Mehmet Eroglu’s Landscape of Time

Mine Krause’nin The Turkish Literature Blog’da Mehmet Eroglu’nun Zamanin Manzarasi icin 20/07/2015’de yazdigi yaziyi okuyabilirsiniz.

When I visited Mehmet Eroğlu a few months ago in his office, we had an interesting discussion about literature, creative writing, translations and also music. He kindly gave me some of his novels as a present which I took back home to Paris. Unpacking my suitcase there, it was the original title Zamanın Manzarası (“Landscape of time”) that attracted my attention right away. The first pages confirmed that this would be an unusual reading experience.

Indeed, Eroğlu’s novel provides its readers with a particularly colourful landscape of time. Each chapter is dedicated to a different period of the protagonist’s life, ranging from the past (1998/99) over the present (2000) to the future (2001/2002). The novel’s (anti-)hero is Barış Utkan, but in contrast to his first name, meaning “peace”, he is not able to find inner peace. Several identity crises seem to turn his life into hell: traumatic war experiences in the mountains, his vehement struggles with God, his desperate search for identity, his doubts about his existence as a writer and – throughout the story – his addiction to alcohol as a remedy for his broken heart…

Always having money problems, Barış has become used to being dependent from, and thus belonging to others. Instead of living his own life and realizing his own dreams, he lives for those who provide him with cash. Only when the singer Elif shows up on his doorstep and asks him to write her biography, he starts to change. Falling in love with this woman who doesn’t return his feelings, Barış tries to fight to get his honour back, as the impression of being owned suddenly becomes unbearable for him. “I am 36 years old, I left the woman I loved and now I no longer have a life” is how he summarizes his own existence when he decides to leave Elif.

Zamanın Manzarası is not only about the miserable life of a man. In this book, Eroğlu also describes the art of writing with all its dark sides. The most moving topic of this novel, however, is probably the existential struggle of the poor. Two cases of suicide, including a little boy who hangs himself, illustrate the resignation of those who are not seen as “valuable” enough by society. Death in all its forms – death of the soul, mental death, voluntary death, creative death, death through sickness etc. – can certainly be regarded as a leitmotif of Zamanın Manzarası. The same is true for the recurring metaphor of a bird that is unable to fly: a symbol of the protagonist’s mortality. Different perceptions of time go hand in hand with these different death experiences.

It is in his therapy sessions which are supposed to help him deal with his murder of seven people during the war that Barış becomes aware of the impact which death, time, God and fate have on his fragmented identity. His childhood fear of being left by his mother and father which shapes his way of handling relationships as an adult is also highlighted here.

This novel reveals a world of many philosophical dimensions and different perceptions of war (including inner ones). Throughout the story, we can observe how unhappiness in its various shades becomes a permanent source of creativity. “There is no happy man. What we try to write, put into songs or paint is always unhappiness.” (“Galiba mutlu insan yok. Yazdığımız, şarkılaştırdığımız, resmini çizmeye çalıştığımız hâlâ hep mutsuzluk.”). In certain cases, unhappiness can indeed be transformed into art. And this is maybe the best way to paraphrase Eroğlu’s landscape of time with one word: Art.

Paris, 20/07/2015     © Mine Krause

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