The Gaze - Elif Shafak
The Gaze Overall Rating 7/10
Idea: Fiction around Watching/Being Watched
Tagline: Voyer extrordinarie - Watching and being watched examined
Rereadability: 3/10 - Enjoyed it the first time around as fiction but other than highlighted passages wouldn't spend time to re-read -
Thanks Irmak Cansiz for putting me in touch with this book -
Time to Read Synopsis : 15 minutes
When she was in school, that is…everything was fine in those days…like warm milk, life slipped easily down her throat…warming her inside as it did…in those days…everyone around her a propeller…at her orders…. Her rough husband-to-be …him above all…how he ran after her…”The Rough one doesn’t even talk much… after all these years…without feeling the least bit of shame…without considering his age…you get up and go…such a lovely nest…wife like a rose…the children along with her…sacrifice it all… and for whom…the girl could be his daughter’s age…she was a real coquette…when she got tired of him…when she spent his money…out…she would get rid of him…grit your teeth…the male part in any event…later on he’ll come to his senses…endure for the sake of your children…besides you weren’t the only one…we’ve all been down that road…it’s not as if your late father didn’t make his share of mistakes…I didn’t say a word all this time…do your duty…cherry sherbet…of course it will pass…it’s a passing phase…like everything…this too will pass…of course he’ll come back..he’ll get on his knees and ask forgiveness…who else but you can make…your spinach pastry…and who can fit…nine dumplings onto a spoon…as if that slut even knew the way to the kitchen…she has other skills…her kind of womanhood is like the flame of a match…it extinguishes as soon as she gets out of bed…in that case you…your womanhood was legendary …too…
Because he knew well that women were each other’s enemies above all. Whenever women came together in the same place, they’d first start examining each other from head to toe, trying to discover each other’s troubles, then move on to asking after each other’s health. As the conversation deepened, wherever there was a rip or a stain, a dark room or a garbage heap, they’d discover them one by one and file them away secretly. Their friendships were like sleeping cats, keeping one eye on each other, and pricking up their ears at the slightest sound. The mortar that held their friendships together became diluted by suspicion covered with egg white. Even the soundest of friendships were shaken by the first pang of apprehension.
Now.. without regret for the past or concern for the future, as if…just by relaxing, opening their mouths and closing their eyes, it would be possible to be filled with time by sucking deeply on the present moment.
That was when Keramet Mumi Keske Memis Efendi understood that something had happened to the women of this country. Had they changed during his withdrawal into solitude, or had they been this way for a long time, and it was he who was late to see it? Was life really as it had been when he left it, or had things changed a great deal in his country while he was experiencing his crisis at home? In any event, he understood well on that day when he went out into the street and looked around in a different manner, that there were new things happening. Indeed anything new or European was very much in demand. It was clear that the trays of sweet walnut baklava paled in comparison to the deceptive attractions of the colourfully wrapped gelatine sweets. Baklava was served in large portions; sweets are served one by one. Baklava was to be eaten and finished, sweets were to be savoured
Keramet Mumi Keske Memis Efendi didn’t care that this was only one woman among many. How man y more women would he have to meet in order to have met enough women.
Because when the wind blew wildly in a person's face it wove a curtain of lime tar and clay sticks and twigs, bugs and dusty earth in front of open eyes. The curtain caused so much pain that anyone foolhardy enough to want to look was obliged to close his eyes. For this reason everyone believed that the wind couldn't be seen with the eye. However, Keramet Mumi keske Efendi's eyes the very eyes that were the cause of his strangeness and unhappiness those two narrow slitst that had been drawn on his face, that is, the eyes that never opened could look at the wind comfortably.
When he looked straight into the wind he could read the state his country and understand the way things were goin, and know what to do in order to take advantage of what was going on. With this discovery, the eyes that until now had been a source of suffering would be the source of fulfillment.
He was aware that women were deeply pleased t osee women uglier than themselves. He was going to show them what they wanted to see. In the cherry-coloured tent he wasn't going to display ugly women, or the ugliest women, but ugliness itself.
The legendary Pogicha River was beautiful enough to believe in and more beautiful when believed in. It would smile delicately after a fog like the fading face of a lost lover. It ws always far away, eternally far away. As one approached it, it drew further away.
The legend was promised to him and to him alone. Indeed it was for this reason that even when the ship in which he had travelled for weeks was sinking into the dark waters he knew he wouldn't die. He was so sure he wouldn't die before he found the Pogicha that he didn't even struggle to swim to shore. He was waiting for a magical hand to reach out from among the ice floes and pull him out.
