Forbidden Love by Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil

Forbidden Love by Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil - Aşk-ı Memnu

Translator’s Introduction

Forbidden Love (Aşk-ı Memnu in the original) by Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil, is a classic of Turkish literature. It was serialised in 1899-1900 and tells the story (as one might guess from the title) of a forbidden love affair played out in turn-of-the-century Istanbul. Originally written in an incredibly ornate style of Ottoman Turkish – almost incomprehensible to today’s Turkish speakers – the novel was Latinised and simplified by the author following the language reforms brought in by the new Republic. The work is in the realist vein, in subject matter and in style, with the syntax often reminiscent of 19th-century French (and hence British) authors, but the inventiveness of his storytelling places Uşaklıgil (at least to my mind) on a par with the great European authors of the period. It’s only unfortunate that his work has remained so inaccessible until now, but hopefully their lapse into the public domain will speed their popularisation.

I began working on this translation a few years ago, when one of my friends became hooked on the Turkish TV adaptation of the novel, and bemoaned the lack of an English translation. I try to remain as true to the original text as possible (I’m using the Özgür Yayınları 2009 edition, which is thankfully glossed), creating a word-by-word literal translation first, and then editing for readability. I realise that the language of Forbidden Love is not likely to endear it to modern readers, but hopefully its depiction of old Istanbul life will still interest many, and even delight a few.

Eva Deverell

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Table of Contents

Note: This translation is still a work in progress, and has not been edited for formatting and consistency.

Roses, book & quill

Chapter 1

They had become so accustomed to these chance encounters with the mahogany boat, resembling collisions, that returning today from Kalender they appeared not to notice the way it skimmed by them so closely. It passed the stylish white boat without being able to awaken the slightest trace of haste or the smallest cry of alarm from its passengers. Peyker, sitting slightly athwart so as to be able to command a view of both sides, did not even turn her head; with her back to the coast, Bihter’s solemn and worried face in her white veil gave no evidence of having seen it, her eyes lost in contemplation of a ferry that scattered its smoke along the Anatolian shore. Only their Mother, with her hair dyed blonde, turned eyes encircled by a wide band of kohl that gave an uncertainty to their expression, and with a reproachful look that quivered with hidden gratitude, remained not wholly a stranger to the mahogany boat.

As soon as some distance stretched out between the caïques, the indifferent dignity of these three women was broken, first by the Mother, who, after her habit of assuming, with delusions of youthfulness that her forty-five years had not yet been able to erase, any smiles bestowed by promenaders, exclaimed:

‘This Adnan Bey [1]!… It has become a custom now, we must chance upon him every time we venture out; he was not at Kalender today was he, Bihter?’

Bihter left the words of her Mother, which were unable sufficiently to hide a secret pleasure beneath the guise of complaint, unanswered. Peyker, not answering her Mother directly, said: ‘His children were not with him today, either; are they not beautiful children, Mother? Especially the boy! The way he looks at you with his little squinting eyes…’

Bihter, without leaning forward, spoke with her lips barely moving: ‘Did you know their Mother? The girl must favour her Mother…’

Firdevs Hanım looked at Bihter unblinkingly for a second, as though she did not comprehend her question, then she turned her head and searched for the boat that was now out of sight. Turning to Bihter once again and this time following the thoughts which ran foremost in her mind: ‘What a strange look he has,’ she said. ‘An insistent look! Whenever my eyes happen to meet his…’

Firdevs Hanım hesitated a little before completing her sentence. Perhaps she would have said ‘at me,’ but she found it necessary, with a mother’s pride that could not quite be quenched, to employ some small self-censorship, and said, ‘I see him looking here.’

This small omission did not escape the notice of either sister, and Peyker and Bihter exchanged a meaningful look and smiled at each other. Peyker went on, unabashedly, to explain the smile: ‘Yes, he cannot take his eyes away from Bihter,’ she said.

They looked at their Mother to view the effect of this sentence; she, in order not to answer, gazed far away.

Firdevs Hanım’s countenance had the greatest share of the particular fame of the Melih Bey set, since for thirty years – from the age of fifteen to the age of forty-five – she had been its best-known living example to be found on the popular promenades. Her name had not been erased from the excursion programmes – still could not be erased – for this woman who clung to youth more vigourously with every year that passed, who dyed her hair yellow to hide the whites, and who plastered her face with creams to cover its disappearing freshness, had so fooled herself, and the delusion of her continued freshness had sunk into her as such a fixed idea, that she forgot Peyker and Bihter’s ages – the one five-and-twenty, and the other two-and-twenty – and thought them childish enough not to understand these smiles and intrigues.

This was the basis for perpetual battles and needlings between the two daughters and their Mother, which, while not openly acknowledged, were nevertheless repeated every day. With the victory of youth, a meaningful word from Peyker, or a merciless smile from Bihter would slap against the worn and desolate five-and-forty years of this Mother who longed to be young.

As such traitorous words and smiles shouted out her forty-five years with great, taunting whistles in her ears, she would look at Peyker and Bihter with a pained set to her lips, then with a slight tremour lift her eyes from this reality and gaze once again towards the false pleasures of her delusions of youthfulness.

Now, a thought that had been making her uncomfortable for the past four months was scratching at her brain; Peyker was soon to make her a grandmother. Since this realisation, the thought of being a grandmother had been weighing on her like a nightmare. Sometimes, as though wishing to shake the thought off, she would mutter to herself, ‘Impossible!’


While women were rarely enough mothers in Melih Bey’s set, being a grandmother was belittling; a shameful sentence. She had already begun searching for solutions; once she had found a cure for the whites in her hair and the signs of decline in her countenance, she wanted to invent something for grandmotherhood, such that it left her opportunity to hide in her drunken dreams of youth: the child would call his mother sister, and her, mother.

Had this fate, which constituted such a strange, abasing exception for the Melih Bey set, been singled out for her? This situation terrified her, as a blot that would sully her life, and she now felt overt enmity towards Peyker and towards this creature that would make her a grandmother.

After Peyker’s last sentence, there was silence in the boat. Adnan Bey now looked to be forgotten.

Melih Bey’s set!… No position assigned to this set in Istanbul life can have a sound basis. The existence of this family, who did not posses such well-founded nobility as to entirely lay claim to membership to the world of gentility, had been vague and uncertain until half a century ago. It may be possible, for genealogists, to chance upon family members who left names known whether from near or far – though somewhat confused – in the records of genteel life. The set’s particular life history begins with this Melih Bey who left the family his renown. The epithet of ‘the Melih Bey set’ alone possesses a thoroughly descriptive quality that sums up the intellectual history of the family.

