WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
FROM THE SPRING 1999 ISSUE
Erendiz Atasü. Uçu . Ankara. Bilgi. 1998. 145 pages. 950.000 TL. ISBN 975-494-768-6
Yet another collection of wonderful stories by Erendiz; Atasü has arrived, albeit with bad timing. Uçu came out shortly before the appearance of Orhan Pamuk's Benim Adım Kırmızı (My Name is Red), which is widely publicized and vigorously promoted. However, like its writer, Uçu is soft-spoken, modest, but insistent. When the loud dinof the Sturm-und-Drang caused by Benim Adım Kırmızı has abated, it will continue to speak with its quiet determination.
The word 'uçu' is coined from the verb 'evaporate', but is closer in meaning to the verb, 'evanesce', for it describes a fleeting image as well as a gaseous substance that hangs in the air. Therefore, a similar coinage in English, the word 'evanessence' would be the best equivalent, meaning 'that which evanesces'. It is this evanessence (which is mostly scented) that these stories try to capture and materialize, for it is the only thing that defies time. In the humdrum of daily life, things are forgotten easily, but evanessence is never lost, though it may not be actively perceived in its invisible form. Atasü works like an alchemist who turns gaseous substances back into hard matter with the concreteness of her images. As a professor of pharmacology, she is intensely aware of the ability of matter to change in form without changing m essence. Thus, her images are evoked by different smells which permeate the stories, particularly in the first three stories collected under the subtitle 'Üç İmli Sözcük' (Three-lettered Word), which secretly spells 'aşk' (love) in Turkish. In 'Ucu' the powerful scent of acacia takes the readers back to the intellectual atmosphere of Ankara in the 1940s' where a love story is set, while the smells öf Turkish coffee, animal dung, food cooking on a wood fire, fresh lawn, and stale breath reeking with alcohol mingle to sum up the joys and disappointments of an English woman's life in the same city during the early years of the Republic in 'Mis'. 'Ada' is ariother love story set in a mediterranean island diffused with the scent of blue jasmin.
However, what makes these images particularly engaging is the fact that they are always imbued with time. The past, the present, and the future exist simultaneously in the same image triggered by the evocative power of evanessence. This historicity requires a different kind of reading, one that penetrates into tho temporality of the spatial picture. Atasü is a writer of eternal moments; for her, a momentary image is never a point in the linearity of life, but a seed, an essence, an evanessence, in which an entire history is encoded; because she believes that "the concept of time as a linear flow is an illusion, an image, a virtual reality. If time is the irreversible decay of matter, it cannot be flowing; it must be cumulative and stagnant, a hidden dimension... Time, then, is cyclical, a totality." It is this conception of time and historicity that sets Atasü apart from the ecclecticism of most postmodern writers in Turkey today.