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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
Autrice
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.