Who is Melih Bey?

To offer a plain answer to this question has been deemed unnecessarily inconvenient. Melih Bey has not left any memory that outlasts his passing: only a residence on the Anatolian bank, and spreading to almost all corners of Istanbul from this residence, women who share the superiority of being grouped under the title, ‘Melih Bey’s set’…

Melih Bey’s residence [2]has passed through a series of reforms over the past half century. Who knows whose it is today? However, whenever anyone who is privy to the private life of Boğaziçi walks by it, a finger within their heart stretches out and points at it, and vague but rich with meaning, says: ‘Melih Bey’s residence’…

It was thought that the festive chords that once spilled from the windows of the seaside residence were still hidden in the melodies of the waters that lapped the rocks of the quay; that at night, the waters of the Bosphorus still shone with the glints of happiness that they had once collected from here, so that even those who did not know that era of the mansion’s life, but only its significance, felt the pleasure attendant on the vague adventures of this world and said to themselves, ‘yes, Melih Bey’s residence.’

This residence had served as a glass-case cultivating a distinguished sort of flower, and had sown Istanbul’s genteel life with specimens of its harvest. For half a century, these had been scattered to various parts of this large city, but there was something which kept them from being separated, however dispersed, something that bound these various flowers into a collective bouquet, and that was the family name. It was this that kept floating like an unsinkable piece of wood on the flowing waves of the river of change that carried the family along.

The Melih Bey set has the strange quality of assimilating others: whichever family it forms a connection with, that family must become part of the Melih Bey set. A girl from this set – perhaps because the security of the family’s raison d’etre was entrusted to the women, by a special leave of fate almost all children were female – when she makes a match with another family, this trait of assimilation keeps her identity from being lost in the dough of this new family. In fact, Firdevs Hanım – one of the most singular flowers of this glass case, exceptional even in her family history – had immediately brought, as soon as she went as a bride to a bijou residence on the Rumeli coast when she was only eighteen – the same light yellow residence whose quay the white boat was today approaching after its Kalender excursion – the family name with her as a wedding gift; and from that day hence her husband’s name was erased and he was instead called: ‘Firdevs Hanım’s husband.’

Firdevs Hanım, like many of the daughters of her relations, had been too hasty to begin worrying about the necessity of not being left husbandless. She had decided, with a mind that, through the frivolity of her disposition, placed importance on nothing in the world but dressing beautifully and having as much fun as possible, that whatever the consequences she must find a husband – a purse that would cover the cost of her dresses and conveyances. A feeling of withdrawal which slowly gained power over the family had left its daughters with only one marriage-ground: the promenades. One day at Göksu – though no one knew how it came to pass – there was talk of Firdevs Hanım’s wedding. This rumour flew across the love-carrying waters of the river with a light laugh; it awoke astonishment along its path, all of Göksu was apparently amazed, and shivered with this exclamation of surprise: ‘So soon!’…

Yet eighteen-years-old, yet to allow Göksu any time to catch a scent which might provide a consolatory memento of this flower. But the very next week when Firdevs Hanım was once more seen in Göksu with her eyes welcoming addresses from all around, as though the fundamental transformation of marriage had not taken place, the river again swelled with a sigh of relief. She was not now a dangerous eighteen-year-old filled with poetry and youth, around whom marriage opportunities opened up like whirlpools, and greeted Göksu as a proof of her loyalty to the life of leisurely promenading, in whose wake all the love-bent boats of the river trailed in abandonment and were swept away.

Before this, the rumour of Firdevs Hanım’s marriage had – like a waving fish hook weighted with heavy lead – drawn ever increasing circles around the point at which it fell; everyone wished to stay outside this circle, only with a small shy touch to pick a little of the bait from the tip of the fish hook and then to flee, preferring only to watch and await the capture of a gudgeon.

Once the identity of the gudgeon was found out, all curiosity was assuaged, and even the existence of the hapless victim was forgotten; now Firdevs Hanım was only a hunter whose hook was broken, who was readier and more expectant of being hunted than of hunting.

In truth Firdevs Hanım had been misled in this alliance; marriage wasn’t brining her any of the things she was hoping for, or it was bringing so little of them that she suddenly found herself feeling enmity towards this man who had deceived her in her dreams. The marriage did not even afford her the satisfaction of having fulfilled the wishes of a naive young girl. She had not, in this marriage, been accorded with any youthful tendency for love. Having sacrificed all aims of love and passion and finding almost nothing in recompense for this sacrifice in her hands, she felt a painful regret. She would say to herself, ‘so then, if it was going to be like this, why…’ and in this question she would see the faces of those who had been neglected because they could not make her a wealthy match. And would complete her question, ‘Yes, why couldn’t it have been one of them?’

Firdevs Hanım was completely free; in fact it could be said that this woman had overturned the responsibilities of marital relations and kept the role of husband for herself. Within a week she had made her husband one of the Melih Bey set.

One day, before her husband’s eyes, a bouquet – in which was hidden a pink envelope – was thrown into Firdevs Hanım’s boat. That evening her husband, intending for the first time to begin a jealous row, asked about the bouquet and the letter. Firdevs Hanım sat up and with a look that could at once quell the start of any quarrel, said: ‘Yes… A bouquet, and inside a letter! If you like you can read it. I have not yet torn it up. But then? What can happen after? I can hardly deprive people from the right to throw bouquets and write letters. If there is anything to be done, I think it is not to answer.’

Then she leaned towards her husband and wagged her finger: ‘And look here. I advise you, do not invent matters of jealousy for me, or you may force me to write a reply…’

Two years later Peyker, and after an interval of three years, Bihter was born. For Firdevs Hanım, these two events were two historic decrees of disaster. Every day she was fighting this man who made her a mother so soon one after the other; and towards him and her children, and all these things that tried to part her from her youth, she became an enemy who considered everything a cause for disagreement.

‘Is my life to be spent raising your children?’ was a sentence to be whipped out at her husband at unexpected moments. He would turn his cheek towards these whiplashes and, with a smile on his face, await the results of these formidable fights. Seeing this man before her, so little and so listless, coloured her anger with hatred. This became the long, hellish existence between them.

One day Firdevs Hanım, returning from Istanbul and climbing to her room, came across a strange scene: her drawers had been forced open, and her linens, ribbons and handkerchiefs had been strewn near and far in disarray. Coming upon crumpled and torn pieces of paper scattered among these, she suddenly understood all.

Finally her husband, after so many years, had felt a spark of conjugal feeling and had ripped apart the box of secrets that belonged to a woman’s private life.

