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Once upon a time, there was talk of the loves between Fer­hat and Şirin, Tahir and Zühre, Aslı and Kerem or yet again Romeo and Juli­et, impos­si­ble loves or thwart­ed ones whose names nev­er left people’s lips…

Şengül and her god are the only ones to know how much inner suf­fer­ing she endured over the years, how many fears and depri­va­tions. To how many con­ver­sa­tions did she lend an ear, wait­ing for “some news, a whis­per”? Pain over Mah­mut dug deep inside of Şengül for years, dri­ving her crazy…

And now? Her hus­band, the children’s father, İsm­ail, who knew noth­ing about it, was bring­ing Mah­mut, the man she loved, right to her feet.

Ah İsm­ail, he had such a way of say­ing Şengül that, each time, a thou­sand Şengül’s seemed to pour out of his mouth.

Through this door, both her hus­band and the man she loved would enter.

A hur­ri­cane aris­es, the wind spreads its lamen­ta­tions over the earth, ruin­ing every­thing in its wake, can you see it? Şengül is shak­en by this gust, like an uproot­ed tree, she is on the verge of falling.

Is it tru­ly Mah­mut, the one who enters? Is that flour sprin­kled in his hair? Where is the coal-black hair of yes­ter­year? And what is that well of sor­row in his first look? As if every sad­ness in the world, find­ing no oth­er place to go, had set­tled in those two eyes. What is more, he was trembling.

İsm­ail, so delight­ed, with a wide smile on his face, every child­ish joy gath­ered against his chest. Şengül and Mahmut’s hearts, beat­ing, pound­ing, boom boom. Mah­mut gazed on Şengül as if she were a heroine…

Did Germany’s indus­tri­al rains pour out of the sky on to the black­ened side­walks? They poured down. Mah­mut also became an exile in this coun­try? He did. Did the flame of love declared in the court­yard fol­low its course here also? It did.

Hence­forth, there was no longer a dis­tance of thou­sands of kilo­me­ters between them, but only a 30-kilo­me­ter road that the lovers could cov­er in a sin­gle surge. When­ev­er he found the time on week­ends, İsm­ail showed Mah­mut around town. Some­times, he greet­ed him at home. And İsm­ail was pleased when­ev­er the con­ver­sa­tion dealt with the court­yard, with its sor­rows, and some­times with its joys.

Şengül was strange, she plunged as if absorbed. On her lip played the sem­blance of a smile, like the remains of a morn­ing wind, a kind of vital­i­ty, a pink shad­ow. Dur­ing  one of the con­ver­sa­tions about the vil­lage, Mah­mut said he was not hap­py in his marriage.

I was unable to love, broth­er, what can I do about it”, he said, look­ing  div­ing into Şengül’s eyes.

You shouldn’t have afflict­ed the poor girl,” İsm­ail said.

From where would İsm­ail have known what it was like not to love?   If Şengül were to put the ques­tion, he would have raced to the moun­tain to bring her snow, he would have torn out his heart to offer it to her in her hand. “You know best…” he said and was silent. What else could he say?

For two years, Mah­mut was part of the fam­i­ly. İsm­ail found work    moon­light­ing on week­ends “even if you don’t love her, don’t destroy your fam­i­ly” he advised. What is known as liv­ing occu­pied the time with many things, there were days where tears replaced laugh­ter and death occu­pied the space of life.

Black winds blew in İsmail’s home. There was an agi­tat­ed state of denial. Şengül did not allow İsm­ail a sin­gle touch, or a sin­gle caress. They were like a sis­ter and a broth­er shar­ing the same bed.

Let’s sep­a­rate”, she said, thus send­ing the final bul­let into İsmail’s heart. Fog over İsmail’s head, like on moun­tain tops… One couldn’t tell any­more if he was still of this world or had already passed over. The bread he ate had no taste nor salt. This silent Şengül knew the roads by heart. Mah­mut would arrive and leave when İsm­ail was absent. The Turk­ish neigh­bors in the build­ing gave İsm­ail fun­ny looks. İsm­ail plead­ed with Şengül — noth­ing doing, he begged her, noth­ing doing. Noth­ing worked, nothing.

Each pass­ing day was a tor­ment but “it was impos­si­ble, you couldn’t live this way”. İsm­ail was deter­mined, no mat­ter what, he would resolve the mat­ter. İsm­ail gave up his week­end moon­light­ing. He would speak with Şengül… A sus­pi­cion had land­ed on his heart, had turned into a worm that would kill him with its gnawing.

That day, the chil­dren were sent to the cin­e­ma. They had to be alone, him and Şengül. She would tell him what the prob­lem was, open­ly. İsm­ail would low­er his head faced with her rea­sons, but he need­ed to know. They were alone in the liv­ing room with Şirin’s pho­to as sole wit­ness over­see­ing everything.

