Events in The Dream Merchants’ Chamber
Why isn’t Jupiter the World’s Closest Friend?
Let me point out straight away that the heading has no relation to the contents of the text you are about to read. A question like this had never occurred to me until I read Çiler İlhan’s “The Dream Merchants’ Chamber” published by Artemis Publications. I came across the answer to this question in the glossary at the end of this excellent story- which one of İlhan’s stories is not – entitled ‘Stop Thieves’! It has been said that the question symbolises man’s legitimacy but because it is uncertain when and which question will come and hang itself on the hooks of a person’s mind one shouldn’t look at every question as a means of legitimacy. For my own part I believe that rather than Jupiter, Venus is the world’s closest friend. Whether it is because I am a gullible creature who still believes that ‘everything will start with loving someone’ or whether it is because Yusuf the most beautiful dwells there, I don’t know. Since starting to read Çiler İlhan’s stories I have come to believe yet again that the work comes before the rules. It has been a longstanding fact that I have never felt an interest in statements such as the rules of writing a story, its limits; that it should be written like this. You can think like that but one day someone will come along and produce their example and succeed in convincing you that ‘it can be written like this’. Especially if from the start you have believed in definitions such as ‘fantastic, surrealistic and unreal, for stories like this every innovation will amaze and dumbfound you a few times. Çiler İlhan has already become the vanguard for our short story. You can’t get enough of The Dream Merchants’ Chamber. As an unbelievably amazing, provocative, free, extremely uncontrollable unruly raider with an unrestrainedly imaginative ability she keeps driving her horse hither and thither from mountain to plain. You cannot keep up with her speed, her images, her abstractions, her word associations. Wittgenstein says, “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical but that it exists”. And just as well he says that because people still carry on believing that there is no mysticism even in positivism and disabled minds and in the hidden side of things. What kind of stubbornness is this that a lack of perception keeps on limiting a boundless world? The root meaning of the word ‘akl (reason)’is to ‘bind’. Bond, restriction, limit, to restrict, to put boundaries… Within what sort of boundaries will existence be contained, in what sort of restrictions will it fit! In that case a story becomes new to us in direct proportion to our questioning what we think we know/see/ and understand and it has reached its aim. Something cannot exist unless its existence is obligatory. I totally believe this fundamental.
This strange story (?) book, The Dream Merchants’ Chamber with its Notes and Quotes and without the ‘Contents’, dedicated to Timur has really reinforced this belief of mine. With her disciple she lets us fall into further doubt about the things ‘we think we know’ and after Müstecaplıoğlu’s presentation, the door of the room opens and you are met by a ‘dragon’ and a ‘word’ lender from ancient China. Kong-tse whom we know of as Confucius makes this comparison for Lao-tse. Man likes using references. The book opens with Lao-tse and ends with his ascendance to the heavens. The Master who says, “the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name”, points to the “way”. Tao means way and essentially in ancient China in other words when craft and art had not yet been separated, probably a celestial doctrine that nursed the teaching in its homeland sees the entering into and walking in the speech/writing ‘way’ and the achievement of the aim as the proper way to pursue. Guenon talks about Fo-Hi before Lao-tse and says that he is the doctrine’s secondary messenger. Lao-tse and Kong-tse are the tertiary messengers of the doctrine and they have also partially corrupted its contents. In spite of this, wisdom pours from Lao-tse’s The Book of The Way. The determined source of the Tao (way) is in this book: it is in Tao Te King and it means that it is the path to be followed to eternity. So with this İlhan realizes that she has started on a way. Furthermore she is conscious that the way is endless and unknown.
The mysticism and wonder are the proof of this. I agree with the motto taken from Mallarmé: ‘A book neither begins nor ends, at most it pretends.’
Every story in Çiler İlhan’s The Dream Merchants’ Chamber and the entire book seems to have been written to show this to us. Things that seem like that do not mean that they are like that. I read this in an article by Ahmet Demirhan. He was talking about a doctor friend of his. He was in fact a childhood friend. Ahmet was never sure whether things were as they seem. The doctor would not accept this idea. He used to say, ‘what do you mean, here we have a green tree, it looks like that and we see it as green.’ When Ahmet said, ‘it does not look green because we say it is green, perhaps it is red but we think it is green’ the doctor got angry. To cut it short, this argument went on and on. Years past and one day as the doctor was passing green traffic lights he was run over by the car of a driver who did not stop at the red lights. Ahmet was content to quote this tragic incident. That’s right, life continually plays tricks like these on us. On the one side the sadness of the doctor’s death and on a different side Ahmet’s statement confirmed by the death. Yes, the way that can be told is not the eternal way, the same applies to names. Philosophy is the art of naming things, however philosophers only considered death; the entire philosophy history is the hopelessness of thinking about death. Whereas we know that death cannot be lived. Death is always someone else’s death and another’s tale. Books are like that, they neither begin nor end, at most they pretend.