With a cry of indignation and without a minute’s hesitation, she flew from her room; Peyker stood in front of her – a child of only eight-years-old at the time – and said: ‘Mother, my Father fainted, he’s lying ill…’

She hurled the child away by the arms and ran to her husband’s room; she wanted to fling all her life’s hidden dirt at this man’s head, to break everything and then to rend the pieces. But when she entered the room and saw this body lying as if struck by lightning on the sofa, she stood frozen. He turned his eyes and looked at his wife, a look full of reproach for his sullied life. For the first time she could not respond to her husband; surprised, with trembling lips, and unable to take her eyes off him, she stood. She watched two quiet tears roll from his eyes.

A week later she was left a widow. Once widowed, she suddenly felt mercy, even affection towards her husband; she counted herself at least partly responsible for his death. However, this didn’t hinder her from once again appearing at the promenades a month after his death. Now, the dream visions of ten years ago had once again found life and begun to shine: to find a purse, but such a purse that it might be possible to take from it by the handfuls, uncountably.

Thus were the years always flowing mercilessly current against current, and the magnificence of that purse which shone with a golden glow in Firdevs Hanım’s eyes, continued to dim in fate’s jealous grip.

Peyker’s sentence had wrenched her heart; ‘yes, Adnan Bey cannot take his eyes off her.’ So Bihter was to take this away from her as well? After Peyker, Bihter too?… These two girls were rivals in her eyes, two enemies who would steal her hopes out of her hands and kill them one by one.

Peyker’s marriage had been a huge blow to her. As soon as the subject was broached, she rebelled; especially upon a marriage of love like Peyker wanted to make, she looked as an unforgivable fault. She struggled for a while to refuse, then when Peyker threatened that she would elope, all her strength fell away and she consented in defeat. At first, seeing a son-in-law in the house who called her – with great formality – ‘Valide Hanımefendi,’ [3] she had felt the pain of maturity for the first time. Then, slowly, time had drawn a layer of ash over this pain. Until now, with the danger of becoming a grandmother once again fanning those ashes aside.

Bihter jumped onto the quay with an agile movement and held out her hand to Peyker. Since her pregnancy she found great pleasure in being favoured with such small attentions, and while her belly had not yet grown large enough to be a significant weight to her, yet she considered an attitude of weak helplessness becoming in her walk and deportment. The two sisters stood on the quay, awaiting their Mother. She, on the contrary, never wished to look in need of someone’s aid. With a lightness that would not be expected of her, she stood and jumped onto the quay.

Now these three women appeared in all the rare elegance of their mode of dress.

Dress… After entertainment, the Melih Bey set’s chief characteristic was their elegance of dress, setting a frequent example to all the experts of taste, but never – for some unfathomable reason – lending itself to imitation.

No one could quite establish to what degree the members of this family, especially the best known, Firdevs Hanım and her daughters, had advanced in the matter of entertainment. There was a particular fame which raised them to a superior position in Istanbul’s pleasure life, which had been accepted by all, without examination. All frequenters of Göksu, Kağıthane, Kalender and Bendler knew them; their boat would be followed more than any other in the moonlit world of the Bosphorus; above all others, people stopped before their seaside residence, waiting for the windows to disclose some secret. They would attend to the sound of a piano or the glimpse of one or two elegant silhouettes behind the curtains; their carriage caught the gazes of the public at the Büyükdere Meadows and dragged them along behind. Wherever they were to be seen, they were noticed. The whisper of ‘Melih Bey’s set’ would hang in the air of the promenades, curiosity would awake in everyone, and as if from the vibration of this whisper, a sense of secrecy would spread. What was it? No one is possessed of the facts to explain it openly. There were rumours that were accepted just as they had spread. The public easily trusts things that are to the disadvantage of others, and these are judged without the necessity of expending effort in examining them – or even if they are examined and their verity cannot be confirmed – lest people should be deprived of the relish of believing them.

The less they gave import to these rumours, the more these rumours gained strength. All their outings, all their looks were each loaded with significance, but it seemed that they did not entirely dislike these rumours, for Firdevs Hanım had a way of shrugging her shoulders and saying, ‘oh! If you look to the public, you can do nothing; I think one should live for oneself and not for the public!…’ that summarised the philosophy of the whole family.

But whatever was said, they had been, for half a century, the soul of elegance on the promenades. This, like an heirloom passed down through the family members, had kept them always in the position of the best dressed women of Istanbul. Due to their lifestyle, and a need for elegance which slowly but surely spread and settled in all members of the family, they had discovered the secrets central to the art of dressing, and invented wonders in this art which were judged not in relation to a fundamental rule but only by the persnickety measure of taste. Such delicious and exceptional taste ruled everything, from the most sacrosanct garments to the veil across their faces, the colour of their gloves, the embroidery on their handkerchiefs; that by their simplicity they reduced the most carefully chosen adornments to banality. When they were seen, it was impossible that their beauty go unnoticed – only the causes for the appearance of such a result escaped detection. Here, pale ash-grey gloves with black embroidery from Pygmalion [4], here half boots in kid leather from Au Lion D’or [5], and sheets of black satin, like everyone else’s from Lion [6]. But by the air of beauty that breathed at the heart of their elegance, these little things that looked like everyone else’s were swathed in luxury, and taken from being coarse and turned into the objects of another world. What could not be imitated was not what they wore, but their way of wearing. They had a means of fastening their veil that made it something different to other people’s veils. For instance, one day, one of them would forget to button one of her gloves: between the unfurled cuff of the glove, a wrist covered with dainty bracelets of diverse thin silver wires, or gold chains lined with pearls and itty bitty rubies would be left open with such charming negligence, that seen for just a second, it could not be forgotten. The folds of their sheets, the way they draped, hugging their shoulders and hips, immediately disclosed to those who saw them and were acquainted with them, who they were.

They derived inspiration from what they saw; combining specimens chanced upon here and there; adding a piece taken from one thing to something else, they shaped yet another thing and this, with its distinctiveness would be superior to them all. They, two girls and a mother, debated and argued for hours, until finally, with the triumphant look of an inventor having devised a new invention, they ended these sessions joyous in their new creation.