Crouch­ing, İsm­ail begged with Şengül: “What is wrong with you, you for whom I would die? What is it, you for whom I burn? What is it, what is it, tell me, I must know…”

Şengül sighed deeply. Men­tal­ly, she went out to the court­yard and returned. She sat men­tal­ly on the thresh­old of this court­yard and spoke “I want us to sep­a­rate”. “Why?” asked İsm­ail. She stut­tered, “the rea­son… I can’t man­age to love you as a hus­band.” İsm­ail stood up, walked twice around the room.

But Şengül, I love you…” he laid a hand on his heart “I love you to the point of killing myself…” He crouched again at Şengül’s feet. She sighed, unbur­dened her pain. Today, she would rid her­self of its weight, every­thing seemed so heavy for her now, much too heavy.

I was a lit­tle girl, my breasts were bare­ly grow­ing in, a child delight­ed with wear­ing her old­er sister’s flow­ered dress­es, a child who spun her skirt in the wind… A child who con­sid­ered the tin­kling of her sister’s neck­lace you put around my neck. I did not know what love meant, I did not know what being mar­ried was about…

Then you arrived, you were my broth­er-in-law. Broth­er-in-law İsm­ail, I loved you as such. I am unhap­py İsm­ail, I love you like a broth­er-in-law; let’s sep­a­rate İsm­ail, I beg you, let’s sep­a­rate, look, isn’t this bad for you also?”

Şengül stopped speak­ing, she was sob­bing, trembling.

İsm­ail stood up, paced the room, again and again, then he stopped in front of Şirin’s pho­to, looked at it for sev­er­al minutes.

Şengül said: “She’s the one you love, tru­ly, I am not Şirin, İsm­ail, I am not Şirin”. İsm­ail, so anx­ious, so sad, want­ed to put a ques­tion, but he was strug­gling inside, for fear of hurt­ing Şengül. But a sus­pi­cion burned inside him.

All right”, he said, “in that case, go a bit to your par­ents, relax, think things out until you can decide qui­et­ly. Then, we will do what will make you happy.”

I won’t go,” answered Şengül, “I will die and I won’t go…”

İsm­ail start­ed pac­ing across the room again, then he crouched once more, on his knees in front of Şengül and asked, almost beg­ging: “Do you have any­thing to tell me, can I hear it?”

Şengül’s heart was beat­ing as if it would tear itself away from her, a silence fell, a death­ly silence…

İsm­ail took her hands, looked at her with implor­ing eyes. “OK, do you have any­thing to say? We’ll do as you wish.”

In her pain, Şengül mum­bled “Mah­mut”. Instant­ly, she threw the weight of the court­yard off her back.

Mah­mut? Mah­mut? Mah­mut, what, Mah­muu­ut?”… İsm­ail paced inside his home as if walk­ing in a pub­lic place, he drew cir­cles, came, went, stopped in front of Şengül and in front of Şirin’s photo.

Since when?” İsm­ail asked calm­ly, like a van­quished, exhaust­ed war­rior. “The court­yard,” Şengül answered, “the court­yard…”  she said in the same qui­et way.

İsm­ail did not so much as lift a fin­ger against Şengül, he did not want to offend her… A silence like a tomb filled the room. İsm­ail, knifed in the back. The iron of trea­son is like none other.

This is a cat­a­stro­phe, a ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter,” he said.

İsm­ail held his head in his hands, tore out his hair, filled his hands with it. He clenched his fists. Blood rose to his face, his eyes seemed like bul­lets about to leave their orbits. “I love him, he loves me also,” Şengül said, and what was meant to be, happened.

İsm­ail stood up, mouthed a long “aaah”, head­ed for the kitchen and grabbed the bread knife.

Growl­ing in anger “Mah­mut huh? Mah­mut…” he came back into the liv­ing room, looked at Şengül, then at Şirin’s pho­to. He struck the opaque glass in the liv­ing room door, the room filled with bro­ken glass. Şengül had pulled her knees up to her bel­ly, trem­bling, sobbing.

I’m going to kill that son of a bitch, I’m going to kill him” İsm­ail said while his hand bled… He stormed out like a hurricane.

What kind of fear was it? This fear that will keep Şengül shak­ing like a leaf for the rest of her life. She grabbed the phone, called the camp where Mah­mut was sheltered….

Run, Mah­mut, run and save your life. İsm­ail knows every­thing, he will kill. You, get away from here, leave!”

She spoke with Mah­mut for the last time. She heard his voice for the last time. Every­thing was for the last time…

She cleaned the blood­ied shards of glass with her tears. The chil­dren were about to come home.

That day, İsm­ail did not find Mah­mut at the camp, nor the day after. He tracked Mah­mut for three months, but did not find him. He then head­ed to the shacks in the vine­yard where he moo­light­ed… He stayed there sev­er­al days, painful­ly digest­ing his sor­row. Then he went home.

