The first of Toptas’ novels to be translated into English introduces American readers to the noted Turkish writer’s version of postmodern surrealism as it follows the dreamlike, dream-filled journeys of a Turkish soldier.
Moving out of his apartment, long-retired soldier Ziya escapes a protracted farewell from his landlady only to fall down an elevator shaft. Or to dream he does. When he wakes, possibly into another dream or into memory, he's a child in his hometown, where he kills a bird. He wakes again, this time in the village of his old army buddy Kenan, who has renovated a cottage for Ziya to inhabit in his retirement. It's been 30 years since the two men served together, and when Kenan’s mother expresses gratitude to Ziya for having saved Kenan’s life, Ziya has no memory of what he did. What he remembers is the bird he killed because “its soul has followed me forever after” in various forms. Kenan draws Ziya into the routine of village life, until one day Ziya takes a walk through the forest away from the village. He finds himself gone back 30 years to the moment he was inducted into military service. The line between dream and memory has again blurred. The long section that follows, however, a picture of military life as Ziya experienced it on the Turkey-Syria border, is less surreal than bureaucratically Kafkaesque. Ziya encounters sadistic officers, ridiculous regimentation, pointless deaths, and shadows of that dead bird as he and Kenan are shipped from one outpost to another, usually but not always together. When Ziya is finally discharged, the train he boards stops in a forest. He disembarks and ends up back in Kenan’s village as the older man he was when he left. Now he recognizes the names on the cemetery headstones as his dead comrades’, and his life in the village becomes endangered by rumor and innuendo.
A postmodern Twilight Zone: dark, bizarre, and a bit pretentious.