

The woman was beau­ti­ful, also a vic­tim of forced migra­tion into for­eign regions, des­per­ate. “Since Hasan is sep­a­rat­ed from his wife, as she is a dif­fi­cult woman who has made Hasan suf­fer for years, all right, why not…”, she thought. “For­get the fact he’s 70 years old, at least my ani­mals will be saved”

Hasan called on his chil­dren who were civ­il ser­vants, exploit­ing their feel­ings in order to scrape more or less mon­ey out of them. He sold his hon­ey, when that was not enough, he sold off hon­ey­combs. Thus did he fool the young and beau­ti­ful woman. A house was bought, ful­ly fur­nished. Hasan was raised on a pedestal. The mon­ey came in, main­ly from Germany…

- I’m in a tight spot here, for the rent, for the upkeep of the bees… 

Send me a thou­sand, ten thou­sand, twen­ty thousand…

Come on, send, send send. What did it mat­ter how the mon­ey was earned in Ger­many, what did it mat­ter what anoth­er Mak­bule expe­ri­enced from anoth­er Hasan? So long as the mon­ey arrived. What did it mat­ter if their chil­dren suf­fered from it, so what if two chil­dren shared the same mat­tress for an extra year. So what if they lacked every­thing if they suf­fered from bron­chi­tis in damp ground floor apart­ments. So what?

The sen­tence Hasan repeat­ed the most was: “If a man is a dog, he might as well be one at the door of a Ger­man.” Over and over again, the same tune in his mouth. Ger­man mon­ey is warm, Ger­man mon­ey can do every­thing, Ger­man mon­ey is beau­ti­ful. As long as Ger­man mon­ey is great, Hasan is immortal.

It was Lovers’ Day and it was raining”

There was a ring at Makbule’s door… Mak­bule was a soli­tary woman, she vis­it­ed no one and no one came vis­it­ing, she was her only friend. The door­bell rang again, and yet again. She got up, ran a cal­loused hand cov­ered with corns over the door­knob and opened the door.

Hasan walked in as proud as a pea­cock and behind him, a fear­ful, embar­rassed young woman. Hasan and the young woman sat on a couch, Mak­bule in a chair fac­ing them. With­out a word, the two women exam­ined one anoth­er for a while.

Hasan said proud­ly: “That’s my new wife…”

Mak­bule said: “Con­grat­u­la­tions. Con­grat­u­la­tions but where am I sup­posed to go?”

A deep silence followed…

Mak­bule got up, qui­et­ly took a plas­tic bag and crammed her few per­son­al belong­ings into it; she would go to her mar­ried son’s house, the one who lived in town. Her whole life, all of her work, all she had lived was just enough to fill a plas­tic bag. A woman’s life inside one bag. She, who with a sin­gle “ahhh” could unleash the lan­guage of moun­tains, make the skies emp­ty them­selves, could not find a sin­gle spot in which to cram trea­son and pain…

And yet, Mak­bule had been sep­a­rat­ed from Hasan for a thou­sand years. She no longer expe­ri­enced regret over her con­sumed youth, the past devoid of affec­tion, of shar­ing, with­out a sin­gle day bet­ter than the oth­er. She looked at the young woman one last time with pity. In her eyes there was a glim­mer of a dead one ressus­ci­tat­ed. She looked, looked and left with a “ahh­hh”

Passers by whis­tled, Hasan has turned into the neigh­bor­hood clown. His oth­er chil­dren, the ones who have moved up in the world, were ashamed. “We are dis­hon­oured, our name is besmirched” they said. Their name was more impor­tant than those two abused women, even if one of them was their mother…

Hasan was afraid, he couldn’t even go to the gro­cery store any­more. He obtained  an autho­ri­sa­tion from the com­mis­sari­at, took his young lover and brought her to the emp­ty, desert­ed class­room. The young woman was sad, in her dis­ap­point­ment she keept repeat­ed “let your wife know quick­ly, so she can go back to her house, go back to her house…”

Ruins of a vil­lage out of which life had been expelled. Not a sin­gle con­voy passed through, not a sin­gle bird flew over it… All the walls had col­lapsed. The peo­ple who lived here had migrat­ed with their mem­o­ries and their pains. They had all become wan­der­ers in an uncer­tain life. All that was left were wild ani­mals and a com­mis­sari­at, the lights of which one could see, far off in the dis­tance, at night. Here, there was a life as a tar­get at the end of a rifle. The woman was sad, very sad. What had pained her the most was Makbule’s calm, her final “ahhh” that had pierced her heart like a knife, her inner being bled…

It was Lovers’ Day and it was raining”

A chilly ear­ly morn­ing a jay was singing. Care­ful­ly, the woman pulled out of bed. Hasan was still sleep­ing. Tak­ing noth­ing but her life with her, emp­ty hand­ed, she start­ed on the path then she fol­lowed the road lead­ing toward town. She was mov­ing away from Hasan, from the evac­u­at­ed vil­lage, from this house on the edge of the cliff. Moun­tain roads are hard to climb, is it the same when going down? She charged down like colts do when they run to the water. In any event, she would find a vehi­cle, once she reached the asphalt, in order to return to the town where she lived before Hasan. She ran, and ran. She ran to save her­self… There was the risk of being tar­get­ed by a blind bul­let from the com­mis­sari­at. No mat­ter, she had to leave no mat­ter what hap­pened, she want­ed to leave, to save her­self Behind her, Hasan’s  grav­el­ly plead­ing voice res­onat­ed in the sur­round­ing mountains :

Don’t leeaaaaaave!…”

The woman left. Her young feet car­ried her brave­ly to the asphalt and she left him…

Mak­bule had left already. All those who had been Hasan’s vic­tims left. One by one, lit­tle by little.

And they nev­er came back.

The Hasans all end­ed up alone, all alone…

It was Lovers’ Day and it was raining”

Let it rain, and may the rain keep on pound­ing down.

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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Suna Arev
Née en 1972 à Uzun­tar­la (Elazığ).Dans une famille de huits enfants, elle est immergée dès son plus jeune âge, par­mi les tra­vailleurs agri­coles à la tâche. Tel un miroir qui date de son enfance, la péri­ode du coup d’Etat mil­i­taire du 12 sep­tem­bre 1980 a for­mé sa vie poli­tique. Diplômée de l’École pro­fes­sion­nelle de com­merce d’Elazığ, elle a vécu, en grandeur nature les com­porte­ments fas­cistes et racistes dans sa ville. Mère de qua­tre enfants, depuis 1997, elle habite en Alle­magne, pour des raisons politiques.
Suna Arev was born in 1972 in the vil­lage of Uzun­tar­la, Elazığ dis­trict. From a fam­i­ly of eight chil­dren she became one of the agri­cul­tur­al work­ers at an ear­ly age. The mil­i­tary coup d’état of Sep­tem­ber 12 1980 served as a mir­ror in shap­ing her polit­i­cal out­look. After obtain­ing a diplo­ma from the Elazığ Pro­fes­sion­al Busi­ness School, she expe­ri­enced the full force of fas­cist and racist behav­iours in her town. She has lived in Ger­many since 1997, for polit­i­cal rea­sons. She is the moth­er of four children.