Goodnight, Panco


Over a decade or more, heavy drinking can destroy the liver. Tissue normally capable of filtering toxins and regulating the chemical balance of the body are reduced to useless scarations. Poisonous substances build up in the body and a number of possible symptoms set in: weight-loss, itching, nausea, bloody discharges, and memory loss. Sait Faik Abasıyanık began experiencing some of these symptoms as early as 1944.[1] By 1948, he was officially diagnosed with cirrhosis.

At the time, Sait Faik was already a well-known author with several collections of short stories and a novel in print. He had not, however, published a new work in nearly seven years. In the late 1930s, his output had been steady—Samovar in 1936, followed by Cistern in 1939, and Pile Driver in 1940—but this last work had gotten him in trouble. One of the stories, describing an encounter between poor peasants and the rich wives of military officers, had caught the eye of the army and led to an investigation in 1941. Although pleading with the military had led to the case being dropped, Sait Faik remained wary thereafter. His mother in particular cautioned him against writing more for the time being. For much of the subsequent 1940s he worked as a court reporter.

The story which troubled the army, “Trip,” was not the most representative Sait Faik story—the majority of his tales are set in Istanbul or on the nearby Princess Islands—but some of the elements that drew attention are typical: A focus on the down and out—put-upon servants and over-taxed village people; hardships presented rather graphically via complex sentence structures; a narrative which jumps around in time; the author briefly—unexpectedly, inexplicably—inserting himself.  Attributing any partisan intent to Sait Faik’s stories might be difficult, but this penchant of his for describing marginal figures in Turkish society would have been unwelcome during the Second World War.[2]

Though Turkey was not involved in actual fighting during the war, its economy—and, consequently, the daily lives of its people—were seriously impacted. The President, İsmet İnönü, had long favored placing the hand of the state firmly over the economy; shortages resulting from the war only strengthened this tendency. Agriculture became even more tightly regulated and heavy wealth taxes were imposed on the population. These taxes fell hardest on minorities. In 1941 the government decided to mobilize all non-Muslim males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. These men were rounded up and sent off to work camps in the interior for nearly a year.[3] Although they were released after 1942, men who failed to pay the steep new taxes continued to be shipped off to camps as punishment. Writers seeking to capture the realities of Turkish life were unwelcome during the war years.

In other ways as well, Sait Faik’s work tended to emphasize aspects of Turkish society that did not fit with the image the government preferred to project. While the government of Republican Turkey generally presented the new nation as a break with the past, Sait Faik’s world suggested a great deal of continuity—and a great sense of loss. His protagonists include small tradesmen, sailors, fishermen, waiters, and house-painters; they speak languages like Greek, Armenian, and Albanian.[4] Jews pop up here and there. At times he reflects back to places that have disappeared with a sense of sadness and longing.

Over the seven years he battled cirrhosis, these themes grew ever more prominent. Literary critics looking back on his body of work tend to divide his output into three phases.[5] The first, running up to his legal troubles, emphasized “humans and human affection.”[6] These early stories marked him as “essentially a miniaturist” whose “central theme . . .might well be . . .the happiness of ordinary people thwarted.”[7] Such stories emphasized the telling-detail and little mannerisms—gestures, accents, slang. As one critic put it, “Language in Sait Faik is everything.”[8]

After his diagnosis, he returned to writing—now at an accelerated output. Between 1948 and 1953, he published six collections of short stories and a novel. These retained the themes of his earlier work, but with a greater emphasis on loneliness; “we encounter a depressed and cynical Sait Faik, ” marked by a “human fear” rather than affection.[9] More frequent appearances by narrators seemingly standing in for the author himself. His language, always complex, took on new tics. Among the most prominent (and difficult to satifactorily translate) was his “war against ‘and.’”[10] Though, even in normal writing, Turkish needs less “ands” than English since an English sentence like He got up and left would naturally be phrased as He got up, left, Sait Faik’s almost complete lack of “ands” means that his sentences become vast accumulations of clauses, piling upon one another, ever higher, the action which ultimately links them all, unclear, mysterious, waiting to be revealed.

The last collection published in his lifetime, There Is a Snake In Alemdag (1954), marks a final phase in his career, beyond word play, beyond mere loneliness. Starting here, Sait Faik took a turn toward the surreal. Many of the stories in this collection involve dreams and dream-like states, flights of fancy, and inscrutable, repeating symbols. A deep sense of despair pervades the stories; the author who had once written, “Without people, there is no beauty in anything,” now laments the impossibility of finding happiness in this world. Instead, he suggests, happiness is only possible away from society.

Many critics—understandably—read these stories as morbid. In his final, posthumously published collection, Lightly Sugared, a critic suggests that, “We encounter a heavy air of an artist anticipating the appraoch of death, surrendering.”[11] There is truth to this: His final story “Καληνύχτα” [“Kalinikhta” or “Goodnight”] certainly serves as a beautiful  farewell to the world as he has known it. But, rather than wallow in the sadness, these later stories are can be read with an eye toward those moments in which the narrator or the protagonists encounter the sublime or experience a moment of profound connection. It might be an old man sitting in a park, looking into a match flame, seeing the universe; it might be the narrator imagining an edenic land away from Istanbul where he can escape society’s judgment; it may be a moment shared around the breakfast table with family; or it may be the vision of a young boy sleeping. These moments of happiness emerge amid a larger chaos of sorrowful, often panicked, imagery—but, when they emerge, they shine brightly.

These surrealist stories are also marked by the presence of Panco. Ostensibly the narrator’s friend, Panco is almost always elsewhere—asleep while the narrator walks the streets, or intentionally ignoring the narrator across a crowded cafe. When the two briefly sit together at the beginning of one story, there is little spark to their interaction—Panco suggests that the narrator is looking old and tired, as well as cautioning him to aviod drinking. Aside from this brief interaction, an encounter in a dream, and a chance encounter on the street, they seem perpetually separated.

Any author who leaps into the ferment of his own mind as deeply as Sait Faik naturally comes in for a large amount of psychoanalyzing. What associations this or that image might have remains open to interpretation. As for the overall intent, many critics have seen these later stories as Sait Faik’s attempts to more honestly express his sexuality in his prose. A life-long bachelor—albeit thrice engaged—whose stories often linger on the physiques of young men, his later stories are not more explicit than earlier ones, merely more suggestive.

In the title story of There Is a Snake In Alemdag, Sait Faik contrasts the miserable love-nullifying reality of Istanbul with a distant land where people can be free from judgment.[12] The theme repeats itself again and again in the way the author and his friend Panco cannot connect in public spaces—like movie theatres, and coffee houses—under the watchful eyes of society. In one story, Panco is replaced by another young man named Yani. Again, in public the two cannot connect.

All of which leads up to Sait Faik’s final story, Καληνύχτα, in which, more than in previous stories, time seems to utterly collapse. The narrator is moving back and forth through time and space, thinking about events in Athens, while he is in Istanbul, and then in Athens all at the same instant. The whole story builds to a fevered pitch before ending with a soft “Goodnight,” to Panco. And to all of us.


The following stories (except for the first story, “Trip,” which I’m including to both showcase Sait Faik’s earlier style and because of the controversy surrounding it) are all of a piece. They share themes of loneliness and separation as well as featuring the same characters and repeating imagery. Hopefully, they will give a sense of Sait Faik, his themes, and his later style. Though I have received advice on translating the occasional sentence, ninety-nine percent of the translation (and one hundred percent of the responsibility for any mistakes) is mine. Whether in Turkish or in English, many of Sait Faik’s surrealistic leaps of imagination are head scratching. He had a much-noted tendency to write quickly and was—in the words of one critic—“sloppy.”[13] Though I see more conscious intent in his temporal jumbling, my advice too is to read not for plot, but for the rhythm of the writing on a sentence to sentence level. I’ve tried as best I can—often at the risk of a slightly “Turkish” sentence structure, to maintain a sense of Sait Faik’s unique prose, which I hope does justice to a wonderful author.




An immediate ten-minute walk leads outside the village. Here people are like birds. The highway stretches out free, independent, wandering. A crooked shadow runs alongside. The passers-by say, “Selâmün aleyküm.”

Nobody doffs his hat to another, but everyone can be acquainted with everybody.  One can flop down beneath a walnut tree; you can each take a cigarette from your stash and light it. And, perhaps without even speaking, without a hope of speaking again, you say goodbye by standing, departing, and going on your way.

Again the roads extends, inside you is a festive sense of camaraderie with humanity and the sparkle of a village stuck within the mysterious shadows of a walnut tree, of distant mountains, of a winding stream, of a far-away lake; inside you a yearning, a closeness and close distance, memories, pleasures and sorrows, and loves are all dredged up.

How many people lived in conditions in which those beautiful, magnificent places—unknown, always desired—to which the roads leaving the highways led went unimagined, I don’t know. Let it be!  Always, in everyone, there is a daydream of creating one’s own paradise that is as strong as reality. On this moist dirt road, surrounded by big, dark blackberry bushes, leading away from the main road, you can envision paradisiac villages, loving people, fecund soil, and cafes to drink wine at—all to your heart’s content. In this manner, as we left our house, we thought about setting off for the countryside, talking with shepherds, leaving the main road, eating blackberries, and laying out on the grass along the waterside.

Oh you truths, leave me alone! I want to walk. I want to walk. Straight for those heavenly places.  Open spaces, trees, rich merchants approving girls for me—I won’t think about any of it. Who cares about my problems?

Wars, leave me alone . . .Girls . . .Children . . .Hungers . . .Lunatics. Walk. Leave me to walk along the path leading from the main road, straight toward a paradise.

I won’t go as far as that village on the hilltop. I’ll find the headwaters at the base of the hill, sit, and say to myself, These are the flowing waters of paradise . . .I can’t enter paradise. Here I’ll relax.

