Writers 4-1: Orhan Pamuk: On the Safe Side of the Bosphorus

When I was a child, by my own memory, I was no older than nine years old, when I was still without a notion of consequences of ideas, but only knew the facts of my own world, uncle Meli moved into the attic apartment. He was a man sweet as honey, who had lived abroad where he was tormented by the bitter memories of home. It was only one of many events in my childhood that I only later in life understood to have been defining moments in the lives of the otherwise undefining characters of my family. As a child these events were nothing more than just natural, simply bound to happen as they happened, fully part of the natural cycle of the seasons, some rich of the smell of blossom, others dry and arid. As an adult man, when I was established and well respected by some, but despised by others, my thoughts often returned, escaped to this simplicity of the obvious world. My friends were professors at the university or critics working at the newspaper, and our discussions were drenched in academic analysis, full of the kind of sophistication that elevates doubt to self-consciousness, where hesitation is praised for its swiftness of reflection. All this mature uncertainty seemed meaningless compared to the childish belief in the absolute importance of my family’s grand sagas, of uncle Meli moving in, of grandfather’s tears as he reminisced of his childhood, of grandmother’s voice singing through the house, of the excitement penetrating the rooms on Friday’s after morning prayers, that same excitement that now uneventfully takes place outside, all is subdued, muffled by the ruffling of the maid cleaning the bedroom, the thrill of rowing out on to the Bosphorus, the same water that now is plowed through by the horizontal silhouettes of oil tankers from the black sea. As a child I knew only my family, and only my friends who lived around the corner and with whom I went to school knew me by name. I was free and the world belonged to me. It is a remote world that I try to recreate in the greatest detail, because every little detail that is missing is shattering my childhood and throws me back into the whirling winds of the present, with its hostile voices that deny the evidence of my world, with the passing footsteps of time that do not stop at my doorstep to listen what I am up to, with the missing details of forgetfulness.

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