Sometimes, as they rested, a desire to observe came over them. With a need like a painter awaiting fresh fervour from the inspiration of the desert, they would go down to Beyoğlu to see the new fabrics, and the new dresses being worn from the Tunnel to Taksim. Then they would enter the shops with the excuse of some trifle that needed to be bought, and discourse for hours before heaps and heaps of fabrics. They condemned fabrics they didn’t like by pushing them away with the back of their hand or by looking at them out of the corner of their eyes, with a quick sense of taste that never lied. Afterwards, they puffed up the items that were set aside on the counter as being worthy of attention and examination with one or two expert slaps of the hand, and worked long and hard to discover the effects. They had such unimpeachably accurate, uncompromising judgements that shopkeepers always regarded them with the reverence of students. Their smallest opinion on dress was accepted with the seriousness of a dictum and generally the owners of the shop would willingly heap material before them for hours, more for the pleasure of learning their opinions than out of any anxiety to make a sale. They were accepted, not as customers, but with the consequence of the masters of an art who selected what was to be bought from thousands of other things, and a special honour was bestowed on those items they bought and liked. Saying to customers: ‘Do you like this? The other day the Melih Bey set liked it very much,’ was powerful advice that immediately increased the worth of a fabric.

The greatest magic of their art was to create this elegance unbelievably cheaply. The finances of the family had deemed this a fundamental necessity. They saw most need for showiness in the costumes they wore to the promenades. The simple and limited basis of this style of elegance was for them a wide field to prowl: in fact, just that day the exhibition of a new outfit had been carried out, and for the first time something had been invented that could only be worn in a boat. This consisted of a harmani

that fell from the shoulders to barely a few fingers beneath the elbow, in mixed lilac and white tulle, and tied here and there with again lilac and white ribbons. Upon their heads was just such a sheet of narrow but long and thin Japanese silk, trimmed in imitation of old needlework with light, white, silken tatted lace, that winding around their necks, its long, white silken tassels partly hid the harmanis – which could be considered overly flamboyant – from chiding looks. Then also a skirt of lilac silk taffeta, which could be mistaken for the harmani’s companion piece, but which was in fact nothing more than a skirt that might be worn around the house… The Mother did not resemble her daughters. She, for some time dissatisfied with her daughters’ style of dress, had begun to separate from them, and there was appearing a disparity between them, caused by their attire. For this disparity, which created a generational battle between them, she accused her daughters’ overelaborate taste, and wished to lay the blame there. However, a rather secret and candid feeling had informed her that if she continued to dress like her daughters, she would be risible. Therefore, she had invented something new today, as a revenge for being unable to imitate the harmanis: she had made a light brown, sleeveless yeldirme [8] that clung to her torso in fine folds, and fell from her waist in voluminous waves, and to set this apart as an invention from all other yeldirmes, had added a hood from which dangled an elegant silk tassel.

This hood had produced a succession of jokes from Peyker and Bihter. While their Mother dressed to match them, they would be amused by this unending youthfulness; once their Mother separated from them in dress, the jokes reached new heights. When she landed on the idea for the hood, they had at first questioned her seriously.

‘What is that for, Mother? Will you have a hood instead of a sheet?’

She had defended her idea. ‘No, it will simply sit at the back, think of it, Peyker!… Quite a loose hood, its edges folded over and covered with lace of the same colour… Something busy and loud like those that children wear.’

They had not been convinced by this explanation, but had continued, mock-serious:

‘Yes, but if it can’t be worn, what is the point of having a hood on a yeldirme?’

‘Why should it be unnecessary? If the night air were damp, it could very well be worn.’

‘In that case why put a hood on a yeldirme that is meant for daytime? The hood can’t be seen at night anyway.’

The conversation had continued thus and finally ended, as all other subjects with their Mother ended, in a rant that lasted six hours and caused the woman to cry. This Mother, hearing her daughters – who, more than anyone, ought to be her allies – day by day denying her the right to primp, ended these occasional battles by weeping petulantly, like a helpless child. Her nerves, which had once made her one of the most shrewish of women, were now loosened, and made her cry at the most unexpected moments. These girls at her elbow, who seemed to grow ever younger, decreed an obvious denial, a physical taunt for her, and the relationship between these three women who had never been able to find happiness in the feelings that tie a mother to her children, did not exceed that of rivalry.

Today, as she walked in front in her new yeldirme, in which she tried to keep youthful a body that had lost its freshness and was beginning to fill out with a heavy plumpness, the two sisters walking behind her were indicating the hood with their eyes and smiling. Peyker, with an excessive feebleness, continued like one tired of carrying her load, leaning on her thinly-wrapped umbrella as though it were a cane. Bihter, on the other hand, walked as though not touching the ground in her yellow, high-heeled boots. The glove she had taken off her right hand was now held with her umbrella. Her waist was cinched to its limit. Her skirts only just wrapped around her, then dashed their waves far behind. Her shoulders, which looked wide compared to her waist, on one side trembled silkily from the harmani, which descended to her waist, falling a couple of fingers short of the black leather belt which joined her white piqué shirt to her skirts. Though these two sisters walked at the same speed, one could be said to have had the appearance of resting, and the other of running.

They turned the corner onto the quay. A ferry from further up the strait was sounding its horn as it neared the dock ahead. Far off, the shadows of evening trembled on the naked earth of Paşabahçe with the darkness of a wilted lawn, and before them, the bay waited for this last ferry to pass as it readied itself for sleep. They would always disembark from the boat a little further off, and walk a way before they entered the house.

Suddenly, Bihter pointed to the itty bitty, pale yellow-painted seaside mansion with her umbrella, and said to Peyker, ‘look, is that not my brother-in-law?’

Peyker stopped to look. ‘Yes, he must not have gone out today.’ There was an exchange of smiles between the two women and the man standing in the şehnişin [9].

As they neared, Nihat Bey was leaning against the railings of the şehnişin, and now seemed to be drawing them quickly into the house with a grin that suffused his whole face. Bihter was saying to Peyker, ‘something is going on with my brother-in-law, look how he’s laughing!…’

Out of curiosity, even before they entered the house, they paused under the balcony. They were all regarding him with questioning glances, and he was standing and smiling, not wanting to speak a single word. Peyker grew impatient.

‘What a bore!’ she said. ‘Why are smiling like that?… What is it?… If you please…’

He, not changing his demeanour, only shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘nothing!’ Then added, ‘come inside and I’ll tell you. It’s a great bit of news…’

So the two sisters rushed inside. Firdevs Hanım entered a little slower. Now Nihat Bey, his head bare, wearing a loose, white linen jacket and slippers with soft white linen soles, was walking down the stairs to welcome them. Bihter had thrown off her sheet and was trying to unfasten the hook of her harmani, Peyker was pulling her gloves off, Firdevs Hanım sat on a chair with a concealed, ‘oof!’, and Nihat Bey, repeating the sentence he had begun in the şehnişin said, ‘a great bit of news!’ Then, as the three women regarded his face with eyes that questioned this great news, he threw it among them as though it had fallen from the sky: ‘Bihter is going to be a bride!’