That carefree, picturesque hilltop land with its Fatmas and Alis making love, its youths drinking wine and playing in cafes, its guns being fired in the air—I have no intention of entering it because: People gather in low ceilinged cafes, filled with oven smoke and foul cigarette fumes. They talk of flooding waters, of selling water buffalo they can’t pay taxes on, of whether or not the war will come to us, of men who were killed over nothing, and of malaria. A disheveled man is sitting in the corner. This guy, on another man’s account—a rich man’s account—served a full thirty years of military service; another’s kid was killed at Çanakkale.[15] This young kid will be swept up in the coming war . . .

Lord, those blackberry bushes over there are marvelous—thick as fingers. Man, run! I said to myself.

I was burning with thirst. The blackberries in the shade of that willow tree . . .what could be sweeter . . .

After eating blackberries, I started out again down the dirt road. The sound of water starting coming to me. A thousand and one birds flocked together on a tree with glowing leaves. A sob welled-up in me. I wanted to smile, I held onto a sense of home . . .

“Oh mother!” I said, “How beautiful the world is!”

I had arrived at a meadow. A kid lay out, full-length, on the grass. A cow was grazing.  A bit further the water reeds appear. Even further stood a footbridge made of black, rotting wood.  One wanted to grab it with two hands and shake it, shake it.

All of a sudden, at the water’s edge, I saw a ruined building. Just as quickly, I recalled that around here had once been the town’s promenade and, this ruin, its mill.

I sat beside this kid with his unkempt hair, nose in the grass, shepherd’s staff in his little, dark hands, who’d come from those dirt-road worlds I’d imagined.

I nodded off for ten minutes. In my sleep, I heard the sound of footsteps, like the accumulation of my youthful yearnings, like the thunder of swallow wings passing overhead. I looked up at a gendarme.

“Hello, my countryman,” I said and bowed.

In his hand he was holding a Mauser rifle. He’d left his gun on the grass.

He lit a cigarette. We talked. “What are you waiting for around here, and why, my countryman?” I said.

“Here . . .”

I looked to where he’d indicated. Sure enough, there was a small guard hut, made of battered-wood, painted red and white, looking as though it had been constructed from playing cards.[16]

“But why are you waiting? There’s nothing here . . .not a soul in sight.”

“I don’t know,” he said, “That’s the orders . . .”

But without asking him any further questions, I recalled everything:

We were at war. Oh, how monstrous that village was! It’s as though I can’t remember the hearth. A great deal of my life I try not to remember. Regardless, it wasn’t lacking in happy people. How people could be happy in those days when others were hungry and miserable, I can’t say. Such a thing can be. And such a thing can’t be . . .

One Friday morning, a procession composed of women from among these happy people, saying they were taking a shortcut to a spot called “Mill Head,” passed through corn fields and took to the road before the morning fogs had risen. Morning dew on the corn husks fell on their hands, chests, and necks; they shrieked; their ears, necks—and even their breasts, exposed by undone buttons—were tickled by the corn husks which they jokingly called “Playboys” as they headed toward the spot.

One of these was the base captain’s woman.  A stout, white, black-eyed, lady of thirty. Along with her walked another woman of around forty-five, mascara-eyed, lips so thin as to be invisible, eyes shining and knife-sharp, long, gaunt-fingered. With her jealous hands, she broke off the cornhusks annoying the base captain’s stout woman, opening a path for her. When looking at the captain’s lady, presenting her a path, or occasionally grabbing her by the waist and helping her over a ditch, she took on the attitude of a village teenager.

With a soft voice, she was chastising the cornhusks. After, she whispered into the ears of the captain’s woman, under the eyes of the women following . . .The stout woman burst out laughing! The blue morning sky shattered like glass, fog raced quickly toward the edge of the mountains.

Trailing behind, a rather fat woman, unable to swing her hips, ah-ing and oh-ing, leaned her weight on the arm of a pretty little thing—clearly her daughter. The young girl was red in the face.

With a jam and jelly sweetness greater than a child newly emerged from a dream, her blue eyes were looking at people with an almost fatherly love.

Another woman, looking like a servant, head tightly wrapped in a scarf and toped with a hotoz, wearing an old-fashioned-yet-chic cloak, was holding the hand of a scrawny boy of seven or eight. In the other hand she was carrying a rather fashionable basket. Bringing up the rear, seeing nothing—but, clearly from the gloomy look on his face, thinking about many things—came a crippled soldier. On his back was a big basket with a handle. In his hands too was a basket containing a large packet.

The forty-five year old woman who’d been joking with the base captain’s woman was the first to say, “Oh dear, let’s rest over there a bit.” Then she turned back, “Refika my dear, if you want, let’s rest for a bit.”

The fat lady named Refika said, “Mercy! We can rest there.  If I rest for a moment now, I won’t be able to get up again. I’ll spoil everything for you. Good lord, I swear, I swear! More? Oh girl! You, going for a jaunt to the mill’s head with that body of yours; what right, what strength . . .”

Everyone laughed at these words. Only the lone soldier bringing up the read didn’t laugh. The base captain’s woman shouted an order to him. “Hasan,” she said, “Are you tired?”

“No, Ma’am,” he replied, “We don’t get tired.”

Now the woman with mascaraed-eyes studied the soldier nearing them with a sweet look.  “Lion!” she said.

The young girl and the fat woman had fallen far behind. For a moment they stopped, took a breath, and continued walking. Their whispered conversations were audible:

“Ah Melâhat, I’m a bit hungry . . .”

“Oh mom,” the beautiful girl was saying, “You just ate a puf böreği this morning.”[17]

“The weather here is making me hungry, my girl.”

The young girl gave an angelic laugh. As if on cue, from the sky came male birds, suddenly changed their direction; their appeareance and collecitve chirping could be heard.

Now everyone had stopped.

“Goodness gracious! What are those birds hooting about?”

No one, however, heard the bells and whistles chiming within this young girl. Perhaps for a moment, the wounded soldier Hasan dreamed of his hometown—these are our narrative tricks, pardon.

Now they had arrived at the mill head. Suddenly they halted. The giant meadow in front of the mill was filled with people. Cars were piled on cars. Throughout the area burned scattered little fires. Getting closer, it became clear that the majority of this crowd was women. Around the cars, carpets, rugs—even quilts—had been laid out. Scrawny kids were sleeping on the dry grass around the cars.

It was crowded and thundering—as though it were a gathering place for the Last Judgment. One noticed the coming and going of white—powder-white—people through the mill door.

As the village’s big mill only ground wheat, this mill was only meant for corn flour.  And this mill could grind forty or fifty sacks a day. It was necessary to work night and day . . .it wasn’t sufficing for the village.

From nearby towns and villages, thousands of people were arriving in order to have a sack of corn ground up. The women—most carrying children, two sacks of corn slung over their donkeys—waited their turn for days. They would light fires. At night, jackals would roam the edges, howling.

Those who had obtained two sacks of corn would wait a few full days here, hungry, in order to fully achieve their ends.

Flour spilled from someone’s sack would be snatched up, rolled, and made into bazlama.[18] The millers wouldn’t give the mill’s pastries out to everybody. Those with money ate. Were one to have money, why would he be here?

Someone would be found and sent off to the mill . . .That person would wait here. And that person was the sort of who would save his money up for worse days. Sickness, death . . .

The mascara-eyed woman said, “Children, here is a glimpse of Doomsday! An omen! . . .How will we pass amid this mob?”

The base captain’s harem was turning pale. The young girl, with a bliss born of her momentary release from her mother’s arm, was joking around with Hasan. Hasan suddenly affected a heroic style, “Walk, don’t be afraid,” he said, “Follow me.”

In the field, the hum abruptly ceased. The people were lining up in two rows; taking coffee pots, gas cookers, and a thousand and one little things wrapped in thin, red and yellow paper out of their baskets; and watching the now-visible traveling procession.

Arriving in the center, a few voices could be heard from the crowd

A woman: “Oh, look at that mascaraed Ayşe!”

“Oh what a minx!” said another.

All at once, all their faces sunk; a tall, pert breasted lady in a long skirt appeared before the soldier.

“Back off,” the soldier said.

The woman gave a rattling cackle. The freshly-mascaraed woman, still holding onto the waist of the base captain’s woman grumbled, “Common village woman.”

The woman heard these words. Again she laughed with a rattling cackle. Tripping the lame soldier, she blindly threw herself onto the scattered belongings. In an instant, without even looking at those who’d come on a jaunt and had now dropped their baskets and packets and fled, the shocked folk around the mill dove into the stuffed peppers, gargantuan white bread, and yellow cheese—as if fainting, dying. But they ate to their hearts content.


By that bridge which I was trying to grab and shake just a moment ago, the base captain’s woman, who’d witnessed the apocalypse, and her mascaraed friend halted and watched the terrible scene. The base captain’s stout woman said, “God, will Doomsday be like that? Oh Ayşe dear.”

Pensively, Mrs. Ayşe mumbled, “So it seems . . .

Such a Story[19]

When I left the cinema, the rain had already begun to fall. What to do? I swore a blue streak. I’d felt like going for a walk . . .

One of the drivers was shouting, “Atikali! Atikali!”

Should I go to Atikali at this time of night? I should. I jumped in beside the driver. We went straight, over hill and dale. Red, yellow, and green lights appeared through the car’s misty, rain-streaked glass—we arrived at Atikali in a wave of color.

Were I to walk a hundred steps from the Bomonti tramway stop in Şişli, I would arrive at my house, curl up in my bed sheets, and think of my friend Panco. Now I have nobody left. On one of Istanbul’s islands, my invalid mother lies in her bed. My black dog lay beneath the bedstead, waiting for the both of us. Panco lives on a street called “Strawberry Street.” Football matches appear in his dreams. Sometimes—still in his dreams—he plays cards. I am in a rainy, past-midnight Atikali.  I am on a boulevard of sorts. I am walking. And rain is falling. Yes, there is a truth in the rain, the loneliness, and in Atikali: As I drift further, I miss my mom, Panco, and my dog Arab, all the more.

