Karanlık Oda - Hakan Bıçakcı

Novel, İletişim Publishers

176 pages, 2010

Dark Room / Summary

The protagonist in the novel is a photographer living alone in Istanbul. One day he notices a bruise on his shoulder. A deep purple mark… When the marks multiply and begin to spread all over his body, he visits the doctor and learns that they are his own teethmarks. We have before us an obsessive artist, worrying himself to death and suspecting that his thoughts are being read.

The novel begins with a young man who lives alone in Istanbul falling asleep one night in a municipal bus. He is woken up by the driver at the last stop. In an odd district that is foreign to him in every way… That night he is forced to stay there. When he has returned to his regular life, nothing continues as it was before.

This is because the next day he comes across a mark on his shoulder. A bruise… And these marks begin to multiply. They spread over his whole body. When he learns that the only person responsible for the marks is himself, his life turns into a nightmare. The past and the present moment, fed by some common details and people, begin to become intermingled. His being becomes riddled with the obsession that his thoughts are being read and with the frustration of not being able to find a subject for his first one-man exhibition.

The protagonist lives with the dream of becoming a renowned photographer. However, his days are spent taking passport photos in his small studio in an overpowering shopping centre. From time to time he takes part in minor exhibitions with a few photographs. In his past, which we read as a kind of parallel life, however, there is a younger man whose dream is to open a photography studio in Istanbul, but does only wedding photography in the ballroom of a seedy hotel. His youth, cooped up in the hotel’s personnel room, is afraid of always staying there while his self who has escaped from there is afraid of being unable to get out of the life he is leading.

Rather than reading about the life of a man, we witness the identity crisis and paranoia of a man who confuses the life he desires, the life he lives and the life he shuns.

Dark Room gradually envelops the protagonist both as a place of creation and as a metaphor for the fear of non-creativity.

To discover the secret of the marks that continue to multiply, he decides to go to the district where he thinks everything began. He knows how to get there. Getting on the same bus and falling asleep…

Dark Room / Quoted Passage

“All men whilst they are awake are in one common world; but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own”

Plutarch (46-120?AD)

I had fallen asleep. I came to with the blood that the fingers sticking into my shoulder shot to my brain at regular intervals. A cold darkness… An uncomfortable seat… An aching back… A stiff neck… A mouth as dry as a bone… A tingling cheekbone… Mugginess… Combining in haste, formed the made-up moment, into which I was suddenly awoken. The pieces had been connected at the wrong points. Like badly set bones… I tore my cheek away from the cold surface of the window. To stop my trembling, I stuffed my T-shirt into my trousers and quickly pulled up the zip of my sweater. The sound of the zip passed between my two ears like a miniature racing car. The shadow standing over me stopped prodding when it saw that I was stirring.

‘Mate, we’ve arrived at the last stop. From here I’m going to take the vehicle to the parking lot.’

The touch of the tips of his fingers was still on my right shoulder and the cold of the glass on my left cheek. I got to my feet without looking at his face. Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen only a part of his dark blue shirt. Bureaucratic blue. I was stiff all over. Especially my neck… When I could not find my back pack, for a moment I stiffened with fear. And then, when I noticed that it lay doubled up at my feet, I relaxed. I grabbed it by one strap and put it on my shoulder. I gave a prolonged yawn, bringing tears to my eyes. I had woken up to being on a bus, but I did not know where the bus was. But still I felt that I was way past the stop where I should have got off. Like a civil servant who has not heard the alarm clock and woken up hours after they were due to start work… A depressing, having rested feeling…

It was pitch black outside. The middle door, to which I went with automatic steps, was firmly closed. I was moving forwards, staggering around in the abandoned bus. The empty seats, lined up like tomb stones, extended in rows before my sleepy eyes. The end of the journey… The last stop… ‘Mate, we’ve come to the last stop.’ I felt the driver’s dark presence at my back. He was waiting, like a cemetery watchman, Azrail, in a blue shirt, entombed in the ominous silence like a huge articulate crow, to be left in private with the stuffiness of the empty seats. It was as though he was not even breathing. I moved along with anxious steps, suppressing my rising desire to look behind me, and threw myself out of the front door.

I came out from inside the dark corridor into an undefined darkness. The bus was waiting like a tightly held breath. Dormant… Tense… Silent… There was no light in the makeshift bus stop. No district name was written anywhere. Looking at the primitiveness of the bus stop that confirmed my intuitive feeling of remoteness, I understood with a shiver, accompanied by slight panic, that I had come a considerable distance out of the city. The shack in front of me was twenty years behind the illuminated, painted, smart, uniform stops with advertising space, maps, sections for seats and indicating district names. The empty bus that had left me at a present time of twenty years ago, started with a judder and drove ponderously away towards an even earlier time. I let out the breath that I had unwittingly been holding.

I was on a lightless, ugly and forlorn square. Shuddering, I watched the receding lights of the bus, the only connection between me and where I was. I pulled the zip of my cardigan all the way up to my neck. I pressed the button of the plastic Casio that was tightly grabbing my right wrist. I looked at the ghastly time on the screen that lit up in blue-green. It was both easing and disturbing that there wasn’t anyone around. The harsh cold of the bus window was continuing to sting my left cheek. It was as if my bones had locked into one another. My stomach was aching from hunger. My eyes were burning. There was a strange sense of pain in my back. The nape of my neck was as stiff as nails. I turned my stiffened neck one time. I felt heavier as I filled with the longing to lie down in my warm bed and sleep. The ambiguous, dark, daunting distance between me and my bed echoed within me with all its terror.

I had to feed myself somewhere and return home. I looked at the rusty billboards lying about here and there. It was as if the writing on them was in a language I didn’t know. Pitch-black roads intermingled… I had no idea which direction home was. There were no taxis around and there was no chance that one would pass by…. Nothing was moving. For a while I looked around as if I were looking at a meaningless photograph. The last connection between the world I knew and my own existence was this bus stop. I didn’t know in which direction I would take a step. A few street entrances were visible in the distance. They were all of the same width… I decided to try the brightest one. I quickened my steps like an animal following his instincts rather than a human making a decision. The entire surfaces of the walls on both sides of the street entrance were filled with scribbling. A raft of graffiti; the letters of which had intermingled… All dishevelled… Sentences, words, numbers, letters, punctuation marks… One under the other, one on top of another, nose to tail…

My trainers were advancing without a sound. I thought to myself, “It’s as if I don’t exist here, in this moment.” “Someone’s only imagining that I am here. Someone whom I can’t see the face of…” It was as if I was looking at my back through that person’s eyes. A back that gradually moved further away, becoming smaller as it did, and, as it became smaller, its distinctions would fade… Towards the wall woven with letters… I wanted to quickly glance behind me. I didn’t dare… I continued walking. Bit by bit, I slowly disappeared from sight as I was buried in between writings that mixed into the darkness.