They all froze in shock. The first to recover was Bihter, who broke the surprised pause that had lasted five seconds by continuing to unhook her harmani and saying, ‘you are in jest.’

Her Mother and Peyker were awaiting the rest of the story. Nihat Bey, certain of the importance of the news he was about to disclose and of the effect it would produce on them, reinforced his speechifying tone with the seriousness of his bearing and extended his hand.

‘Now,’ he said, ‘now here, but ten minutes ago, was Bihter’s hand formally sought for matrimony. And so I’m announcing it formally to all of you, and chiefly to Bihter.’

This news was being delivered with such certainty and seriousness that while Bihter remained a stranger to the conversation, nonchalantly tossing her gloves and harmani onto her sheet, Firdevs Hanım and Peyker asked with one voice, ‘Who?’

‘Adnan Bey!’

Bihter turned her head. That name had suddenly shaken her like a lightning strike. Firdevs Hanım was sitting with her mouth half-open, like a sculpture depicting surprise, trying to understand whether or not this was a joke. A question reached her lips. ‘Is it Bihter he wants, are you sure?’ she was about to ask, had she not been detained by Peyker glancing at her with a smiling look.

At once there rose a riot of questions in her mind, all shouting opposition to Adnan Bey: isn’t he ashamed of himself? The man was past fifty! To be a suitor to a girl who was still a child! Wasn’t it important, at the very least, to seek less disparity in their ages?

With a demeanour that collected all these questions, but without finding the courage to look into the faces of any of them, Firdevs Hanım said, ‘Adnan Bey, the one we just saw.’

Then rising suddenly, said with a conclusive tone that decreed that this joke was a thing that could be thus abandoned, ‘I thought you were going to give us serious news,’ and proceeded, with a body that had begun to make the steps creak, to climb the stairs.

Peyker was laughing and saying, ‘my Mother did not like it at all. First me, now Bihter! Another subject for arguments…’

Bihter smiled, there was now a layer of pink waving over her face; she looked at her brother-in-law, smiling in expectation of an explanation. The look tried to convey the meaning, ‘really? Is the news you gave true? Because if it is, don’t mind my Mother, for, oh you know, this is a matter that concerns me…’ Peyker, interpreting the look with the ease of understanding particular to siblings, asked openly, ‘do you speak truly, bey? Look, Bihter is dying of suspense. Why do you heed my Mother?’

Bihter flung out, ‘ha! Why should I be dying of suspense. You’re talking strangely!’

Nihat Bey explained the event to the two sisters.

Two hours ago, just as he was getting ready to dress to go out, Adnan Bey’s mahogany boat had drawn up to the seaside residence, and beginning with, ‘I will hinder you from going out today!’ he had entered, and there, in the little room, after a little introduction and various subjects, had launched into the words, ‘I am applying to you today on a matter that may seem strange to you.’ Then, because he could only find him to apply to, he requested their Mother’s mediation, and asked for the hand in marriage of Bihter Hanımefendi.

As Nihat Bey progressed, a look of worry was passing over Bihter’s smile and Peyker was blushing. When the tale was finished, Peyker suddenly protested, ‘but the children! Is Bihter to be a step-mother at her age?’

Bihter, as though she had been expecting the feeling of jealousy hidden under this claim, lowered her eyes and was silent.

Nihat Bey replied, ‘oh, the children! Adnan Bey talked of them too. The little boy will be staying at school from this year onward. The girl is now past her twelfth year and will surely soon be married too. So?’

Nihat Bey looked at his sister-in-law as if to pierce her soul and open a window to see that part of Bihter, and continued, ‘so that great, magnificent seaside residence will be left only to Bihter.’

The pink layer on Bihter’s face won an even more powerful victory. Peyker’s weapons of protest stayed lowered. Now, in her heart too, a small sentiment, its substance obscure, was causing her to find the thought of this marriage rather cold. Bihter chose not to respond to her brother-in-law’s last statement, and without saying one word, gathered her gloves, her sheet and her harmani, and left.

An instinct had warned her of the urgent need to shy away from continuing the discussion before her sister, and heralded that Peyker would be joining her Mother in this matter. Resolutely, she went up to her itty bitty room to think freely, to make a decision whether to be winner or loser before becoming the target of objections. After closing her door, she threw whatever was in her hands onto the bed, and running to the window she pushed the shutter open with the back of her hand. Yakup – their manservant – had watered the garden, and was emptying the contents of the last bucket onto the soil of the honeysuckle that climbed all the way up to Bihter’s window. The scent of the newly-watered earth mingled with that of the flowers, and cooled the white lilac-water-scented air of the room. A dark light had entered, growing darker as it took on the garden’s verdure, and sprinkled a green light like that of a lantern ready and desirous of being extinguished. Bihter, sitting on the arm of the sofa by the window, said as if expecting to find the resolution of this face which suddenly stood before her judgement, in the harmony of the name, ‘Adnan! Adnan Bey.’

This news had had a magical effect on Bihter. Her brother-in-law’s last words were ringing in her ears with a melody that dumbed her sentiments. To be the sole proprietress of that great seaside mansion!…

She wanted not to think on it for fear that, like a hope that outstripped a dream, if she persisted in thinking about it, it would be erased. But a warming, numbing voice from inside the room, the voice of all her dreams, was whispering in her ears with a secret trilling, and saying, in the form of a word that could at once revive all of those dreams: ‘Adnan! Adnan Bey.’

This name placed before her eyes a smart, elegant member of a most prestigious world, a candidate to many opportunities of good fortune, a man whose beard – which it was difficult to discern from a distance whether it was grey or brown – was combed to the sides of his chin with an unobtrusive part, who was always well-dressed, who always lived fashionably, who, after he had – with a swift motion – cleaned his gold-wire-rimmed glasses with the tip of a white, elegant, linen handkerchief, his fingers imprisoned in thin gloves, took every chance of sending her hopeful glances, and who was beautiful despite the fifty years which were hidden with such skill. Still a beautiful husband.

That age, and the existence of two children did not leave enough space to constitute a great gap between this name and the aspirations of pomp and wealth of this twenty-two-year-old girl. After all, Adnan Bey was one of those men for whom age remains of the basest degree of importance. The children?… On the contrary, Bihter enjoyed the idea. Thinking of them at that moment, she even found a strangeness: ‘They are to call me mother, are they? An itty bitty mother! To be the mother of a young woman at twenty-two!… As it is, I will have given birth to her when I was ten. And the boy!… Oh, truly, my sister has a point: the way he looks with his squinty eyes…’

She was even thinking of how they were to be dressed, when she laughed at her own haste.