All three are sleeping. My mother is snoring; woken, Arab turns his ears to the street. Panco is also dreamless, I imagine.

Istanbul Map

Istanbul, for enlarged area with locations mentioned in “Such a Story” see below.

Map Sait Faik

A) Atikalipaşa B) Fatih Mosque C) Zeyrek D) Bomonti E) Azakkapı F) Unkapanı G) Ataturk Bridge
H) Cherry Mosque Street

Thinking of two people and an animal, I am beneath the rain, wandering unknown Atikali streets. A night watchman’s whistle blows. From a house, someone comes running like crazy. He is descending on me.

“I’ve killed my friend, brother! Hide me!” he says.

I am showing him my great coat pocket; my pocket, through whose seams water has leaked, which smells of sesame from the simit I ate this morning.[20] He gets in and hides.

“What’s your name?” I shout into my pocket.


“Why did you murder, Hidayet?”

“I loved, brother!”

“How did you love, Hidayet?”

“Like mad, brother! The day would begin with her. All day I would sell sesame hevla[21]—your pocket has a simit odor, brother—the day would start and end with her. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t think of her. Brother, I was living as in a dream. Every passing word was based on her. People would say something stupid to me and I’d think, what would she say? Were I to buy something, I’d say, would she buy it? Were I to eat something, I wouldn’t be comfortable. Were someone to ask me directions, I would ask myself, would she show him? And, if she did not, I would stare stupidly. Were I to see something beautiful and be unable to show it to her, I would be unable to enjoy it.”

“What was her name?”


“And then Hidayet?”

“Then brother . . .The sky darkened. I dropped sesame helva at a café, followed it up with two glasses of wine. Perhaps that pimp of a bartender added heroin because, as soon as I drank it, Pakize was standing before me hot, lively.”


“No, man; a lie, a daydream, brother! Now I was prattling on.”

“Quiet, someone’s coming, Hidayet.”

Hidayet curled up in the pocket of my coat like a piece of sesame.

The rain had stopped. The surroundings were gray.

From my pocket Hidayet called, “Shall I tell the rest, brother?”

“Don’t. That’s enough for now.”

“Fine brother, I’ll be quiet. As you wish, brother. But tell Panco about me, yeah?”

“I’ll tell him Hidayet.”

“But the rest is even better brother.”

“I’ll make up the rest Hidayet. You get out of my pocket. My coat’s getting wet. I suddenly can’t carry you, I’m weary.”

“Sure brother.”

The sesame in my pocket made like a flea. It shot out straight towards the nettle tree in the yard of the Fatih Mosque. In the darkness it shined like a spark—a black spark.

I let out a sigh. I felt relaxed. Content. I would explain the story to Panco completely: Hidayet, with a single thrust, had stabbed Pakize in the heart with a giant nail. There was nothing else to be done. Women and children eating sesame helva would never have expected this story from Hidayet. Sesame helva wouldn’t fill a stomach. Pakize had said, “Oh neither can a helva-seller.” He’d loved her . . .Can love fill a stomach? Hidayet had dressed up that night. He’d headed out to Taksim. Eighteen lira and thirty kuruş on him. He’d gone to a tavern, drunk and drunk. Drinking effected Hidayet. Now, this meant, he wouldn’t be looking to the minarets—those skyward-rising minarets—on a cloudless, moonlit night, with Pakize.  When a helpless woman asks Hidayet, “Does this road go to Hırkaişerif?” Hidayet, his head lost under his yellow wool jacket, thinks to himself how Pakize, if asked the same question, would answer, “This road, or the other one; how should I know, Miss Fatma!” Well, he wouldn’t have been able to smile and say the same thing to that poor woman’s surprised face!

Could he never have put his head on Pakize’s knee?—Pakize with her smell like feathers, like kittens, like clean muslin, and handkerchiefs.

Damn! Who had put the nail in his pocket? Not that bastard Abdullah? My dear child, that freckly, dark-faced, snub-nosed child who played center for the Black Tiger football club—my dear kid Abdullah. He could have put that nail. That brat who sticks movie ticket stubs, half a match ticket, a tooth brush, a wrench, a Yale lock, a spermaceti candle, a chicklet, a dried cherry, soap, watermelon seeds, onions and garlic, why the fuck would he put a nail? That giant nail. Shining. Thin as a stiletto . . .I was throwing together a story for Panco.

“What are you looking for around here at midnight? Are you a neighbor of mine?”

“I went to visit a friend. Now I’m coming back late.”

“Where do you live?”

“In Şişli.”

They patted me down. Other than a pen, I have 67 liras and 30 kuruş. A story draft, a picture of Panco, another pen.

“You don’t have your ID card on you?”


“What do you do?”

“I write.”

“What writing—you’re a clerk?”

“Yes, a pencil-pusher.”

“Who with?”

“At İkbal warehouse in Kocaeli.” Wherever this came into my head from, I abruptly said it?—İkbal’s Kocaeli warehouse?

“Come on then. Bounce.  Don’t go around at night like an old man.”

I’m walking  along the edge of a park in Fatih, Panco. A guy is sitting in a wet patch.  His legs are sticking straight out. His head is resting on the park’s iron fence.

“Long live democracy, long live the nation, long live the republic!” he was shouting.

“Live long my neighbor,” I said.

“Sit by me,” he said.

I sat. Oh! It was actually comfortable. Soaking wet. Freezing cold.

“I have a wife, neighbor. Take one look at her face and you’ll run a month’s distance away. I have a daughter. God grant her a man like you. Are you married? If you are, break it off and take my girl. She’s blind in one eye, and the other googly. She’s got a nose. A Kleenex can’t deal with it. Her snot smells, she smells. You can’t go past her. Her huge periods smell. A have a son. Nineteen years old, smells like piss. Foot smell, cigarette smell. Speaking of the house: The house smells like a festival, a toilet. Oh great God! Look at those rocks. You washed them shiny. Look at that green-painted iron fence! Solid, sturdy, but it smells of sweet paint and rain. That grass. Those clouds, those dark black, deep yellow, bright red, fair blonde, dusky brown passing clouds—look! Those street lamps, in my eyes, growing, growing, opening stars, the beams, the sharpness—look! Those thoroughly washed apartments—look! Wet, rainy. For all I care. Clean, odorless, in light and water, in clouds, I’m sleeping beneath heavens. I lean my head back on the fence. So what if my ass is in water. The heavens is playing incomprehensible games with my head. Steam is becoming water. Water is cleaning the mud, the dirt; making grass green, trees trees. What need I do at home? And you sit. Don’t you go home. We’ll lie here. We’ll sleep. Stop, before that we’ll light a cigarette.

“This match, which fizzles saying, ‘No I won’t light,’ and then later, ‘Yes sir, I’ll burn,’ this match—look at its light. Can this be, friend? From just a slip of the hand flows heat, light, celebration—have you seen such a thing? Laugh and love, friend. This smoke coming from my mouth—look! How they are flying. You’re experiencing it, sir. Sparkling, bit by bit, wet. You’re experiencing it like glass, like crystal, like those vases with the flower designs, friend. Our smoke, our cigarettes’ smoke—look sir! What is that blue thing? That thing inside people which makes them happy, makes them shine? It’s not sleeping with a woman, nor drinking wine, nor playing prafa with friends, nor going to the theatre or cinema . . .All of it to the side, look at the world. Take a look in my eyes, sir. For you this is match flame. For you this is cigarette smoke! Come, let’s sleep, my neighbor.

“Hey, but before we sleep, talk about Panco to me—the man resting and sleeping against a fence in a Fatih park, the puff of smoke. Panco’s a good kid. The soul of souls. Say, ‘Hi,’ to him from me.”

It was good that I’d bought these shoes . . .A blessing that they are waterproof. All my sides were wet.  My feet, radiators.  As I walked away from him, he belted out a Turkish folk song: “My cigarette’s smoke, gone tomorrow my faith. I built a house from gold, stairs from silver[22]. . .May you live long! Did you see? Can it be in this world? Panco’s friend! Faik Bey’s son.”

I sat on the Zeyrek walls. Vefa in front of me. Not a soul in sight along Ataturk Boulevard. Wind kicked clouds from tower to tower.[23] Hurray for football matches, I said. I wanted to think about which side of the walls I would come down from. Once in my life, I’d smoked hash in Bursa. I’d sat on the walls overlooking the Green Mosque courtyard, composing a poem to the fields in Nilüfer, wondering which side I could come down from. When a man had passed by, I’d shouted, “Which side can I come down from, my brother?” the poor man looked with fear into my poor eyes, then smiling, he’d taken my hand and helped me down.

His eyes fixed on the bill of my school cap. “Don’t do it again, kiddo” he’d said, “Getting down is easy. One can come and get down. But again, if you get confused trying to come down, you won’t recover later.”

Now, though I’m not using such a thing, should I see the entrance to some walls, I immediately forget where the exit is.

Panco, all the guilt is on you. You did this to me. I am walking around at midnight on your account. You did this.

I looked; downhill, at the bottom of the Zeyrek walls, a sleeping dog. I sat beside him. His eye opened. It looked goggly. Fearfully, I pet his head. He shut his eye. I drew him into yet another confab. “Goggly-eye, my son,” I said, “I’m a child of men. You are a child of beasts.  Millions of years before now the two of us were created, took our first breaths—we were one-celled creatures. Before that we were dust in the void. Then—look—we’ve come to this state. After this, perhaps, we’ll abide. Perhaps we’ll change. But we shouldn’t stay like this. You are miserable, us too.

“There are those who sleep in houses, those who sleep under silk sheets, those who sleep in the arms of women—even those puppies who curl up in front of the stove. There are plastic bones and balls. Their mistresses toss these and they run and get them. In their mornings, doormen send them out for a jaunt.  There are people at that hour who, taking loved ones into their arms, have fallen into shared dreams.

