I write short stories and poems. I am a member of Neyya Literary group in İstanbul Turkey.
Night in the city
The vibrant city square close to the Beyazıt Mosque, is empty and dark at this hour, street dogs and a drunken man are surprised to see me, a grey haired, well dressed woman walking alone. I am lucky that the library is open all hours. A sleepy young librarian welcomes me. The old building relaxes my nerves… I take a deep breath.
“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.”
The stones of the library are from 1506. The building was originally used as a soup kitchen and caravanserai of a larger complex that included a primary school, a hospital, a madrasa (religious school) and a hammam (public bath). The library was founded in 1884.
In the Library
I sit at the reading room, apart from a group of law students studying for their “constitution law” exam, the vast salon is empty.
Why did he want to meet me at 2 a.m. in Beyazıt Library?
And the manuscript that he sent me… Letters from an unknown ancient language make no sense to me.
“There must exist a book that is the cipher and perfect compendium of all other books, and some librarian must have examined that book; this librarian is analogous to a god.”
Maybe I can find some information about this lost culture in the rare books section of the library? After the renovation all rare books and the manuscript collection are placed in the thickest black glass boxes. I am not sure I like these modern glass structures.
A young, dispassionate man enters into the reading room and comes directly to my side,
“Please come with me, Mr. Bilgin waits outside.
We walk to the inner garden of the library. He waits for me over the remains of a Byzantine church, discovered during the renovation, have been turned into a display feature with a glass roof. Industrial glass spoils the magical aura of historical buildings. I don’t like the use of technical material in historical buildings.
“In order to grasp the distance that separates the human and the divine, one has only to compare these crude trembling symbols which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book with the organic letters inside—neat, delicate, deep black, and inimitably symmetrical."
Here comes the offer
Mr. Adem Bilgin is a dark, tall, handsome man in his late forties. Being with him always makes me uneasy, with hypnotizing eyes and the level of authority, in ancient times he might have been a Pharaoh or a Sultan...
- Have you translated the manuscript that I have sent?
- No, couldn’t solve the meaning of some symbols, I do not know which langugage they are written in.”
As an expert of “dead languages ” I know many ancient symbols, alphabets but this manuscript is so foreign to me…
Mr. Bilgin looks angry.
“How come… Isn’t it Neshide. You are a Hittite expert, you sure can read it!”
“No one can articulate a syllable which is not filled with tenderness and fear, which is not, in one of these languages, the powerful name of a god. To speak is to fall into tautology.”
“Looks like Neshide but there are so many strange symbols, I thought the manuscript could be in Luwian. Liwi people used many symbols of Neshide.
I hear footsteps, turn to see the uninvited guest. Timur, the blind librarian and his dog are approaching, he is carrying several old volumes. Maybe he can save me from Mr. Bilgin’s fury.
“I know of one semibarbarous zone whose librarians repudiate the 'vain and superstitious habit' of trying to find sense in books, equating such a quest with attempting to find meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of the palm of one's hand....”
“The original clay tablet this manuscript is copied from; was in the Library of Ashurbanipal, then was transfered to the Pergoman Library. When Caesar burned down the Pergamon library, many clay tablets were transfered to the Alexandra library by Antonious. The great Alexandra libary was burned a few years later, the fate of the clay tables are a mystery. ” says the blind librarian wisely and handles me an old book written in Latin.
Why is Mr. Bilgin so interested in this ancient manuscript I wonder? For a banker he is too obsessed by ancient texts.
“They will acknowledge that the inventors of writing imitated the twenty-five natural symbols, but contend that the adoption was fortuitous, coincidental, and that books in themselves have no meaning."
Carying the old volume, I return back to the study hall, got lost in its pages… Old text have some clues about the language of the manuscript.
“Lets go out and drink tea”
I have been studing the book for more than three hours and a break will be nice.
I walk with Mr. Bilgin and two young man at the deserted and silent streets. It is nearly dawn.
After passing the Suleymaniye Mosque and the tomb of Great architect Sinan, in Fetfa yokuşu we enter to a café. The view is so magnificent, the Galata Tower, Çamlıca… all old city is beneath us. The new born sun reflecting at the Bosporus…
I order a black coffee instead of tea. Drinking his tea, Mr. Bilgin looks at me with his hypnozing eyes and calmly starts talking ;
“Serap, you know so many dead languages, you have translated tablets, manuscripts that were thought impossible to decipher. You are an expert. What is going on? You can translate this manuscript if you want, I know your talent but you don’t want to decipher it why? “
- I cannot combine some characters
which the divine Library has not foreseen and which in one of its secret tongues do not contain a terrible meaning.
-I have a bad feeling about this manuscript I do not want to translate it.
I said it, at the end I did it. For the first time I said “no” to this powerful man.
He is still looking at me, his left eye is twitching,
-You can sense the power of that words, are you afraid of the manuscript or the power I will acquire form this old magic ?
I tremble… He will force me to translate, those hypnotising eyes…
May Heaven exist, even if my place is Hell.