WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
FROM THE AUTUMN 1997 ISSUE
Erendiz Atasü. TAŞ ÜSTÜNE GÜL OYMASI. Ankara. Bilgi. 1997. 155 pages. 500,000 TL. ISBN 975-494-665-5.
One year following the publication of her immensely successful first novel, DAĞIN ÖTEKİ YÜZÜ (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN), Erendiz Atasü has returned to the form with which she feels more comfortable-the short story. The six stories included in TAŞ ÜSTÜNE GÜL OYMASI (Rose Carving on Stone) take the reader from Mount Ida in the Aegean region to southeastern Turkey, from Nazi Germany to the early days of the Turkish Republic, and from Anatolian prehistory to ancient Egypt.
The title story establishes the main theme that runs through the collection in these different temporal and spatial settings: the union of opposites. The harmonious coexistence of the delicate rose and marble stone is a metaphor for a dialectical relationship between a number of polarities developed in the book, such as the organic and the inorganic, the old and the new, the past and the present, art and life, the dead and the living, the body and the soul, religious faith and atheism, temporality and atemporality, duality and unity. Atasü finds the concept of "oneness" dangerous, because it is stagnant and reductionist. Duality, on the other hand, provides a fertile ground, which gives birth to the synthesis that arises out of the conflict between thesis and antithesis. The gravestone on which rose figures are carved is a work of art that results from such a conflict. It is neither a rose nor a stone any more; it is something else composed of the commingling of the two, but it is also something better, more beautiful than stone and more durable/enduring than the rose.
This conflict between two irreconcilable things resulting in a sort of creative energy is shown to produce works of art (in "TAŞ ÜSTÜNE GÜL OYMASI," "SON YÖRÜK ÇADIRI," and, to some degree, "KATRAN AĞACI"), European civilization (in "ZAIDE"), and, most important, a meaningful theological sense (in "ESKIL MASAL"). According to Hermann Schroeter in "ZAIDE," "contrary to the universal assumption that European civilization was founded on Ancient Greek humanism and Christian values, its driving force was the passion between Christians and Jews, fed by guilt, hatred, and admiration." Similarly, in "ESKIL MASAL" Queen Nefertiti of Egypt finds spiritual solace in a symbol that transcends both the duality involved in orthodox Egyptian religion and the monistic theology of her husband Akhenaton. The symbol is that of a spiral, denoting growth and evolution. Spiral action is the key to individual, social, political, and spiritual progress, because, like the roses carved on stone, it too arises from and transcends two contradictory things: linear action and circular action, making it possible to learn from but never exactly repeat past experience.
The entire collection is a celebration of difference and opposition, because Erendiz Atasü, with her well-known "optimism," sees conflict as necessary for progress and shows ways of rising above it.
Middle East Technical University, Ankara