“Well, what are we to do? But you are a tailless, hairless, mangy, dog sitting on the Zeyrek hillside, trembling from the cold; I am Panco’s friend—nothing else—a rain-beat, sleepless, weary, poor man with his heart on Ağaççilekli Street and his head on a dirty pillow a hundred meters from the Bomonti tramway stop. What are we to do? Someday we should contemplate living in a world filled with a beating heart and a sense of purpose made from friendship—from humans and animals and trees and birds and grass. A morality of ours such that no book has been written. A morality of ours—a morality of ours that looks in astonishment at the things we’ve done and the things we will do, at the things we’ve thought and the things we will think. Then, we’ll have a longer friendship with you Googly-eye. Then, don’t worry. My friend Panco will also agree. Not a word of church morality will be spoken. His children will be told of friendship’s extraordinary beauty.”

On Ataturk Bridge, I ran into a man. He supported himself on the railing with both hands. He was vomiting into the Golden Horn. I stopped at his side. As if jumping, he raised himself up two or three times on the tips of his toes. Then he stopped. I pulled out my handkerchief, went over to him, and wiped his face. I wiped his mouth. I combed back the hair falling over his eyes with my hand. Turning his face to me, he looked with two big, friendly, black eyes.

“I drank a lot, uncle,” he said.

I avoided any condescension. “One should, kiddo,” I said, “When one drinks, he should drink a lot.”

“Really uncle,” he said, “You’ve done the same as us?”

“When the time is right.”

“You drank a lot?”

I stuck my lower lip over my upper lip and waved my hand lightly in the air two or three times. Panco, you do likewise; you know what I want to say.

“Sure, sure, uncle,” he said. “Your face no longer glows.”

I got angry, “My glow is inside me, son. Inside, I shine. Inside, I’m full of love, filled with friendship—at least in the evenings. Don’t you look to the face for a glow. It lies, it deceives.”

“You don’t say?” he said. From behind, as he was drifting away, singing the song verses, “Do they say it’s like that? Fat bride, do they say it’s like this?” I grabbed him.[24]

“No,” I said, “I’m not letting you go. Tell me: where did you drink?”

“Wherever uncle, enough of this midnight chit-chat, for God’s sake, I’m sobering up now, I should go sleep. Early tomorrow I will hitch up the carriage. [25] The old man will raise hell if we don’t get some sleep. As you would know that there’s a woman in that house across the street, right: a Jew broad. Her husband went to Ankara. She invited us. We went, we drank together. And didn’t the husband drop in at midnight? A real hard-case. Seeing us facing each other, he didn’t say a single word. He sat off to the side. Wife’s a real hard-case too; acting like no one’s around, she gave me, herself, and the asshole a rakı. The thee of us, without saying a word, had another seven glasses each. ‘Hey, can you excuse me,’ I said. ‘You’re excused, sir,’ she said. The asshole, face all yellow, in perfect Turkish said, ‘To your health and prosperity.’ I took bounced. What happened next in the house, I don’t remember.”

“Oh mama!” I said.

“Oh mama, is right!” said the young, handsome, rascally carriage driver.

The two of us, striding along Ataturk Bridge in opposite directions, reached the far sides of the Golden Horn.

When I was in Azakkapı, I heard his drunken scream from Unkapanı.

“Oh mama!” he was saying.

In this way Panco, I came to your neighborhood—the rain had started again. Right in front of your house, a jar had shattered; half in pieces, half just fine.  I sat inside the jar. I began to explain—how I’d been going to Atikalipaşa one midnight, how Hidayet had entered my pocket, the man lying in a Fatih park, the street dog, and the Jew broad’s lecherous driver.

You were sleeping.

“Hey Panco, Panco!” I shouted.

My voice drilled through the wall. It went and found your ear. You woke. But now I have neither the voice nor the state of mind to reach you. So you fell back into sleep. An automobile was passing.

“Are you going to Bomonti, big brother?” I said.

“Jump in,” he said.

I jumped.

A Man Created by Loneliness[26]

When he raised up the fur collar of his overcoat, I looked, wondering if he were cold. Sure enough, his colorless, dark face had turned wax-candle yellow.

“You’re cold,” I said.

He raised his eyebrows. The spot on his cheek with a boil was pale. I stopped. I took his face between my palms and rubbed.

“Why are you like this?” I said.

He laughed. He spit straight into the darkness. He shook his head violently from side to side. “I’m like that sometimes,” he said.

“We should go somewhere,” I said.

“We should go,” he said, “We should go, but we shouldn’t drink.”

“We’ll drink.”

“You’ll die, man!”

“I’ll die,” I said.

We looked at the glass in my hands. His face—how still, silent, dark it was. Still colorless, but alive.

“Your face looks worn out,” he said.

“Worn out,” I said.

He ate nuts. He drank beer. I ate nuts, drank beer.  Something whistled in my ear. It was like I was going to faint. He was looking at me carefully.

“You’re getting very old,” he said.

“Very old,” I said.

He looked at my hair. He looked at my eyes. He laughed.

“Oh, who cares,” I said. “Don’t look, man!”

Getting hot, he lowered the fur collar of his overcoat.

His overcoat collar is fur, his overcoat collar is fur, I said to myself. Part of me said, Hey, so what? So what, I too would get one like that.

“Am I not going to see you again?” I said.

He grew angry. “That’s something for me to know,” he said.

Two days later, I asked twenty people, “‘That’s something for me to know’—what does that mean?” No one could give me a straight, true meaning.

But days had not yet passed yet.  We were still in the bar. I couldn’t see around me. Nor could I see him. Can we see the air? I drifted in thought.

“Come, get up, let’s go,” he said.

“Where?” I said.

“To the match,” he said.

“To the match?” I said. “There’s a match at this hour?”

“Sure, there’s matches on the European side!” he said.

But not here, I didn’t say. We got up. We went down the hill. At one place we stopped. He stripped down. Below, in the half-light at the top of some stairs, he ran into some football players. I heard voices. I heard whistles. I heard swearing. I looked around. There were thousands of people.

During a break, he came to my side.

“Are you playing,” I said.

“Are you blind?” he said.

“Hey, what am I doing?”

“You’re also playing,” he said.

I’m playing? What am I playing?”

He laughed. I saw his teeth. The edge of one was chipped. “You, you’re playing spectator.”

“Really, huh?” I said.

I was playing spectator. I began stomping my feet. Clapping. I was feeling cold. I raised my coat collar. I’ll have sheep’s wool added like his. On my cheeks, I felt the coolness of fur.

Now I didn’t do a thing. The spectators had disappeared. The players had disappeared. Long afterwards, he came to my side.

“The match is finished,” he said.

“Great,” I said. “Who won?”

“The others!”

“It can’t be!”

“You, who’d you want to win?”

“Ours,” I said.

“Who are ours?”


“Us?” he said. “You wanted us to win?”

“Of course, sure!”


“There wasn’t anyone I knew on the other side.”

“Was there on our side?”

“You were there!”

“Dummy,” he said. “I wasn’t there either.”

“I saw you.”

“What was I playing?”


“You actually noticed.”

“Somebody tripped you,”

“They tripped me.”

“You’re limping,” I said.

“I’m limping,” he said. “What’s it to you?”

“Nothing, it’s nothing to me,” I said. My insides twisted.

Suddenly I lost him. I called, “Panco, Panco!’

I received no reply.

Someone in the darkness called my name. “Ishak, Ishak!” he said.

I gave no answer. The voice, it wasn’t his voice. But then, thinking perhaps that I could get news of my friend, I said, “What’s up, man?”

“Ishak, Ishak!” the voice said again.

“What, man; what? I’m right here!”

“I recognized the approaching footsteps,” he said.

Beside him were three youths. One was built small with an Armenian face. The other was dressed in a fisherman’s jacket.  A blank face.  The third was an especially tall one. Between each other they were speaking a language whose words I’d heard thousands of times, whose meaning was unknown; I did not understand.

Them in front, me behind, we went uphill. We arrived a street. The street was asphalt. It was lit. Everywhere was wet. The rain had stopped.

It’s been raining, I said to myself.

I had lost them.  I found him at a cinema box-office. He was waiting by the door. Another was buying a ticket.  The tall one was chuckling with the one in a fisherman’s jacket.  He was dark, calm, still. Interested in me—but without looking at me.

I tried to draw attention to myself. I also bought a ticket. They had settled down in the front. I stood at the edge. I saw him shifting from left to right in the dark. Along with the man in front of him, he turned right and left. For a moment, he settled in. He leaned his cheek on his hand. He lost himself in watching. Then he straightened again. He started chewing his fingernails. From the crowd, a forty year old man in an overcoat yelled, “Don’t chew your nails.”

He smiled. The lights went up. His three friends had vanished. The man in front of him who’d said, “Don’t chew your nails,” came over to him. He sat.

They talked about something—I didn’t hear. My old friend with the fur collar took a scarf from the arm of his overcoat and wrapped up his neck. I saw his black hair. He turned and looked. He didn’t recognize me. As if he were looking at a wall or a rock.

Meaning to say, It’s me, man, it’s me, me, your friend; me Ishak! I opened my mouth.

The heavy air of the cinema filled my liver like water. I shut up. They got up. They passed by lit-up markets. I looked gloomily through his friends. I was like one left utterly alone. Talking with him, I entered a restaurant. The restaurant’s owner was a woman. She had a mole on her cheek. Yet she was like a girl from my childhood. Smiling, I greeted her. I was racing back twenty years into the past.

When I am sick, when my temperature hits forty; my hands swell up. My hands are like a giant’s. Much of my childhood was like this.

“My hands are swollen,” I would say.

My grandmother—or my mother—would take my hands into her cold hands. “It’s nothing, my dear, nothing! Look, in my hands are your hands,” they would say. I would calm down after one or two minutes. Still my hands would swell.

My hands, my hands would swell. Oh mother, how much my hands would swell! When I’d go outside, my hands would quickly shrink from the cold. I was on the streets. I was one against thousands. One against tens of thousands.

Panco, Panco! I wailed within.

