Orhan Pamuk

{RO} Fortăreața albă – Orhan Pamuk

1. “In those days I was a different person, even called a different name by mother, fiancée and friends. Once in a while I still see in my dreams that person who used to be me, or who I now believe was me, and wake up drenched in sweat.”

2. “I dared to say that what I wanted was to return home, the pasha asked me if I’d been to a whorehouse since I arrived, and hearing my answer, said if I had no desire for a woman what good would freedom be to me?”

3. “There had been others at table, a prattling began on the subject of how human beings were created in pairs, hyperbolic examples on this theme were recalled, twins whose mothers could not tell them apart, look-alikes who were frightened at the sight of one another but were unable, as if bewitched, ever again to part, bandits who took the names of the innocent and lived their lives.”

4. “Suddenly I was angry, I felt Hoja would never be able to achieve anything on his own. I wanted him to realize this, I wanted to tell him to his face that without me he could not think at all, but I didn’t dare; with an air of indifference I told him to go ahead and look in the mirror. No, it wasn’t courage I lacked, I just didn’t feel like it.”

5. “I declared that only he could discover who he was, but he wasn’t man enough to try. It gave me pleasure to see his face contort with pain.”

6. “Thus in the space of two months I learned more about his life than I’d been able to learn in eleven years. […] I encouraged him, perhaps because I already sensed then that I would later adopt his manner and his life-story as my own.”

7. “But the more he read about my sins and increased his petty, infantile punishments, the more I became wrapped in a peculiar sense of security: for the first time, I began to think I had him in the palm of my hand.”

8. “‘Come, let us look in the mirror together.’ I looked, and under the raw light of the lamp saw once more how much we resembled one another. […] The two of us were one person! This now seemed to me an obvious truth.”

9. “I somehow could not shake off the feeling that it was all a game.”

10. “We were still standing half-naked in front of the mirror. He was going to take my place, I his, and to accomplish this it would be enough for us to exchange clothes and for him to cut his beard while I left mine to grow.”

11. “I heard him say that I would then make a freedman of him: he spoke exultantly of what he would do when he returned to my country in my place. I was terrified to realize he remembered everything I had told him about my childhood and youth, down to the smallest detail, and from these details had constructed an odd and fantastical land to his own taste. My life was beyond my control, it was being dragged elsewhere in his hands, and I felt there was nothing for me to do but passively watch what happened to me from the outside, as if I were dreaming. But the trip he was going to take to my country as me and the life he was going to live there had a strangeness and naïveté that prevented me from believing it completely. At the same time I was surprised by the logic in the details of his fantasy: I felt like saying that this too could have been, my life could have been lived like this. […] The whole night passed like this. While he tried to infect me with the disease and the fear of it, he kept repeating that I was he and he was I.”

12. “It wasn’t that I wished to seize a share in the triumph or to receive a reward for what I had done; the feeling I had was quite different: I should be by his side, I was Hoja’s very self! I had become separated from my real self and was seeing myself from the outside, just as in the nightmares I often had. I didn’t even want to learn the identity of this other person I was inside of;”

13. “I loved him, I loved that false exhilaration he got from his exaggerated sense of victory, his never-ending plans, and the way he said he’d soon have the sultan in the palm of his hand. I couldn’t have admitted, even to myself, that I had thoughts like these, but while I followed his movements, his daily actions, I was sometimes overcome by the feeling that I was watching myself.”

14. “The person I once had been had left me and was gone, and the I that was now dozing in a corner jealously desired him, as if in him I could recover the enthusiasm I had lost.”

15. “Hoja had wanted to keep me away from the sultan at first but when the display began and the sovereign saw that I gave the orders as often as Hoja, that our men looked to me as much as to him, he became curious.”

16. “He was not disturbed when he learned that I’d been here for twenty years but still had not become a Muslim. He had something else on his mind: ‘Twenty years?’ he said, ‘How strange!’ Then he suddenly asked me that question: ‘Is it you who are teaching him all this?’”

17. “when suddenly he stopped, turned towards the two of us just then standing side by side, and smiled all at once as if he’d seen one of those matchless wonders God created to break the pride of mankind, to make them sense their absurdity – a perfect dwarf or twin brothers alike as peas in a pod.”

18. “He disentangled us with his observations about our speech and behaviour. These observations, which I found sometimes childish and sometimes clever, started to worry me: I began to believe that my personality had split itself off from me and united with Hoja’s, and vice versa, without our perceiving it, and that the sultan, by evaluating this imaginary creature, had come to know us better than we knew ourselves.”

