A 6 hour train trip can be extremely long if you don’t have a captivating book with you. I chose to travel in the company of Buket Uzuner’s short story collection “Ayın en çıplak günü”, first merely because I found its name intriguing. “Ay” meaning both “moon” and “month” in Turkish, the translation of the title could either be “The most naked day of the month” or “The moon’s most naked day”. Even though I must admit that this is not my favourite literary genre, Uzuner’s short story collection proved me wrong. While reading the first pages I already realized that this book would have a lasting impact on me. And it did.
What probably struck me most about these stories were not only the writer’s original ideas but especially her great talent of observing human weaknesses. We can sense that Buket Uzuner knows very well what these “naked days” are like – those days when we feel small and helpless, exposed to human cruelty, injustice, disappointments, lies… And also those dreadful moments in which we are confronted with our own failures and fears. Despite all sobering truths we can find in this book, the overall message is still rather positive: Being human means to be able to choose who you want to be. It means keeping your dreams and clinging to them regardless of how absurd they might seem. If you dream of meeting Dostoyevsky like one of Uzuner’s characters, just use your imagination and make your wish come true. Take a trip to your own “Shangri-LA”, a country that cannot be found on any map and only belongs to you. Your thoughts are free. Make them fly.
There are many “lessons” to be learnt from this wonderful book. Maybe the most important one could be summed up in the words of Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Buket Uzuner’s point of view seems to be similar: Whatever “life” does to you, you need to believe that a change for the better is always possible. Thanks to your own will power. You can even give death a slap in the face if you wish to do so. Of course, the existential questions asked about the sense of life in these short stories are not new, but Uzuner’s way of putting them into words certainly is. This interesting reading experience made my long train trip pass in the blink of an eye. Having reached the last page, I noticed that certain of my ideas about the world had changed. I still keep thinking about some sentences, and so will you…
Paris, 13.01.2014 Mine Krause