The house was one of bereave­ment, a house where one cried over a corpse…

Just like Şengül, İsm­ail was no longer any­thing more than a bag of bones. Şengül trem­bled con­stant­ly, she had trou­ble lift­ing a glass of water to her mouth. İsm­ail saw that the chil­dren were in decline, but still they loved Şengül, despite everything.

He took Şengül’s trem­bling hands one last time “let’s for­get every­thing, let’s give our­selves anoth­er chance, let’s set­tle in a coun­try where no ones knows us, I love you Şengül, come on, do not sac­ri­fice us,” he said.

Şengül looked at İsm­ail with sor­row “I can’t İsm­ail, I can’t , I can’t die every moment under your eyes, and I love Mah­mut, I will nev­er man­age it with you.” She went on repeat­ing this…

What a sharp dag­ger is trea­son, how it pierces the heart, and how it makes it bleed?

İsm­ail nev­er stopped track­ing Mahmut…

At last, he learned that Mah­mut had gone back home and the vil­lage was shak­en by the sto­ry of Şengül and Mah­mut. His father Sey­dali kept say­ing over the phone, “kill her, kill her, kill…”

How could İsm­ail have sac­ri­ficed Şengül?

He would kill Mah­mut, not Şengül, he would kill him, he had no oth­er choice. “This sto­ry will have the best of me,” he said.

As the melt­ing snows in the moun­tains pour down their waters in a del­uge, the flood car­ries every­thing before it; thus was their home smashed, ruined. Even the chil­dren had trou­ble breath­ing in the air of the house. İsm­ail left, he went after Mah­mut to kill him, to fill the court­yard with his blood.

Toward mid­night, he found him­self in town, by walk­ing two, even three hours, he would reach his native vil­lage. He walked through the night dark­ness and made it there. Unno­ticed by oth­ers, he hid and made his way to the court­yard. Two steps away, the lights were on in his broth­ers’ hous­es, in that of his father Sey­dali. Their voic­es reached him like waves, res­onat­ing in a well. In front of their door was a bale of hay and, in front of the bale, the trac­tor he had bought. He was the only one to know with what toil and sweat he had offered them this pros­per­ous life.  All of them were hap­py, none of them had known a cal­vary like his. Deep inside him­self, he felt resent­ment, mixed with anger, but set it aside… He accept­ed his sac­ri­fice with great dignity.

He opened the court­yard door tied by a rope. The roof­less court­yard, delim­i­tat­ed by the walls of the small hous­es, seemed like a head­less body. In it were stacked kin­dling and bricks of dung for win­ter­time. This court­yard, for­mer­ly Armen­ian, had belonged to a fam­i­ly killed with bay­o­nets. Refugees had been installed there lat­er, arrived from else­where. Then his father Sey­dali, also an exile, had set­tled there… This court­yard where he had been born, had grown up, had mar­ried, where he had lived both hard times and hap­py days, resem­bled him so much. Those head­less walls were slow­ly falling into ruins, how much longer would they remain stand­ing under these rains They were col­laps­ing, just as he was.

The weath­er was cold, he raised the col­lar of his vest up to his chin. On the thresh­old of his own lit­tle house, he stretched him­self like a bow… He bore a sharp­ened dag­ger against his chest, his warm tears fell to the ground of the court­yard. How alone he was and so desperate.

Every­thing was set­tled in advance. Mahmut’s small house, the time at which he arrived, the time at which he left, the road he fol­lowed… Did a sin­gle door exist that would not open for a few pen­nies? Before he had arrived, mon­ey had set­tled everything.

Mah­mut had found a job as a dri­ver for a bus com­pa­ny and tomor­row would be his day off at the house…In this court­yard that belonged to him, İsm­ail was like a stranger noneth­less. Hair, and beard disheveled, blood­ied eyes. In this court­yard where he was born and inno­cent child, tomor­row he would become an assassin.

He would kill “that ingrate devoid of hon­or”.

The night dark­ened in the court­yard, he said good­bye to all his mem­o­ries. He dis­tanced him­self from the vil­lage, still on the sly, stay­ing out of sight. He was like a dry branch, so frail, so dead, as if about to snap at any moment.

He walked for an hour, using short­cuts and reached the road into town. He lift­ed a hand, stopped a deliv­ery truck and climbed aboard. He would get off before reach­ing town and head to the house Mah­mut had built in a field inher­it­ed from his father… This is what he did.

He then hid at the foot of a mul­ber­ry tree by road­side, on the path Mah­mut would cross to reach his home. The lights were on in Mahmut’s house. He imag­ined his wife, his two young girls. Then, he thought of Mahmut’s hands mov­ing on Şengül’s body. He touched the dag­ger against his chest, and start­ed to wait. He wait­ed for hours… There was noth­ing but the sound of insects and the voice of the anger inside him, “with­out hon­or”

He jumped at the sound of a dis­tant motor, a car stopped at the cross­road. Mah­mut got out, salut­ed the dri­ver, the car drove off.