Neither the children, nor Adnan Bey’s fifty years frightened her away from this marriage. These were such small sorts of matters that they were quickly overshadowed by the startling nature of the real issue. If Adnan Bey had been a man resembling all others, and the children were not those beautifully-dressed dolls who always appeared by their Father, as soon as this affair came up, she would have shrugged her shoulders, and, with a burst of laughter in her brother-in-law’s face, ran away. But marriage to Adnan Bey meant one of the largest residences on the Bosphorus; the house in which, as one passed by, chandeliers, heavy curtains, carved Louis XV walnut chairs, lamps with large lampshades, and gilded desks and stools could be discerned through the window, and in the boathouse, a canoe, and the mahogany boat, covered with their clean white sheets. Then as this residence rose before Bihter’s eyes with all the richness of her dreams, fabrics, laces, colours, jewels, and pearls were sprinkled over it, a rain composed of all those longed-for things that were madly loved but could not be bought, rained and filled her eyes.

Bihter knew very well that her Mother’s unforgettably long-lasting life of pleasure was a strong point that would deny her a marriage that opened up a bright, truly genteel life for her. For Firdevs Hanım’s daughters, these last flowers of the Melih Bey set’s resplendent influence – now near to fading – a suitor like her brother-in-law, Nihat Bey, could arise.

Directing her thoughts back to her brother-in-law, a disparaging smile shaped her lips. ‘Fool,’ she said inwardly, ‘coming to Istanbul with French learnt in beerhouses on the Salonika docks, to make himself a profession…’ Bihter knew that her brother-in-law had become a husband to Peyker based not simply on the resolution of a passing affection, but also a little to benefit from the family’s connections, with a fancy to mingle with the genteel life of Istanbul.

With an articulation that gave the word its full force, and this time out loud, she said, ‘fool!’

Yes, in the end a husband such as this!… A salary of a few hundred kuruş,

a little help from kith and kin from who-knows-where, and then a child, and then what?… Bihter, rubbing her hands together, said, ‘and then nothing!’

Suddenly a thought occurred to her: she judged that despite Peyker’s opposition, her brother-in-law would be in favour of this match. This marriage could be beneficial to him; he could expect to profit from Adnan Bey’s reputation and prestige. She held the opinion that her brother-in-law was self-interested enough to appease every emotion.

After deciding that he could be an ally to her in this issue, she thought of her sibling. ‘Poor Peyker! How strange she looked after hearing Adnan Bey’s name. She’s another who would wish to impede… This time a fine helpmeet for my Mother, but…’

Bihter didn’t feel the need to finish the rest of the sentence in her mind, and standing up she looked once more from the window at the itty bitty garden. Now, gazing from above at the small garden they tried to keep so meticulously tidy, there was in her eyes a look of haughtiness which descended down from the height of her dreams.

In an instant she saw her twenty-two years of life spent in this poor little house, in this little corner, the days dragging hours that passed with the same comings and goings. All the amusements, the outings, even the dresses that had until then been lovingly made and worn, even the best memories of her twenty-two years of life were lowered in her eyes to a base and pathetic level.

Then she thought of herself: before her eyes she saw her own face, her own figure, hair, that elegant, eminent shape that gathered love and respect from the eyes of those that beheld her as they passed on the street; she smiled at this vision, half-shutting her eyes. To herself she listed, one by one, the details that accompanied this beauty.

Despite Firdevs Hanım, this woman who felt none of the obligations of motherhood – with a shrewdness instinct to this family – Bihter too, knew a little bit of everything: enough Turkish to be able to flick through magazines and read the stories in them, enough French to use in Beyoğlu shops, and even a little Greek learnt from the servant girls who were always being procured from Tarabya. She played waltzes, quadrilles and romances on the piano; if required to, she could quite beautifully accompany her dignified, expressive singing on the oud which she had learnt almost entirely by herself.

These made up such a sum of distinction, that it was probably enough to transport her above the level of a Nihat Bey; however, her Mother’s way of life, the fame of the whole family, were each rising in the shape of walls which hid these aspirations from view. Because they prevented her from the chance to hope for the realisation of her dreams, there was, in her heart, a deep hostility towards her family. Oh! What a nice opportunity she would now have found, for taking revenge upon them!…

She had now definitely decided. She would not be defeated by any force that tried to turn her from this decision.

She wandered around her room, smiling at herself in the mirror as she passed. In its reflection she had now supposedly greeted and congratulated, not an anxious Bihter, who was exposed to the danger of being left husbandless, but Adnan Bey’s wife. She came once more to her window where a creeper was peeking in through the shutter as if smiling at her. She plucked a small bud from it, and lost amidst her fevered thoughts, she brought the tip to her pearly, white teeth, biting it, her eyes half-closed absentmindedly in the darkness that had now fallen on the room. She looked at the garden’s flowers, at its lawns. The garden had now changed; it had become a multicoloured exhibition of her fantasies.

Now she saw, not the garden, but the fabrics piled in heaps before her eyes, and the jewels that poured onto them. Here a rainbow had shattered, and spread silken deluges of green, blue, yellow and crimson, and upon this fountain of colour, it was as if shards of sunshine composed of emeralds, rubies, diamonds and turquoises were being poured.

Here, here, all those things that were madly loved but could not be bought, here they waited, before the hilt of her desire, ready and submissive to her smallest wish, calling her with their colourful eyes.

Ah! That impoverished life which made it necessary to seek out elegance in simplicity, that drilled into one a false scorn to hide the pain, the secret disappointment of these things that could not be bought. Now she was weary of that life, of closing her eyes not to see them.

As often as they went to the shops, they would rudely condemn an expensive jewel or a heavy fabric with a rude gesture, and push it away with a forceful motion of the hand: yes, they pushed them away, but in Bihter’s heart something would snap. And now, as her crowded dreams’ deluge of beautiful things filled her eyes, she was remembering how she would stand for a long time before the shop-windows with her Mother and Sister. Nearly every time they passed this or that shop, they would halt, and in a surprised silence, without pointing anything out to each other, without conversing, feast their eyes.

Bihter would put on this necklace, slip that diamond bracelet onto her arm, reserve an itty bitty sparrow with a pearl the size of a chickpea for her hair, and in five minutes of swooning, would thus array herself in her dream. Then as she left, she would want to snap and fling away the jangling silver bracelets, and thin gold chain around her wrist.