I noticed that children were tolerated in the same way as fat people like me. They were exempt from certain restrictions, they also received preferential treatment that was begrudged adults. They too opened packets before they reache the cashier, and their snacking in front of everyone was met with understanding. And while they were doing this they could be considered well-behaved. In any even these children, just like fat people, were thought not to have any will-power.
He knew that most men were prone to loneliness. Simply in order not to be alone, men would rush outside as soon as the sky grew dark, first to find the consolation of the company of others, and then of one another's conversation; but as time passed, the broth of friendship was spoiled. Whenever they came together, especially if they were a little tipsy, gaining strength learning of their strength from one another, they would run after cheap acts of heroism.
So what if men could find the opportunity to prine the knotted brances of the tree of their childhood nightmares once in a lifetime. After the spell has turned copper into crystal, it's gone and won't return. Alchemy was a door that decided on its own who was going to look for it when. For this reason, missed opportunities were never to present themselves again. so when he didn't get what he wanted, the dark side of the moon grew even darker. And if what he wanted belonged to someone else, he would seize the first opportunity to take it. Keramet Mumi Keske Memis Efendi knew that men mostly stone from one another; when they saw the opportunity, they wouldn't hesitate to steal one another's happiness. This was the reason they had to come separately. In order to enter the eastward- facing door they had to climb the hill by themselves and to remain alone until they reached a certain cherry tree.
When she came in , half of her strength was left hanging on the doorknob.
He made his decision: It was going to end. He was melting day by day. In order for the wax to be consumed more quickly, he stubbornly subjected it to heat. He would sit on top of the stove and would surround himself with candles, he would seize his torch and run to every fire that broke out in the city. He would pass out in bakeries and wake up in furnace rooms- with raki burning at the back of his throat - he would deliver eulogies to the furnace boys. By day he would sun himself for hours, and at night he would sleep with high-carat whores. He wanted to melt as soon as possible, to free himself from this rigidity that confined his heart and to become liquid again. Since he'd come to this useless structure they called the world as a drop of wax, he'd leave it as a drop of wax. He might not have finished all he'd started but he'd finish in the state that he'd started.
in fact, Monsier de Marelle turned a deaf ear to this twisted reasoning. All he knew was that for whatever reason Madeline's condition was growing more serious by the day. However, throughout this period he continued having affairs with the maids rather than trying to discover what was going on. Nothing changed.In any event, ever since the beginning of their marriage he had been rbuffed every time he tried to touch her. To tell the truth, though he wasn't that put out by the situation. in fact his desire had been quenched the moment he saw the tight bun in which she tied her jet-black hair. However, he deeply wanted an hair. a child with rust coloured hair just like his!
He'd begin to believe that he would never have an hair when, one day, he found a note from his wife on the desk in his study. The note told him to come to the riverbank the following morning. Monsieur de Marelle went to the riverbank aat the appointed time and began to wait. Madeleine was not too late. But there was something strange about her arrival. For a while she watched her husband from behind a bush and then approached like a timid animal, sniffling at him. Finally, she sat beside him quietly and obediently. Monsieru de Marelle looked at his wife in astonishment. he tried to understand how this woman who had not let him touch her since they married and looked at him with disgust had changed so suddenly. Then, suddenly, she offered him her lips. the man was astounded - at first out of surprise and then in a frenzy he half kissed those lips. his wife behaved as if she wasn't aware of what was happening. She was unruffled. She let herself go completely. Even when she lay stark naked on the grass, she still behaved strangely; putting her ear to the ground and murmuring.
Even after making love, she continued lying on the ground as she had been. she raised her head only for a moment and said they would not see each other any more. It was as if she wasn't speaking to her husband, but to the world in general - or to someone he couldn't see. then, suddenly, she went pale, and was perfectly still, as if she has seen something terrifying. A moment later she jumped upu and ran towards the mansion half-dressed. As he watched his wife anxioiusly for a while Monsier de marelle tried to understand the dream in which they were struggling so desperately.
The film wasn't that important. BC's enthusiasm was a match for my passion. I was prepared to ask any question at all just in order to see his enthusiasm. in fact, perhaps I don't listen to what he says, but rather watch how he tells it. I loved the way that, when he spoke he was as excited as if he was solving the terrifying mysteriy of a cursed tombstone.