I looked at a clock. It was quarter to one. Streets were deserted. Cinemas hadn’t let out yet. Drunks didn’t slam into me. I passed between them like a snake. Everyone looked like Panco. Everyone was going to the match. I ran up behind a youth with his fur collar up.

Grabbing him by his collar passed through my mind. Let’s go to the match, I’d have said.

No, no: I’ll take you to that German restaurant. They make a potato salad. And a schnitzel, perhaps?

Were I to go to that bar again, sit at that table—that table. People would come, sit; couples, men and women. I am alone. Among millions I am alone. Pain gradually grows. Bitter like a melon; bitter like poison. A thing we’ve found after it was lost. Why is that? Why?

The things we cannot find without losing; you can’t know, come off it! Who looked through the window. Why did he look? Close your eyes, close them. Are your hands swelling? No, not swelling. Not swelling, not swelling, hurray! But they hurt. No they don’t hurt—don’t lie. Its like your heart desires something, isn’t it. A lie. You definitely read it somewhere. Or else someone explained it. Or else it stayed in your mind. You heart has no desires. Loneliness. Loneliness is beautiful. Not beautiful. Melon pain. Melon pain, what the hell is that?

A man ordered piping hot börek.[27] Were it him, he’d be eating now. I don’t know how he eats his food. His overcoat collar was made from sheep’s wool—sheep. On his cheek was the trace of a little, old boil. His skin had an icy, dark color—as though the blood beneath was not flowing. His hair was black, his eyes were black. What of them? Were they not black, I would still love his color—icy, dark, wrathful, and pale, as though the blood beneath did not flow. Were I to find these in another, I wouldn’t like them.

I looked at the stars. Which stars? Could there be stars in the bar? I looked at the stars. I dove into a cinema. The previous day he’d been running along the streets. The time was quarter to five. He’d come late to the matinee. Running, he entered the cinema. I looked, stayed. I couldn’t go in. He’s being stubborn. He’s not talking. Not making a peep. Then. Then I’m dripping in sweat like I’d stepped into somewhere steaming. Then it’s snowing in front of me—snow. Snow falls, pitter-patter. Bit by bit, snow. My mind turns to guns. To knives—knives.  I don’t like knives. Guns. In a part of my brain, there’s a little hole. A strange hole, surrounded by black. Blood lightly trickles. The brain rapidly plugs the hole. Something pus-like flows.

What’s it to him, what are these things to him? This is a hole in my skull. Should it open to him too? Yes, it should. What else can free us from loneliness? Only death, perhaps? No, among people—among millions—there are two dead. Three dead. Four dead, five dead. Enough with this counting of the dead. This is the fifth beer. And who cares about this bar either? Or outside the mosque? He’s not coming. Hey! We were in the cinema, right.  A man stepping from a UFO took a kid’s flash light. He went out on the street. The child behind him.

Two guards wait for the UFO.  The robot in front of the UFO is rigid.

He hasn’t taken off his fur overcoat. The fur was still chilly. He rested his boil-scarred cheek on the coldness. The fur lips kissed him. He shuddered. He remembered me. He shook himself. A plaster sailor tchotchke sits on the table. I had won it long ago at a festival in some European city. I stuck money beneath it.

“You gave the sailor your money?”

“I gave. I gave. Thanks sailor!”

In the summer when he was laying at my side, I would drift in to a dream. In my dream, I would see nothing. Nothing.  Is there anything as beautiful as nothing? If there is, give a bit. Right now. Nothing is as beautiful as death.

The man from the distant stars was thrown out of a taxi. The whole army is in pursuit. There’s a command to fire. They hit. The soldiers besieged him.

When he came back late I’d be crazy. When the footsteps on the stairs grew alien, I’d be furious. Then, unexpectedly, his footsteps. I would leave the door open. He would enter like one come from some distant planet. I would kiss his eyes.

He should go. He should leave from here. The film is finished. On the streets, I must walk with my fate on my back, myself on my back, I must walk.  I must go around the neighborhood. I must see houses. In the hours after midnight, I must look at the windows with their softly glowing lights. I must sit on the rubble and watch the house with a number “2” on it until the night watchmen appear. There are flower pots on the balconies above. The upstairs is in ruins. The downstairs, ruins. The middle, perfect. In which ruins does he live? The lights should be out. Slowly I passed through a corridor.

“Thief! Thief!”

One should run to the streets. One should run. Night watchmen, police—their whistles behind me. No, nobody heard. I am opening the door or a small room. There, in a ruined bed, one foot is sticking out. Two feet are sticking out. I am stuffing the two feet in a quilt. He is taking a deep breath. He is turning from me to the side. I am looking. The boil scar is on the other side. On his strange, wrathful, pale face, there is a pinkness. His eyebrows are soaking wet. His lips, dry.

The candle is about to go out. Mary trembles. Who is in this little bed? I am leaning in, taking a look at her. There are enormous eyes. Wrathful skin. She’s not screaming.

“Shh, shh!” I’m saying.

I’m covering the small girl’s mouth with my palm. She is struggling.

“Don’t make a racket and I’ll open my hand,” I’m saying.

Her black eyes are opening and closing. I am taking my hand away from her mouth. Then I am going, sitting on the far bed. He is still sleeping. I am searching around with my eyes. There’s a fur-collared overcoat. I am putting it on. My wrist sticking out, I am wandering around the room hunched over. The small girl is looking at me. She is covering her mouth wither her hands, laughing. I am getting off the rubble and hitting the road. On the streets now there are lonely drunks, pimps, and the like. All of them wonderful men. All of them with fate and themselves on their backs. All alone. Even when they lie with a woman, they are alone. Were I to find an open place. If I were to have another beer. No. Everything is closed.

He is still sleeping. His eyebrows soaking wet. I am holding my face to his breath. I am taking one of the two pillows under his head and putting it at his feet. There I am curling up and going to sleep. My hands are swelling, swelling, swelling swelling.

There is a Snake in Alemdağ[28]

Snow had been starting to fall as I’d entered the theatre. Exiting, I found the square sparkling white. A flake fell down my neck. I shivered.

“Take your hand from your mouth. Don’t chew your nails,” I shouted. Two people walking in front of me turned and looked.

They slowed in order to get a look at my face. I am feeling a lonesomeness—as though I’d been with him every evening. He would come on Fridays. A plaster sailor, pipe in mouth, would wait for him.

The sun on the oilcloth curtain signaled it was fully three o’clock. I would fall asleep waiting for those future days when I’d be a hundred percent confident in the future. How did I hear those scratch-like raps on the door from within my dreams? I would fly out of bed. I would open the door. He’d be a wan color, panting. He’d take a cigarette from the table and light it.

The world was elsewhere. Here was a dresser, a mirror, a plaster sailor, a bed, another mirror, a telephone, a couch, books, newspapers, used matches, cigarette butts, an oven, and a quilt. The world was elsewhere. In the sky, there were planes.

Inside those planes were passengers. Trains were passing. One guy was signing, another was giving money. The evening’s sweetness had come forth. The evening’s simit had also come into the world . . .

The inside of the room filled with the calls of simit sellers. The world was elsewhere.

The conductor is punching tickets, a man reads a paper with a child. A youth—a dark-eyebrowed, robust kid—was sprawled out. A handsome, strong kid. A scrawny one, hands thrust in his pants pockets, lay on his right side. The kid stopped reading the paper. He rolled his over-coat up under his head. He also stretched out. I am in the lower cabin of a ferry.

Friday comes. School holiday, we are living in Sülemaniye on Cherry Mosque Street.[29] I am seventeen. I am remembering the pine tree at Münir Paşa House.[30] Perhaps that great pine tree in the school’s garden has burned up in a fire. Münir Paşa House’s oil-painted ceilings have long since become smoke and ash. The bedbugs have also burned. My bed, my bed sheets, my tears have burned. Fountains have burned. The trees, their leaves untouched by winter, have burned. Memories—memories have burned. Its boys have burned. The books that shaped me have burned.

I should find an imitation sheep’s fur, have my overcoat fixed up.

Monday comes. Still I am in the ferry’s lower cabin. Still the weather is snowy. Still Istanbul is ugly—Istanbul? Istanbul is an ugly city. A dirty city. Particularly on the rainy days. On other days it’s beautiful, no?—No. On other days the bridge is covered in spit. Side streets are muddy, debris-strewn. The nights are vomitus. Houses turn their backs to the sun. Streets are narrow. Merchants, brutish. The rich, indolent. People, everywhere like this. Even couples sleeping in gilded beds are alone.

Loneliness has filled the world. To love, to love with another starts everything. Here, with loving another everything ends.

A beautiful land; Alemdağ is a beautiful land. At this hour, with its fifteen-meter trees, with its Taşdelen waters,[31] with its snake . . .but snakes lie low on winter days. But it can be: the weather in Alemdağ is balmy. The sun rises from amid the trees’ brilliant red leaves. Bit by bit, warm things are raining down, accumulating atop rotten leaves. The Taşdelen waters flow like fingers. It is washing us, first with a clanking metal cup, then afterwards, inside as we are stripped buck-naked. A rabbit, a snake, a blackbird, coming to get water. With a little goat who’s run away from Polonezköy just for us, we are frisking around rough-and-tumble.

As, “Panco, Panco!” is screamed, the snake, the goat, the blackbird, and the rabbit freeze in their places as though made of plaster. They are turning white with fear. Quickly I am pulling out a sharp knife from my pocket and slicing off a bit of their ears, a bit under their wings. Blood is beginning to flow. They are leaving me, running to Panco.

Panco’s always bloodless and wrathful face slips, a smile is appearing all the way to his boil. He is kissing the blackbirds’ beaks. Pulling the rabbit’s whiskers. He is filling up the snake. A ball is brought—a football. I am the goalkeeper. The snake is also a goalkeeper. The others lay on the leaves, playing in the sun. They are playing for hours. When the ball goes into our goal, the snake and I are stepping aside, watching. We are spoil-sports.