Today, thinking about how all these might come true, she discerned the poverty of her life clearly and recognisably, as if this dream showed her life’s deprivations with more honesty and certainty. She was watching today’s reality with eyes that had grown accustomed to the splendour of her fantasy.

An oppressive air was spreading from her clothes and the objects around her with a poor complaint, and embracing her. She saw these things – which were now beyond anyone’s ability to beautify – as the relics of a distant world of penury which she had left, never to return. Things embroidered over to hide their age; thrown-out chairs; the cracked old walnut cupboard and the metal bed-frame with its gilt rubbed off; the outmoded curtains, which had wearied of the windows, and hung with a sickly air. Then all at once, beside this world, the corridors and rooms of a fresh, gilded, ostentatious mansion opened up, seething in lights.

Inside it she would throw everything she had fancied and had never been able to purchase. One by one she would heap the statues, vases, paintings, pots, a thousand variety of things; she would cover the walls and alcoves with the abundance of tireless enthusiasm. So, marriage to Adnan Bey meant being able to do all these things. Well, she swore that neither her Mother, nor her Sister, nor anyone in the world would thwart her from being united with these dreams.

There was a knock at the door. Katina’s voice announced, ‘the table is set!’

When she stepped out of her room, Bihter saw a joyful smile on Katina’s young, merry face.

‘What are you laughing about?’ she asked.

‘Oh! Haven’t I understood? If you only knew, little lady, how happy I am!…’ Then, narrowing her small, shining dark eyes at Bihter, she added, ‘you’ll take me with you, won’t you?’

Bihter didn’t answer. Some strength entered her heart from the young girl’s reference to this subject as a cause for happiness. These innocent words decreed a solid proof of the overt consequences this marriage would effect.

At table, Firdevs Hanım talked of everything in order not to talk about Adnan Bey, and she brought up these subjects to confuse Bihter – who sulked without lifting her eyes from her plate – as if to create a peace that would avoid an open argument with her. She spoke of the new clothes they had seen in Kalender, of the piebald horses of a carriage heading towards Yeniköy, of a man who kept tempo to a harmonica-player with his cane, a red silk handkerchief spilling out of his jacket pocket. Bihter knew the object of her Mother’s talkativeness. For the first time she felt that it would be necessary to engage in a decisive, serious battle with her Mother.

Suddenly she lifted her head with alluring force, and shared a look with her brother-in-law. Between this man and her there remained a strangeness that could not wholly be erased, a fear apart from the will that hindered the candid relationship that would render them siblings, had kept Bihter away from her Sister’s husband. There was something like a physical hatred in this distancing. Occasionally when their eyes met, her gaze, which never wavered when faced with the insistent looks of strangers at the promenades, would feel the need to leave his, with a little shudder of distress. Tonight, when their eyes met, Bihter didn’t feel the need to look away; she looked insistently at her brother-in-law with a deep meaning that made an agreement with him. She saw in his eyes a look of obeisance, a submission; thus, with only one simple glance between them, they had exchanged a signed agreement.

Nihat Bey, taking advantage of a pause in the conversation, asked Firdevs Hanım, ‘You didn’t give any consequence to the Adnan Bey issue?’

‘Katina,’ said Firdevs Hanım, as if not having heard, ‘do take this jug.’ Then, turning to her son-in-law, ‘There is nothing to give consequence to… To begin with, there is no balance in their ages, and then there are the children…’

As Firdevs Hanım spoke, Peyker sent her husband a furious look that prevented him from continuing. The dinner ended in a heavy silence.

It was Firdevs Hanım’s custom; on hot nights, after dinner, she would go out onto the şehnişin, and recline upon a chaise longue, listening to the endless murmur of the sea.

Nihat Bey was unwrapping the newspapers that had been unopened for two days. Peyker, shrinking from moving the conversation to undesirable subjects, sat silently thinking in a chair under the yellow lampshade, her eyes half-closed. Bihter wandered around a bit, then, giving some excuse, disappeared to go to her room for a spell, then returned. There was no staying there tonight.

It was necessary for her not to delay anything that occurred to her, to do immediately what her impetuousness would not allow an opportunity to be left to a more propitious time. A crisp, refreshing breeze was entering through the open door of the şehnişin, inflating the net curtains. As the curtains opened, she saw, with the haziness of a while shadow, her Mother’s form reclining on the chaise longue; and turned her eyes away in order not to go there at once. She wanted to flick through the magazines and look at the pictures in the middle of the room; but she saw them in a dark blur, and the voice that beat again and again in her brain said: ‘Why not now but later? If the issue can’t be decided tonight, then you won’t be able to sleep until morning.’ A growing fear of speaking to her Mother had started now to cause her heart to give little flutters. She knew very well that tonight there would be said many heavy things that until now had been shied away from being uttered between them. Suddenly she was angry at herself for being such a coward; she walked by Peyker whose eyes were closed in slumber, and her brother-in-law whose face was walled by his newspaper. She walked with light steps all the way across the hall to the şehnişin, poked her head through the net curtains of its door and said, ‘Mother, I’m coming to accompany you.’

A light breeze was stroking the sea in front of them, trying to lengthen the shadows of the boats and ships, their dark black masses swaying in the dark, shadowy water, with broken,  weary blows all the way to the shore.

Bihter sat by her Mother on the fold-out chair; there was something in her ingratiating demeanour peculiar to children who linger around their mothers’ knees. Slowly she placed her arm on her Mother’s lap, and laid her her head with its heavy dark hair piled on top, on her arm. On this dark night, with half-closed eyes, dull and hurt, she absently watched a speck of light in the sky through wet lashes, with all the desolation of an orphan.

At one point, the broken, wretched flight of a night-bird pulled her eyes away. Her Mother had lain there, as if asleep, not speaking a single word to her, as though she were unaware of her body resting there. Bihter raised her head, and reached out, wanting to see her Mother’s eyes in the darkness.

Mother and daughter regarded each other in the hall light that seeped through the net curtains and poured slowly into the şehnişin. Bihter was smiling; then slowly, lightly, with a voice that resembled the wind that slipped through her hair and was lost, ‘Mother,’ she said, ‘why did you give no consequence to the matter of Adnan Bey?’

Firdevs Hanım was doubtless expecting such a question, and replied, in the same soft voice, without sitting up, ‘I think I explained the reason in your presence.’

Bihter laughed, shrugging. ‘Yes, but those reasons you confessed are such light things, that I don’t know whether they would be enough for you not to agree to this marriage.’

Firdevs Hanım straightened slowly, now both their lips were pursed with the desire to overcome the deep excitement of their voices, as if hiding a secret storm. Bihter had lifted her head, and now she removed her arm from her Mother’s lap.