I stripped off all the orange peels the woman was wearing, without injuring her at all. After I'd taken off her outer orange peels, she stood before us wearing only a light coloured dainty lace inner orange peel. Then I dragged the man into the middle and asked him to look at his wife. Squinting his eyes stupidly he looked first at the orange peels on the ground and then at me. Finally his eyes caught sight of his wife, though in fact looking and seeing happen at the same time, but because the brain is slower than the eyes it's necessary to wait a little. If it had been a stranger in front of him everything would have been easier. It's easier to see srangers than it is to see those we know. but a little while later, the man knew what he saw. He saw his wife's irredeemable nose, her sagging double cine, her flaccid breasts, her spreading fat, her varicose veins, hair that should have been dyed long ago, the crows feet between her eyebrows. How the years he murmured wear a person out. how beautiful she was when she was young. Has it been easy? All these year's she's bee sacrificing herself for us. The sediments of mercy darkened the night.
B-C had overcome his excitement and brandished the dagger calmly. Meanwhile, the woman had started sobbing pitifully. I'd stripped off the inner peels, without injuring her at all. The man had become accustomed; he looked at once. He saw that his wife's lips turned down from constantly nagging, that her eyes were wrinkled from regarding everything with malice, that her expression had darkened from seeking other's faults, that her evil heart had drained her body of life, that even though she said malicious things about the beauty parlours she continued determinedly to spend time and money shaping her body, that as her unhappiness grew she tried to get more control over he children and wouldn't let them out of her sight for a moment, and secretely went into their rooms to sniff their clothes and read their diaries, and that for years she had been watching him in the same secret ways. And he didn't like what he saw. With a sour expression, he took a few steps back. At this point the woman had covered her face with her hands, but the man wasn't looking any more.
It was much easier to strip the man of his organge peels. His rough outer organge peels were an amazing optical illusion. When I cut away the thick outer orange peels, a thiny little body appeared. All of the water in his body had melted away. There was no water left to melt and his body was getting smaller every day. But because of his outer peels, nothing was apparent from the outside. His inner, second layer of peels had become separated thread by thread and had taken on a spongy appearance. What we touched broke off in our hands. Meanwhile, before we could say anything, the woman apprached the man and looked at him . Years ago she'd married the man with the certainty that he was the right choice for the future, the father of her two daughters, but now with his outer orange peels gone she looked at her diminishing husband appraisingly. "What a shame" she whilspered to herself. "How he's collapsed. Was it easy? He worked himself to the bone all these years. All for us."
The sediments of mercy darkened the night.
BC brandished his dagger in a threatening manner. When the second layer of orange peel was gone, the woman looked again. She looked and saw. She saw that he deferred to anyone stronger than him, or even to anyone of his own strenght, that he fills his wallet and his stomach through trickery, that he spends money on pretty boys, his favorite game to play with them is be-the-other-hit-yourself, he dresses the boys in his own clothes while he dresses as a woman, then derives great pleasure from having the boys abuse and humiliate him, then he wants the boys to beat him but constantly cautions them thatt these beating must leave no marks, how amazing it is that he's been playing these secret nocturnal games all these years without them leaving any trace on him, that when the beating starts going too far and the blows become harder he takes off his garters and beats the boy hard enough to make him bleed all over, that whatever dirty business he enters, he emerges smelling like roses, that if anyone were to learn his secrets, he would be compromised, that he had risen to his potision by compromising and stepping on others. And she didn't like what she saw.
Whenever I'm curious about a person, I cut them out of the frame in which they belong and put then into a background that's least like them. To do this gives me a lot of ideas about people. Let's say a woman is walking towards me. Young, and a bit flighty. I'll take her out of the place where she belongs and put her in a time and place that would be strangest to her, into a frame that's as far as possible from her own, and then I watch. Or let's say a man is walking towards me. Young, and a bit slack. I'll try to find a frame that's least like him. When I put him in thie frame he'll look completely different to me. In the picture that belongs to him, he's either strong or weak, either handsome or ugly, either unique or ordinary. But in a picture that doesn't belcong to him, he tends to lose his role. And then when you look, you see that he's really not so strong, or not so weak. Neither that ugly nor that handsome. You should try it. Put people in the photograph in which the're least likely to fit and take a look at them.
I have to confess, I thought our relationship was based on a mutual desire the like of which would be difficult to find. Perhaps with B-C I drank all of the passion I hadn't lived in my life in a single gulp. In that case everything was very simple. Just like him, I have an issue with eyes, with seeing and being seen. I was just as much on display as he was. And all that we had long-suspected separately, about what this chronic disease resembled, revealed itself layer-by-layer when we came together. This is what had attracted B-C That was all.
Either give me my bread or have me killed. Mustapha III looked at Feyzullah carefully. (...) He made the decision right then and there. He didn't give him his bread ---> I like how clear this phrase is without spelling things out -