Alemdağ, beautiful Alemdağ . . .Istanbul in mud. Taxi drivers are splashing water on people out of spite. Snow is getting inside our clothes out of spite.

A girl is throwing a cat out a fifth story window. A girl and a foreign man come over to this cat. Blood trickles softly from the cat’s nose.  In French, the man is saying, “Il est mort d’hemoragie, le pauvre![32]

The girl is explaining to me in Turkish that the cat has been thrown from the fifth floor. Now we are shoving the dead cat toward the edge of Galatasaray Lycee’s sturdy, high walls. The girl on the fifth floor is tossing coal into the stove. How the weather has cooled! Perhaps it will snow. When it snows there can still be a mildness to the weather.

When does Panco return from Alemdağ? Suddenly, he is passing by with a friend of his—as if passing by a wall or a dead cat. Our arms unexpectedly brush. The walls are being opened. People, angry with each other for years, abruptly feeling the same emotion, are saying, “Enough now,” and kissing each other as though making peace. I am turning. Panco and his friend are still going, laughing together. Dirty green water would linger in the fountain of fire-destroyed Münir Paşa House. The bottom of the water couldn’t be seen, but closing my eyes I could see the sparkle of tossed-in coins. One time we gave a friend of ours—now a provincial governor—fifty kuruş and threw him into the water fully dressed.

The café that Panco and his friend went to together was unknown to me. It was on the first floor of a building, between an apartment and an inn; on its door, a scrap dealer hung aluminum pans and plastic glasses. Seeing them entering this door, I wondered. I entered too. I looked at the wooden door across from me. Beyond the wooden down was a big salon; inside, people are playing backgammon and cards. Over in the corner is a billiards table. Entering, everyone looked at me. As customers who came here were always the same, they eyed me up and down. Sitting or even drinking a coffee would have been hellish. I made like I was looking for somebody. Unless our good man Luka here—a mason, a painter. I would ask about him. He wears glasses. He is a Greek national. But Albanian. I wanted to ask the waiter about him. I looked; Panco, using Luka as a screen, is trying not to reveal himself to me. This guy I’d known for ages looked at me as if he knew why I’d come. It was like he was smiling. “God damn you, asshole!” I said. I turned. Going, I took one more turn and looked. I could still see the fur collar of his overcoat.

Seeing that fur, I relaxed. The rabbit; the partridge; that warm, marvelously slippery, and beautiful snake; the blackbird; Alemdağ, Taşdelen’s water; the rotten leaves; the sun falling firmly on those leaves—I remembered.

Panco’s Dream

In the house, things were growing odd. In appearance sounds, calls, meal times—even faces—were the same as ever. Had everything been switched around, all the voices grown hoarse, and even the meal times changed, there might not have been this sense of impropriety—that everything was not as usual. One expected in that case that tables, classes, and chairs would not be in their place—no, everything was in its proper place. My little brother is waking at the same hour. Tea is boiling at the same minute, the smell of bread placed in the little one’s lunch box is reaching his bed and his nose. Crouching beside the stove, our small, peaceful, humble, lovely mornings were the same as ever.

“Slowly, slowly get up, get dressed,” said my father.

When the clock above the dresser showed a few minutes past eight-thirty, my mother shouted at me, “Come Panco, your father is getting ready.”

As always, I am mumbling, turning back and forth. My eyes open, I am thinking of this and that, some friend, lunch break, the film I might go to that evening.

This time my father is scolding me, “Panco! Panco, you ass! Lazy Panco! We’ll be late.”

I will always remember the friendliness in these words—ass, lazy.

I am twenty years old. My father is forty. We are like brothers. Sometimes he even seems younger than I. My father is a builder. I am an electrician. We live on one of Beyoğlu’s muddy streets. In the evenings, as soon as work finishes, I run to the café and gamble. My father knows, but pays no heed. I can blow my whole week’s salary in a single day. After I work like crazy. Only because of this I can’t wake up in the mornings.

Sometimes we are out of work. This can continue for months. In times like this, you provide for my needs.

You bought the school notebooks for the little one. The watch on my wrist is yours. I owe you this jacket I’m wearing.

With gambling, the three or five kuruş you gave me will become three or five lira. I’ll fetch those things I mentioned. My father can make five or ten kuruş doing work for a couple businesses he knows. I’ll get up at ten o’clock. And then straight to the café. My father knows this. But he doesn’t say a word. This oddity, more than the mood while he is working, adds a deep line between his eyebrows. Not even a single day does he sing my favorite song:

παντό μαζί,

τα βρί στομαστε

παντό μαζί [33]

Do you suppose the tone of the house changes in this way daily? No, perhaps a silence hangs over the house—but I, being happy and cheerful, remove the household’s dullness. I return late in the evenings. I go to the theatre with you. I linger at the head of the card table.[34] But, regardless of the hour, when I get home, won’t I enter into an atmosphere suffused with the extinguished barbeque and the breath of my father, mother, and little brother—the world is mine. I’ll give myself over to sleep. But, before sleeping, I’ll think of you for a bit. You are good, you are pleasant, but there is one thing that bugs me about you also. What it is I don’t know. Last week I had a dream. Two people were going along a road. One resembled you, I thought. Wondering who was beside you, I ran up, looked. How bizarre that the one beside you was me!

Where you going buddy? I said with my eyes.

You gave no reply. I thought that I might be a me separate from me, or that—also possible—this was a dream. I wanted to say something. But the me who was with you said, “What’s it to you? We’ll go where we go.”

I wanted to give an answer. Although the me who was separate from me was able to talk, I was not. In my dream, I understood I was in a dream. I forced myself. Finally was able to scream.

“What happened?” said my little brother.

I wondered what I had screamed. “What did I say? What did I say, Kalyopi?” I said.

“I’m not following you big brother,” he said.

So, although that morning everything in the house was in its normal place, although voices and conversations were all the same, something changed. Suddenly I felt an overwhelming affection for everything. Suddenly a great fear and pressure lifted from within me. I collected all of the scattered belongings, all my things in the house. By quarter to eight I was at the foot of the stove. My father still hadn’t gotten up. When my mother and little brother saw that I’d gotten up early, they rejoiced.

“Did you find a job Panco?” they said.

“No,” I said.

“Then why’d you wake up early?”

I took offense, “If you want I can go back to bed.”

They clasped me by the hanging pieces of my ripped pajamas. They made me sit. The put a glass of tea in my hand. The slice of toast with cheese on it they gave me burned my hand.

“Last night, big brother screamed,” my little brother said to mom.

“Screamed? Why’d he scream?”

“I don’t know, but he screamed a lot.”

My father came in. What a good man. What a sweet man. What a hospitable, friendly, man my father was. “Oh Panco,” he said, “You’re an early one today.” He searched his pockets, “I left the pack upstairs, get it for me, will you.”

I sprinted up. From my own pocket, I brought him one of those remaining, beautiful cigarettes you had given me.

“Ooo, where did you get these cigarettes?” he said.

“A friend of mine gave them to me.”

“Hey!” he said, “Today you’re coming with me. I’m going to fix some cellar stairs. And you: The wiring in the woodshed is busted, you fix that.”

We left the house together. On the way I ran into you. Where were you going so early like that? That weird look you gave me left me laughing once we’d parted ways.

“What are you laughing about?” said my father.

“Nothing,” I said.

But I was thinking about you. You’d been just like the you in my dream last evening. There’d only been one difference: You hadn’t run up to me and said with your eyes, “Where are you going, take me.”

After work, I running to a café and taking a seat at the prafa table, it still came to mind. Still I laughed.

That evening I returned home early. My mother had fried up fish. I ate seven mackerel. My father had a bottle of beer. I drank a glass. Boiled potatoes as always. Cold as ice cubes. I ate them too. I curled up in front of the stove. My little brother handed me a book. Without understanding a thing, I lost myself in reading. I was happy. This bliss—you had given it to me. I loved everything twice—maybe three times—more. The reason for this was you. You . . .but the worst part of this is you too. I trust you, I appreciate your friendship, but I’m laughing at you ceaselessly. I didn’t see you—not in my sleep in front of the stove, not later, dreaming in my bed.

You were in my mind as soon as I woke up in the morning. I laughed. I got up. I came to explain this to you. What do you say?

Master Yani[35]

When I met Master Yani,[36] he was fifteen. He wasn’t “Master Yani” then. He was a dark-eyed, dark-legged, dark-haired kid.

And me? . . .I was a giant guy. What a lie I’m saying: I had no job, no strength. In the world, I had no one. I had a mother, that was it. Other than her, I had no one. Master Yani is twenty today. I’m approaching fifty. But Master Yani is my sole friend. When he paints walls, it’s jaw-dropping. In my eyes, he’s still a dark kid of fifteen years. When not painting, he goes to the cinema; he goes to a match; he plays pişpirik in the café.[37]

When I occur to him, wherever I may be, he comes and finds me. If I don’t, he doesn’t even look.

“Man, why would I go to look for you, grandpa!” he’ll say.

We have a cozy little bar. I go and hang out. I keep thinking. What did I do in this world? What did I see? Where did I come to? Why am I going? What did I do?

When it’s snowing outside, even if it’s hot within, I feel chilly in this bar. At six o’clock, no one else is around. The waiter has gone to another room. The clock on the wall irritates, it forces a person to drink. It is Master Yani I’m waiting for. If I wait, he doesn’t come . . .If don’t wait, might he come? There’s hope. When I don’t wait there is hope.

He comes and passes in front of me. What can I say to him? What does he say to me? I can’t remember a thing. Later I’ll make something up.

The bar regulars are here. One; he comes and sits by the window. He opens a bottle of mineral water. He tosses in two—three—shots of rakı. He orders a snack plate, sometimes he has some kidney’s cooked up, sometimes he eats an omelet.

