Olja Savičević Ivančević: Postcards from Istanbul (a selection)

Maybe it's time for a bit of poetic reflections from Istanbul.




I didn't die in an earthquake and I wasn't killed by the bomb which exploded yesterday in Istanbul due to the election campaign. I know that newspapers don't carry the news about the proportion of turquoise and purple in this city, because who in the world would be interested in something like that, these things are for housewives. A death is a news, and among the living things – only those of political nature.

You forgot it, darling, we survived fear on both sides of the sight, it was back at home.

The injustice inflicted upon us by our bodies, experience tells us, must stop at some point.

All butchers will be put behind bars, the earth tremor will cease, but the satisfaction we call justice will not come. Still: there are many satisfactions, it is worth while to concentrate on them.

The only fear I will hold on to is that a sudden break of the show, an idiotic disaster, will prevent me from grabbing your hands, and the other, tiny ones, which have always been catching me napping, combing me and pushing me doggedly out of doors.

Today as well as tomorrow, for the whole mankind, whatever way you look at it, there's no news more important in the world than your having taught our little one, just yesterday, in Split, how to ride the bicycle. 





Along the gaudy road through Beşiktaş, I set out for Ortaköy.

This Ortaköy is a surreal place, but the three hours of dilligent walking aren’t mentioned by anyone.

The relations here are different.

There is a million women passing by the road, and not one of them wears a hat.

Fishermen in the port, cab drivers in their taxies, believers in front of the mosque, guards with their rifles, girls by the fountain: a foreign woman under the wide brim.

On my way back, nevertheless, don’t be crazy, I catch a bus to Taxim, the conductor says: a lira and some small change. It seems to me that we are being stuck in one of the three endless lines, without anyone cursing anyone else’s mother; passengers just follow the things through the window. I’m peeking at them (they might know something), they’re peeking at me (under the brim). Half an hour is not a big deal. The relations here are different, I imagine.

And a million women in Taxim, yet not a single one with hat.





A coffee and water. Checking news off-hand, hanging the wet washing, going to a store. I like the routine, it has its rhythm.

A standard life is a pleasant day without a plot.

I’m drawing back the curtains and I’m already near the first guests on the top of the restaurant; it seems we’re always having breakfast on the same terrace.

In passing, I knock on the dirty glass for the dove on the drain pipes to come near and I put down the bread for her. Strolls are long and I always bring something new in the apartment, things I shall write down and thus retain: a book or a recorded Turkish movie with English subtitles, and groceries.

And then: photographs of passers-by, because people in a city are the same thing as water is in the nature.

A foreign woman is sometimes also consoled by stallkeepers’ smiles (yes, these are hugs among unknown people).

When the city takes a breather and the terraces are emptied, while the night is filled with white birds, I open the windows wide, counting the beats of wings. I like the routine, it has its rhythm.




                                                                Orhan Veli Kanik


In the morning, it’s a silent saxophone on the terrace of an adjacent bar, here, upstairs, on the top floor; seagulls, other birds, and the frequent sound of ship’s sirens from the Golden Horn, street repairs, occasional fragments of conversation on the staircase, foreign language. A superhuman voice from within minarets is followed by collective murmur from the mosque, and afterwards tiny cats, amiable at close range and small-headed, appear screaming; then oriental rhythms, a female singer with sad voice, vendors of fish and spices, performers with instruments I cannot name. On the Istiklal street an old man is singing and dying, his grandson holding the microphone for him. I don’t hear the street-car’s bell and a young man with big white teeth, almost a child, puts me away from the rails. His friends laugh merrily when I say: you saved my life. Taxi drivers, waiters and storekeepers jump out of their boxes, offering anything for a few liras: madame, lady, put your glasses off, lady, let me see your eyes. Humans and dogs and cars, the noise of supporters. And a heart full of blood beating in your ears, an ear winking like an eye: the city is a DJ and has at least 50 million hands playing discs on gold-plated counters, on butchers’ counters, on merchants’ counters, on sacred counters, and at least 50 million human, canine, feline, rubber feet, feet dancing as if the place is getting too hot for all of them, as if they’re losing their footing and pawing, as if all this evades all reason.    


Translator: Dinko Telećan


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