Mah­mut lit a cig­a­rette. Its spark head­ed toward İsm­ail in the night. The sound of foot­steps drew near­er, near­er still…

İsm­ail grabbed his dag­ger firm­ly, jumped out of his hid­ing place and faced Mah­mut sud­den­ly. Mah­mut jumped. “Mah­mut, Mah­mut with­out hon­or !” yelled İsm­ail and he plunged the knife into the bel­ly, with­out Mah­mut hav­ing the time to under­stand what was hap­pen­ing. Every­thing was over in a few seconds.

Mah­mut was stunned. They stood chest to chest. Mah­mut grabbed the knife with both hands, he was hold­ing on to his own blood, he was lament­ing, then he looked at İsm­ail with wide open eyes… How long was that look, filled with calls for help… How painful was that look. That final look İsm­ail would car­ry inside for as long as he lived.

I loved her, broth­er, I tru­ly loved her,” said Mah­mut and collapsed.

İsm­ail low­ered him­self next to Mah­mut and, as if he want­ed to be one with him in order to incar­nate a lament. Slow­ly, Mahmut’s groans fell silent…

Mahmut’s blood had splashed onto him. He head­ed back to the road to town, walk­ing like a cadav­er, with­out look­ing back. He had inter­nal­ized a new sor­row; Mahmut’s look…That same morn­ing, he turned him­self in to the police.

On the spot where she stood, Şengül gave a start. A thin warm pain showed up and set­tled in her heart, she laid a trem­bling hand over her left breast, “Mah­muu­u­ut…” she said, burn­ing from within.

İsm­ail had nev­er so much as cut the head off a chick­en. Here he was now, a mur­der­er with bloody hands… Tomor­row, they would call him a hero. As far as he was con­cerned, he would look at every­one with disgust.

The years went by… Şengül and her chil­dren sur­vived with social aid. Not a sin­gle ser­vant of god spoke to Şengül. Each look, each word struck her bow­els, like a bul­let. Her fam­i­ly had dis­owned her, her trem­bling increased, she hard­ly spoke any­more, her bel­ly caved in, she looked like a skeleton.

For­mer­ly, İsm­ail had hand­ed over to the court­yard almost all the salary he had earned in the wealth of Ger­many. He had made sac­ri­fices depriv­ing his chil­dren, mortag­ing their future. Now, life went by dif­fer­ent­ly, each deci­sion tak­en with­out real thought in the past dug holes in the present…

His son Emre became a neigh­bor­hood kaid, he became a deal­er for drug gangs. He was going to become “rich, very rich”. He rent­ed his own apart­ment, the gangs pro­vid­ed him with a sil­ver han­dled gun… Now all the places of ill-repute were his favorite hunt­ing grounds.

Eren, that frail, pale child, looked up to his kaid broth­er with pride and admiration.

After school, he often went to Emre whom he con­sid­ered like his father. One of those nights, he went over to his big brother’s as usu­al. Emre came home  late at night, drunk, from a night­club. He pulled out his gun and put it on the kitchen table. Eren could not take his eyes away from this sym­bol of pow­er. His broth­er smiled, “there it is, the mir­a­cle that opens every door”, he said, pick­ing up the gun and swiv­el­ling it around his fin­ger, as the bums do in Amer­i­can movies.

Then he turned the gun toward his young broth­er “Boom! Boom!” he laughed to fright­en Eren. He scared Eren who shook, “Stop it, broth­er!” he said “don’t do that!”

The sound from the shot was only too real. Eren’s blood­ied face on the ground. The inno­cent child born of Şengül in the pain of love, no longer lived either.

At three o’clock in the mid­dle of the night, the phone call arrived for Şengül; her son, Emre was on the line, cry­ing, sob­bing and repeat­ing “I killed him, I killed Eren, I killed him, I killed him…”

That night, Caïn and Abel had returned…

How was I to know that this desire would drive me so mad;
That my heart would become a prison, and my eyes, a river?
How was I to know that tears would carry me off like a flood,
And would throw me, like a boat, into a vast sea of blood?
That waves would beat and  beat against and split this boat plank after plank
Until each plank was twisted under the weight of all this torture?
That the sea monster would lift its head and swallow the sea;
That this huge sea would dry out like a desert plaine?
That the devouring sea monster would then split this plaine,
And suddenly plunge me into a pit, like Qarun in his anger?
When these transformations occurred, nothing was left;
What do I know when the why and the what swallow one another?
Oh how numerous are the “I don’t know” – but I don’t know:
Because I have swallowed the foam of opium to forget this sea!
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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.