Master Yani comes. Between his eyes there is a line. He’s giving a 5,000 drachma dowry to a girl’s father. The girl is gorgeous. He’d known her from long ago, but on this occasion had met her for tea. Her mother had said, “Dance Yani!” Master Yani had said, “Dance-smance, I don’t know how . . .and if I knew, I wouldn’t.” The girl was clearly ripe. “I’ll meet with my father,” said Master Yani.

Which is to say Master Yani isn’t coming to the bar by the time I’ve had two drinks. “Shouldn’t go to bars and the like for a bit,” he’s saying, “The point of my work is to get 5,000 TL.”

Well, that’s Yani for you! I said last night, You’re a dark, dry little boy. Look at what a big guy you were. I was a grandpa. Bar, old bar. Tables, old tables. The world, another world. You, another man. But me, always myself Master Yani! You I always see the same way Master Yani: Dark-haired, dark-eyed, sharp kid. Well I used to go to the movies with you. At my side you were crazy. You’d shake your hands. You’d hit my shoulders.

“Whoa,” you’d say, “Did you see? Look, the detective! Did you see what he did? With a punch he . . .”

There wasn’t space in that cinema. Inside that cinema were mirrors. In rainy weather clothes smelled, people smelled. The first time we met, surrounded by first-class children, my insides filled with love. Every face was beautiful. Every child good-natured. Every hand calloused, little, dirty, and warm.

Days passed. I crumbled. Drinking thoroughly ruined me. You were a big man; good for a 5,000TL dowry. But you like this girl at least Master Yani?

“She’s a woman, isn’t she, grandpa—we will love.”

True Master Yani, you love women, but in order to remain a child at heart, I love children more than women.

“Don’t you love me?”

“You? That’s being asked Master Yani? You? I love you deeply.”

“But I’m not a child now.”

“In my eyes you’re a child.”

“If you take me for a child, I’ll get angry. I’ll sulk at you. I won’t talk to you again.”

“You won’t even invite me to the wedding, Master Yani?”

“Look, I’ll invite you to it.”

We became silent for a time, Master Yani and I. Then Master Yani said—from where the thought came, I don’t know—“You go to theatres and such, take me tonight.”

“Gladly, whenever you want.”

We discussed Monday night. I went to the box-office early and got a ticket. I came. Master Yani came spiffed up. He came, but the tickets were for the next night. There weren’t any plays Monday nights.

“Master Yani,” I said, “There are no shows on Mondays; I bought tickets for tomorrow night.”

“No harm done, give my ticket to me,” he said.

We had four rounds. We parted. The following evening at 8:30 I came to the theatre. He still hadn’t arrived. As the curtain call sounded, another person came and sat by my side.

Master Yani had sold the ticket, he hadn’t come to the theatre.

For the last time, Master Yani had done a childish thing to me. It amused me. I felt a strangeness. I sensed a loneliness. However, I would watch the play alone and take pleasure in it. I would choose slow nights. I would sit in the upper balcony. I’ll probably never see a play as bad as that night’s again

Well, that’s Master Yani for you! And what, huh, Master Yani! You didn’t come. What of it? You are still that little child who sat beside me in that mirrored cinema whenever I see you on the street. But my heart; is it not being squeezed by something, by an iron hand? But whatever! Don’t believe! Leave it be! Don’t grieve Master Yani. When you see me, give a smile. Don’t worry! What’s happened with the theatre? There’s friendship in this world, man! And that didn’t die!





I was sitting at the cafe. Suddenly I saw him outside the window. He was laughing. I flew out like an arrow. He’d been hidden in the lobby of a cinema. “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said.

“Were you looking for me?”

Not answering, thoughts chased each other. Why does a person search, I thought. Why does a person search? Why does one person search for another? Were I a school teacher, I would give this subject to the students. In this way the reasons would be discovered. I would find the answer which was most suitable for myself. But I wouldn’t stop there. Regardless of the reasons, we should look at the consequences. The significance of the beauty, ugliness, goodness, or badness of the reason will be added to the sweetness—or bitterness—of the consequence. Were there any doubt within us, the need would arise to take the meanings of words from dictionaries. Good reasons, foul consequences; bad reasons, lovely consequences—isn’t one born of another? Yes. If you search for someone for good reasons, and the search gives bad consequences, to what degree can you believe that the reason you were searching for him was good?

Let’s be more precise. Had he searched me out in a friendly manner, and we stretched out on a blanket spread in front of the stove, him saying, “Go, get me something, my belly is hungry, get a bottle of wine, we’ll drink,” and me getting up, flying like a bird to get the thing he desires and bring it—had I not seen him still there, in front of the stove, siting cross-legged in the middle of the blanket, wouldn’t I have gone mad?

Though bad reasons have brought him to me, it is one account of bad reasons that I find him on the blanket, with his curly hair and smart eyes, lost in an official illustrated magazine.

Outside it is snowing. Our house is hot. Everywhere is a mess. Everywhere covered in cigarette ash. On top of the table was an orange peel. He was lost in the magazine; I lost myself in his face. I was like a miserable boat, rescued from disaster in a sea of bliss. Sails tattered, water inside. No, I am like a rower. He is like a sea creature—one I will never catch, one I will never have my fill of in my life. Seaweed and seashells are smelling. Whatever the reasons that have brought him to me, this marvelous consequence on the blanket in front of me, lost in a magazine—this consequence connecting me to camaraderies, loves, twenty years, welfare and bliss, friendships, and tranquilities. What more could I want!

The wood I threw into the stove is crackling. In a room where only stove is talking, a person of the world, who will—half an hour, one hour, one and a half hours, at most two hours later—be full of sickness, hopelessness, doubts, uncertainty, lonely dreams, and pains, can feel bliss.

This bliss comes from a person.

Can a single person do a greater favor for another person than this? I am thinking. I am in astonishment. Accounting for every bad reason, every ungrateful thought, my hair stands on end. The obligation—oh, what a terrible word; there should be a sweeter one in Turkish—the obligation is mine. If, at this moment, my death were necessary for him and this wine murdered me, may he want it slow, may he want is sudden, I should die.

“The room is hot, I filled a glass. The wine’s like ice. Drink.”

Without his raising his eyes from the magazine, I am placing the glass in his hand. Before drinking, he raises his head—looking at me, looking at my glass. “You’re not going to drink?”

“How am I not going to drink? I’m going to drink.” With passion, my lips are taking in the wine, which I haven’t drunken for six years. I am not even aware of it passing down my throat.

I pulled back the curtains and looked outside. The weather has darkened. Head lifted from the magazine, he looked too. “It’s gotten dark,” he said.

He stretched out. Stretched out and slept.

One time I wondered about who he was. Among people, he was a person. A type like me. I was playing a dangerous game on him. Was he heading straight toward certain misfortune, like me? All of us were heading toward a clear end. But was I dragging him to a country whose seas were blue; fields, dark-green; dark mountains, insurmountable; roads, impassable; markets, mired in loneliness; snacks, tasteless; wine, bitter? In order to have two hours of connection in this room with only a stove talking, where was I taking this person created by a carefree heart, friendship, devotion, and humanity?

He’d fallen asleep. A gorgeous, smooth eyelid had descended over his clever eyes. His neck had twisted. His hands—his hands, which fluttered in his soul—were quickly calming down. I woke him.

“It’s late kiddo,” I said, “Let’s go.”

“You stay if you want, I’ll go.” Thinking I wouldn’t give him his money, he was surprised when I gave it. “You’re a good guy,” he said.

“No, I’m not a good guy,” I said, “I’m not doing this out of goodness.”

“How so?”

“Explaining is difficult,” I said.

“I understand.”

“Don’t try,” I said.

“I shouldn’t come again?”

“Look, do you see: You haven’t understood,” I said, “I always want you come . . . I’ve done this in order to see you, every week in winter, sleeping on this blanket; in summer sitting on a rock.”

“I wouldn’t have thought so today,” he said.

“No harm done.”

All at once, he was hugging me. I fell into a warm, humane dream. His head was under my nose. “Come again in a week,” I said.

“I’ll come,” he said. He went.

In the hot room, for a moment, I shivered.

I’d understood. I’d understood everything. I understood I loved him (with all my heart). Now he was on the road. He was heading straight for his house. Inside was something strange. Possibly it was a pain born from the knowledge of not being loved; perhaps it was a Judas kiss born from the knowledge of being loved.


I looked to my side, no one was around. A bit earlier, all around me was full of people. Dogs were howling, trees rustling. A stream was flowing beneath my ear. Trees were washing the waters. Animals were kissing people. Dogs were speaking, people howling. The heavens were yellow.

Someone was saying, “You are my dear. You are my dear, my tree, my river; me, I am an ocean.” The other was warm amid the odor of people. Not giving a reply. The blue veins on her hands flow into an ocean of friendship. Her hair is dark; his eyes, dark; her eyebrows, dark; full of dark days and dark stories. On her lips is a Turkish maiden’s ballad she will sing a bit later.

The sun in a boat, the dust in the heavens, the red of a tree—from which was the moon born. One of my lips is on the floor, the other on the tail, moving within me like a fire.

“In my veins, in my wrists, you are pulsing.”

“Stars have been hung on trees. Cold candles were hanging. The closest of friends at my side; in my glass, mastic rakı,[39] my tongue stammers; in my hand a fishing rod, in the fishing rod’s hands—bait; in the boat Barba Stanco; at the ship rail, Sivriada; in my chest, stars; I am at the ship’s wheel. The motor whirrs. Dogs sounds are coming in a friendly manner. Trees stars, trees hills, dogs sounds arrive with the morning. I am drinking in a fish odor. From a Greek house comes the smell of frying mussels, from my mustache, the smell of anise. [40]

“You are my dear,” I am saying to whomever.

I smell the morning stars falling into the coffee cup. Coffee smells like musk. Bits and pieces of strawberry flowers. I am crushing buckwheat in my palm. Bees are landing on my tongue, they are stinging my eyes, the sun is sinking, a cormorant is descending. A seagull is landing on a spar in the emptiness. Onto the rocks, from the water, dressed up in the color of the sky, soldiers are coming. I hear the sounds of their feet on the rocks. That, that’s Aspasya. That’s Aspasya. Jasmine Aspasya; camphor-scented Aspasya; in the yellow of an Easter flower Aspasya; in her tongue, a spark; in her tongue, a snake; in her tongue, mirrors and fountains . . .