Çiler İlhan’s book begins with ‘this man irritates me’. It is a sufficiently interesting opening line for a story and book. In this case just as we think we are going to hear a simple sincere story then Hüdaverdi appears. I adore this name. It is after all from the images of my childhood. “The Evening Gown” shows İlhan’s strong talent on the subject of telling stories. However as the book evolves your wonder increases. A good book should arouse ‘wonder’. I use this in the Heideggerian sense of associating it to wonder. Moreover the wonder too in “God gave me a heart /And it submits unthinkingly”. “K.K. Sülük” resembles Oğuz Atay. Slightly related too to Gökhan Özcan. The subtitles of the story remind me of our traditional minstrel stories. The book is crowned by Stop Thieves! This is the stealing of the world by the Legheads. Like Yaşar Kurt’s song Thieves. It occurred to me that there should be notes from Guenon’s Insights into Islamic Esoterism and Taoism in the glossary at the end of the story. Who knows what details directed at Atlantis and Tao merchants Çiler İlhan would have discovered in this book. My Overcoat is a story that I have thought about writing but haven’t succeeded in doing so. I have always wanted a story that began with putting on a Gogol overcoat, shoving a hand in my pocket and finding a cockroach named Gregor. Never mind I’m just reading İlhan’s story as my own. What did Sezai Karakoç say ‘if a text hasn’t found a writer to write it, another writer will certainly write it because the text writes itself.’ And my favourite story: “The Republic of Turkey Istanbul, the 6th Magistrates Court”.
It’s the story I’m most jealous of. This form makes one say ‘ah can it be like that too?’ If a text makes one say this, it is true. It stands the test of time. It’s fresh. Really alive. It says something new. Because the means is the message. It is a fact that pre-structuralism critics smelling of stale fish will have difficulty in understanding when they weary their heads on this ‘form-content relations’. To understand this one has to read this story by Çiler İlhan.
“Quablunatlar” is just such a story. What was it that Ofli Hoca said: ‘Beloved congregation, this is an ash tray. This is a glass. A glass is a glass, an ash tray, an ash tray. A glass is not an ash tray .’ In İlhan’s story it oozes towards the unconscious and the interaction between the matter of fact ‘whisperer’ and the ‘evil suggestions’ that keep wandering around is depicted. Here too the language is polyphonic. After “Sleep Well, Sweet Dreams”. This is a delirious talk directed towards those who put us to sleep and those who turn our dreams to nightmares. “A New Race Has Been Created”, “Everyone In Their Own World”, “The City Beggars Association”, “Hidden Migrant Organisation”, “The Dream Merchants’ Chamber”, “The Association for Old People Finding Owners for Opening Sentences That Have Not Been Pursued”, “The Drunk Investigator Gang Benefiting Too In The Name of Society From Graveyards”, “E-Group Portal Numbers Design”, “The Voluntarism of the Grandfathers’ Who Happen To Be Twin Souls” . all, object. She pokes fun at, keeps on breaking; she looks at the cogwheel that has been misaligned from under and over, from inside and from the side, shows, interrogates, asks and asks . When she has finished she slips away, like Lao-tse, because the way to the heavens is this, yes this.
Once they meet. Kong-tse asks “Have you found the Way?”
He says, “I have been looking for it for twenty years but I haven’t found it.”
Confucius is bewildered, without hope. Lao-tse carries on: ‘The wise man loves darkness; he doesn’t get carried away by any old thing. He studies the time and the conditions. If the place and the time are suitable then he speaks otherwise he is silent. He who has a treasure does not show it to everyone. Thus a person who really is wise does not disclose his wisdom to anyone who comes along. That is all.’
When the discussion is over and they have parted, Confucius says to those who ask about Lao-tse: ‘He is like a dragon. As for the dragon I don’t know how it can be carried by the clouds and wind and how it can reach the heavens?’
Today we share the wonder of Confucius.
Çiler İlhan’s book is full of this bewilderment and confusion from beginning to end. I don’t know, I really don’t know why Jupiter is not the World’s Closest Friend?
(Zaman /Book Supplement, 5 June 2006)