19. “I would go to the palace in his place. […] Thus during those four years while Hoja planned and brought the weapon to completion, I went to the palace and he stayed at home with his dreams as I used to do.”

20. “The sovereign would say that Hoja, the man sitting at home, was me. These intellectual games of his thoroughly confused my mind but no longer took me by surprise. When he said that I was Hoja, I’d think it better not to follow his logic, for soon he’d assert that I was the one who had taught Hoja all of these things – not the lethargic person I was now, but the one who had changed Hoja long ago.”

21. “But there were also things I had still not been able to forget after twenty-five years, things that were real: the talks I had with my mother and father, my brothers and sisters while breakfasting at the family table under the linden-trees! These were the details which least interested the sultan. He had said to me once that basically every life was like another. This frightened me for some reason: there was a devilish expression on the sultan’s face I’d never seen before, and I wanted to ask what he meant by this.”

22. “I had changed: I’d grown fat from stuffing myself at feasts, I had a double chin, my flesh had become slack, my movements slow; worse, my face was completely different; a coarse expression had crept into the corners of my mouth from drinking and making love at those bacchanals, my eyes were languid from sleeping at odd times, from passing out drunk, and like those fools who are content with their lives, the world, themselves, there was a crude smugness in my glance, but I knew I was content with my new state: I said nothing.”

23. “But I realized with chagrin that I had nothing to contribute to their conversations, nothing I could say to them sincerely or that they would find interesting. Perhaps I was jealous of their intimacy.”

24. “Till the break of day I talked with him about what I’d left behind in my country, told him how he could find my house, spoke of my mother, my father, my brothers and sisters, how we were regarded in Empoli and Florence. I mentioned some tiny, special particulars by which he could know one person from another. As I spoke I recalled that I had told him all of these things before, down to the large mole on my little brother’s back.”

25. “Till the break of day I talked with him about what I’d left behind in my country, told him how he could find my house, spoke of my mother, my father, my brothers and sisters, how we were regarded in Empoli and Florence. I mentioned some tiny, special particulars by which he could know one person from another. As I spoke I recalled that I had told him all of these things before, down to the large mole on my little brother’s back.”

26. “We exchanged clothes without haste and without speaking. I gave him my ring and the medallion I’d managed to keep from him all these years. Inside it there was a picture of my grandmother’s mother and a lock of my fiancée’s hair that had gone white; I believe he liked it, he put it around his neck. Then he left the tent and was gone. I watched him slowly disappear in the silent fog. It was getting light. Exhausted, I lay down in his bed and slept peacefully.”

27. “But I have no complaints, and I am not lonely: I saved a great deal of money during my years as imperial astrologer, I married, I have four children; I foresaw the troubles coming and gave up my position in time, perhaps with an insight gained from practising my profession: before the sultan’s armies left for Vienna, before the fawning clowns and the imperial astrologer who succeeded me were beheaded in a frenzy of defeat, long before our sovereign who so loved animals was dethroned, I fled here to Gebze.”

28. “To live alone in that house we had shared for so many years unnerved me even more. My pockets full of money, my feet soon learned the way to the slave market; I went back and forth for months until I found what I sought. In the end I bought some poor devil who didn’t really resemble me or Him and brought him home. That night when I told him to teach me everything he knew, to tell me about his country, his past, even to admit the sins he had committed, when I brought him to face the mirror, he was frightened of me. It was a terrible night, I pitied the poor man, I meant to set him free in the morning, but my stinginess won out and I took him to the slave market to sell him back.”

29. “When he asked me to tell him about Italy, about the country to which He had escaped, and I replied that I had little knowledge of it, he grew angry: he knew that He had told me everything, why was I afraid, it was enough that I should remember what He had said. So I described to the sultan in detail again His childhood and His beautiful memories, some of which I have included in this book.”

30. “But we should search for the strange and surprising in the world, not within ourselves! To search within, to think so long and hard about our own selves, would only make us unhappy. This is what had happened to the characters in my story: for this reason heroes could never tolerate being themselves, for this reason they always wanted to be someone else.”

31. “His former fiancée, swept up in the romanticism of His writings, married him without giving a thought to her age or her husband’s recent death. They bought back the old family home which had been broken up and sold, and settled down there, returning the house and its garden to their former state.”

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