“You are my dear,” I am saying, “You are my dear.”

Yani, Yani, man! Hey Yani! Dark Yani! Grandson of Panayot, the organ grinder from Beykoz; dark-eyed friend Yani! Sing “Karabiberim” in Greek.[41] Aspasya, listen. The Ibrahim in that Turkish ballad is me. Leave Ibrahim and his wealth, Karabiberim.

Whose are these sheep in the fields of friendship? Yours? Sheep? Do these sheep baaaa? Yani, sing Karabiberim.

Now in Athens, in Omonoia Square, it’s nighttime. On the terraces of Athens’ cafes, anchovies, green olives, and a glass of mastic—who does it sit in front of? Whomever it will be, will be. Jellyfish odor is coming up from Piraeus. Socrates is coming down from the Acropolis[42]. You Yanaki![43] The closest of friends. Among friends, the last before death! While passing along Athens’ streets, look at the stars. The stars will bring you to the boats, to the rowboats, to the ferries, and to the islands. You will travel all the world’s islands. You will board all the world’s boats. In your hand, with the line of a 35 cm fishing rod, intending to get fish from the ocean’s depths, you will snatch phosphorus, bioluminescence, and twinkling things. Forget about fish! Think about me my Yanaki. Get on—get on the back of a star. Among the islands is Burgaz Island. There’s a boat, with a view of all Kaloyeros and Laendros.[44] So that is mine. I: among boats, one boat; among oceans, one ocean; among people, one person.

Yani! It’s night in Omonoia Square. Boats and songs pass through the sky. Lights glide along cars—did you hear a horse’s whinny? Did a carriage pass wildly through your mind . . .and through the windows of Omonoia’s cafes? Do you realize that I’m in Taksim Square, sitting on the small fence that surrounds the grass in front of the monument, thinking of you Yanaki. It’s night. The snow is about to stop. The lit-up advertisements are turning off. The grass is darkening. From a tavern comes the sound of three guitars. Mavrodafni is shattering on the sidewalks.[45] Don’t you think about walking as far as your hotel; the metro between Athens and Piraeus hasn’t been working for a while, the weather is beautiful, walk. The seagulls on Sivriada are wheeling around in the moonlight. Barba Vasili got in his overcoat and slept. I am thinking of you, Yanaki. Then, as Aspasya had described, wind coming off Cephalonia chills Sivri Island’s water.[46] Yanaki, in Omonoia Square the lights are going out. Cafes are about to shut. Eat green olives. Toss this straight back.  Did you hear the whistle of the ferry coming from Piraeus? I am on Galata Bridge at that moment. A Dutch freighter is calling out sharply to an escaped prisoner wandering around Okmeydan. I am entering the Üsküdar ferry landing. I am supporting myself on the railing. Why didn’t you eat the green olives?

The waiter at the Ekseliyor Café on Omonoia Square is saying, “Καληνύχτα κύριε,”[47] to me. “And from me a Καληνύχτα to you, Panco!”



Bir İnsan Sevmek: Sait Faik. Süha Oğuzertem ed. Istanbul: Alkım Yayınevi, 2004

Tahir Alangu. Sait Faik İçin. Istanbul: Yeditepe Yayınları, 1956

Mahmut Alptekin. Bir Oykü Ustası. Istanbul: Dilek Yayınevi, 1984

Yakup Celik. Sait Faik ve İnsan. Istanbul: Akçağ, 2002

Ahmet Miskioğlu. Sait Faik: Yağamı, kişiliği, sanatı, yapıtları değerlendirmeler, şiirler. Istanbul. Altın Kitaplar, 1991

Fethi Naci. Sait Faik’in Hikayeciliği. Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2003

Sait Faik. A Dot on the Map: Selected Stories. Talat Sait Halman ed. Indiana University Turkish Studies, 1983

______Sleeping in the Forrest. Talat S. Halman ed. Syracuse University Press, 2004

Sevengül Sonmez. A’dan Z’ye Sait Faik. Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2007

Muzaffer Uyguner. Sait Faik Abasıyanık. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 1983

[1] Abasıyanık was an Sait Faik adaption of his family’s chosen name: Abasızoğlu,  meaning “one without an ‘aba,’” which is piece of clothing. Though Sait Faik’s family was not poor, the name implied poverty. He, himself, changed his name to Abasıyanık, meaning “burned aba,” but also suggesting a sense of being desperately in love. (Faik, 1983, 15-16)

[2] Not that he existed outside politics, but as Bekir Yildiz explains: “[Sait Faik] did not involve himself with the change of the established order, but rather dabbled in the consequences of that order . . .[he never] renounced his class.” Morevoer, Yildiz argues, “In reality, the nature of his affection for the common man impeded his identification with the poor” (Quoted in Faik, 1983, 5-6)

[3] Alexis Alexandris. The Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek Turkish Relations, 1918-1974. Athens: Centre For Asia Minor Studies, 1992 [1982], pp. 213-14.

[4] See Nedim Gürsel, “The Greek Community of Istanbukl in the Works of Sait Faik,” Turkish Literature and Cultural Memory: “Multiculturalism” as a Literary Theme After 1980, Catherina Dufft ed. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009, pp. 107-128.

[5] See Naci (2003).

[6] Uyguner, p. 32

[7] Talat Sait Halman, “Introduction: Fiction of a Flaneur” in Faik (1983), pp. 4-7

[8] Ilhan Berk, “Alemdağ’da Var Bir Yilan’da Dil,” in Bir İnsan Sevmek, pp. 23-26

[9] Naci, p. 32.

[10] Ibid. p. 31.

[11] Uyguner, p. 45

[12] Naci, pp. 66-7.

[13] Tarik Buğra quoted in Faik (1983), p. 9.

[14] These stories are all translated from Sait Faik, Bütün Eserleri 7: alemdağda var bir yilan/ az şekerli, Istanbul: Bilgi Yayinevi, 2001 [1954]. The exception is “Trip” which is translated from Sait Faik, Şahmerdan, İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınevi, 2012 [1940] . Some of the stories are available in collections like Sait Faik. A Dot on the Map: Selected Stories, Talat Sait Halman ed. Indiana University Turkish Studies, 1983 and Sait Faik, Sleeping in the Forest: Stories and Poems, Talat Sait Halman ed. Syracuse University Press, 2004. When really stuck, I would refer to these for comparison. Though the meaning was helpful, I often avoided the phrasing. Additional help came from a variety of sources—“Kalinikhta” was especially easy thanks to help from Selim Sirri Kuru.

[15] The Dardanelles campaign of WWI (April 1915- January 1916).

[16] Red and white are the colors of the Turkish flag.

[18] Bazlama is a type of flatbread. See HERE. And here’s a video of how to make it, HERE.

[19] There is another translation of this story by Joseph S. Jacobson, available in Sait Faik (2004), pp. 102-9.

[20] Simit is a typical, bagel-like snack, usually covered in sesame seeds, often drunken with tea, and sold on nearly every street. See HERE.

[21] Helva is a desert usually made from semolina—sometimes made with nut/seed-based butters. See HERE.

[22] In Turkish it rhymes: Cigaramın dumanı/ Yokur yarin imani/ Altından köşk yaptırdım/ Gümüşten merdiveni

[23] The word kale in Turkish means both “tower” and “football goal.” A goalie is a kaleci.

[24] The lyrics to the song, “Sabret Gönül Bu Hasretlik,”  are HERE. ( A video is HERE (

[25] This should actually be translated as “we”—a lot of colloquial speech in Turkish seems to be delivered in the “royal we.”

[26] There is another translation of this story by Joseph S. Jacobson available in Sait Faik (2004), pp. 123-29.

[27] Turkish breakfast pastry, see HERE.örek

[28] The entire book is “available” HERE (…/251.pdf‎) in Turkish. There is also a translation of this story by Ahmet Evin in Faik (1983), pp. 157-61.

[30] Münir Paşa House was a building on the campus Istanbul Boys School where Sait Faik attended until he was expelled for sticking a pin on a teacher’s chair. See a picture of the buiding HERE.

[31] Taşdelen water is considered very natural and pure. At least, I assume; if not, it’s probably a bad name choice for a bottled water company. (

[32] Trans: “He’s dead of a hemorrhage, poor fellow.”

[33] All together/ We will meet each other/ All together.

[34] Specifically the prafa table. For more information about prafa go to

[35] There is another translation of this story by Joseph S. Jacobson available in Sait Faik (2004), pp. 223-29.

[36] “Master” (Usta) gets thrown around a lot in Turkish—its essentially a term of respect for people doing their job. Most little restaurants have names like Murat Usta or Hayri Usta.

[37] Pişpirik is a card game. HERE are the rules.şti. HERE is a video.

[38] Kalinikhta [Good night]. There is a version of this story by Ahmet Evin available in Sait Faik (1983), pp. 257-61.

[39] Mastic is the flavor of “flavorless” gum.

[40] Rakı, like many Mediterranean liquors is made from anise (i.e. licorice flavor).

[42] Omonoia Square is the central square in Athens. Piraeus is the city’s main port. The Acropolis is the site of Athens’ ancient citadel.

[43] “Aki” is diminutive in Greek meaning “dear, “little,” etc.

[44] Any one who wants to translate this sentence is welcome to: Bir sandal vardır, tam Kaloyeros’la Laendros’un gözüktügü nişanda. I thought it was something about mythical figures appearing on a crest . . .but I’m told the translation I’m using is better. But what are Kaloyeros and Laendros? Beats me.

[45] Mavrodafni is dark, Greek wine.

[46] Cephalonia is an island to the west of Greece.

[47] κύριε means “boss/ sir. So, full translation: Good night, sir.