‘I see you very eager for this marriage, Bihter!…’

Bihter, with a voice that wished to delay a struggle for as long as possible, replied: ‘Yes, because there is no longer any hope of a better opportunity appearing. You will well remember that your other daughter found a Nihat Bey with great difficulty. I am not aware of any applications being made to you about me, until now.’

‘You surprise me, Bihter,’ said Firdevs Hanım, ‘had you only informed me of your definite haste to become a bride…’

Despite her determination to close the matter peacefully, Bihter suddenly fell victim to her nature, which was ready to flare up at any moment. With a sharp voice, she said, ‘oh, there is nothing to be surprised at! I think that a twenty-two-year-old girl, who is confronted with an offer of marriage for the first time, is not hasty if she feels the need, finally, to voice an opinion. Admit that the reasons you give for refusing Adnan Bey could perhaps be considered for another girl. But, a girl who has given up hope of finding a husband, for whatever reasons, through no fault of her own…’

An angry quaver was rising in Bihter’s voice. A large freight ship, parting the calm waters of the Bosphorus on its way to the Black Sea, had drowned Bihter’s last words in its din. Firdevs Hanım now rose up very straight. Mother and daughter sat in the darkness, face to face, out of breath, sizing each other up like enemies ready to throttle one another.

Firdevs Hanım asked, ‘since when have girls started talking so freely to their mothers about marriage?’

Bihter, who, five minutes before, was fawning like a cat hiding its claws in cotton-soft paws, had now drawn her weapons, and answered promptly: ‘since mothers began preventing their daughters’ marriages for incomprehensible reasons…’

‘Bihter! You have ill chosen the tone to direct towards your Mother. I thought I had taught you better manners.’

There was no longer any force that could keep the struggle from becoming open war. Their voices were rising; finally the storm was breaking. Those in the hall, Nihat Bey and Peyker, could perhaps hear. Bihter drew even closer, and said, with her breath touching her Mother’s skin, ‘rather than a lack of manners, it would be more correct to attribute this to the fact that you have failed to make your daughters feel love and respect. I regret that I am obliged, for the first time, to say things which it is possible will never be forgotten, but the blame is yours… Before you criticise your daughter, I invite you, first of all, consider yourself… Do you know exactly why you refuse Adnan Bey? You will say because of his age and his children. Was Nihat Bey also fifty? Did he also have children? Whereas you then did to Peyker what you now wish to do to me. In the end, you were defeated. This time you will again be defeated, but this time the defeat is more painful for you because…’

‘Because?’ Firdevs Hanım asked, choking with rage.

Now Bihter was speaking with a mercilessness that took pleasure in the opponent’s suffering, a savagery that twisted the blade in the wound after it had stabbed: ‘Because?… So you wish to hear it?… Because I know of someone in this house, who, if Adnan Bey had wanted her…’

A fury bubbled up inside Firdevs Hanım that was impossible to restrain. Wishing to stop Bihter from uttering the end of her sentence, she struck her across the mouth with the back of her hand. Bihter, like a madwoman, held both her Mother’s hands convulsively in her own.

‘Yes,’ she said, in a voice that whistled through her teeth, ‘if he had wanted her, she would have run, run mad with joy…’

Firdevs Hanım threw herself back in her chair. Five seconds ago she had rebelled with a strength left over from her frayed nerves, but now a childish frailty, a frailty that for some time had been causing her defeat in every conversation, again prevented her from answering. Tears assailed her eyes, and this woman, whose life’s entire retribution had tonight spilled from her daughter’s lips…

Bihter, suddenly seeing her crying, stood frozen at the outcome of this struggle which, without wishing or thinking, had ended in tears when it had begun with the hope of perhaps ending between two kisses. She watched the red light of the far-off beacon writhe and lengthen like a fervent snake, abstracted and unable to turn her head.

She was certain that she had won the matter. All these tears of her Mother’s were proof of her triumph; but now they were giving her an inclination to cry, and she was afraid that if she were to say a word she would be unable to check herself. She stood biting her lips, hearing her Mother’s loud, deep breaths between the palpitation of waves striking the shore with small slaps. They stayed quiet, this mother and daughter who resembled enemies, these two bodies in whose hearts the ties of love and respect which bind a parent to a child had been unable to take root, deep, heavy, cold, as though from the mournfulness of a coffin which lay between them.

Between them there was something broken, but a match had been made.

That night, Bihter entered her room with the joy of victory. She was eager to be alone with the dream which she knew would now be coming true. With the swift motions of hands which wanted to tear off the things she wore, she undressed. She went to the window with her chemise slipping off her shoulders, opened the shutters, lowered the window, lit the lamp, snuffed out the candle, sat on the edge of her bed and pulled off her socks. To be away from everything, apart from everything, to remain alone only with her dream, she crawled into her bed, reached out her hand and pulled the mosquito net closed.

Beyond, the trembling light of the lamp seemed to be wrestling the secret shadows of the room. The growing, disproportionately swelling shadows of the bottles on the table were overflowing onto the floorboards. Now Bihter was lying in her bed, having drawn the net barrier between her dream and reality, a breath of slumber was beginning to flutter in the silence of the room. Only – like a young dove waiting at the edge of its nest to ask for a piece of sunshine from the horizon – a small, chubby, white leg was hanging from the bed, through the net, and swinging nervously and irritably, with a flirtatious, lascivious invitation, and apparently calling sundry dreams to this dream bed. ‘Yes!’ it said, ‘come here, luxurious mansions, white canoes, mahogany boats, carriages, fabrics, jewels, all those beautiful things, all those gilded visions… You, all of you, come here…’

Next Chapter


[1] – In Turkish, people are formally referred to by their first name followed by ‘Bey’ for men, and ‘Hanım’ for women.
[2] – Seaside residences are specifically called, ‘yalı’ in Turkish.
[3] – Valide is the Ottoman word for “mother” (c.f. “Valide Sultan”), and hanımefendi can be translated as “gentlewoman” or “lady” (though without necessarily implying gentility).
[4] – A large shop to be found on Istiklal Street and Galata.
[5] – A shoe shop on Istiklal.
[6] – A shop opened by an Australian family in 1896 on Istiklal Street, selling all manner of consumables.
[7] – A cape-like sleeveless garment that wraps around the torso.
[8] – A light outdoor cloak worn by women over their garments and headscarves.
[9] – 
Bay window on an enclosed balcony.
[10] – 
1/100th of an Ottoman Turkish lira.

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Lady Writer

I write about literature, language, love, and living off your pen. Also, fortifying fiction, personal amelioration, and tea.

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