İsmail Kadare

İbret Taşı
İsmail Kadare

Eleştiri sayfasına

4 Haziran 2014

  Editörün Notu:2005 yılında ilk kez verilen Uluslararası Man Booker ödülünü, Arnavutluk'tan  İsmail Kadare,  John Updike, Doris Lessing, Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez, Milan Kundera gibi ünlü adaylar arasından sıyrılarak ödülü kazandı. Yazar Kafkayesk bir dünyaya, ironik  bir bakışla eserler meydana getirdi. Eserlerinin çoğu Diktatör Enver Hoca'nın komünist baskısının metaforu olarak görülür.

  Why Ismail Kadare Should Win the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature

August 14, 2013 Nina Sabolik

Ismail Kadare

Kadare was born in 1936 in Gjirokaster, a small, fairy-tale-like town in the mountains of southern Albania that has served as the setting for several of his novels, includingKështjella (1970; Eng. The Siege, 2008). It also has that uniquely ironic distinction of being the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, longtime communist dictator of Albania. Kadare was also a member of the communist parliament for more than fifteen years before finally seeking political asylum in France in 1990—five years after the death of Hoxha and on the eve of communism’s dissolution in 1991. He served as the chairman of a cultural institute closely overseen by the dictator’s wife and right hand, Nexhmije Hoxha. He even published the novel Dimri i madh (1977; The great winter) as a paean to Hoxha’s leadership and Albania’s disassociation from Stalinist Russia in 1961.

On the other hand, many of his books were banned during the thirty years he spent as a writer in communist Albania. Among them was arguably his best novel, Nëpunësi i pallatit të ëndrrave (1981; Eng. The Palace of Dreams, 1990), which draws an obvious parallel between Hoxha’s regime and a fictional country where dreams are examined for signs of political dissidence. Yet in spite of all his freethinking, Kadare not only survived but flourished in a country where writers were routinely exiled, imprisoned, or executed for much smaller ideological offenses. The Siege, like Kadare’s dissidence, is an allegory of an allegory. At its heart, it is not just a critique of communism but also a reflection on the cultural relativity of historical representation.

Like the story of the The Siege—and like that of my own family, in which hard-line, working-class communists, liberal bourgeois socialists, and conservative anticommunists mingled and intermarried—Kadare’s political life does not present a clear boundary between the “bad” communists and the “good” dissenters. Instead, in his fiction, Kadare uses the lens of history to show the constructed nature of political dissent in general. The politically opportunistic chronicler of The Siege, for example, constructs the story of the clash between the Ottoman army and the Albanian enemy, which is transformed in turn by contemporary critics into a story about the clash between communists and their opponents. The Siege, like Kadare’s dissidence, is an allegory of an allegory. At its heart, it is not just a critique of communism but also a reflection on the cultural relativity of historical representation.

To be a writer in communist Albania must have been similar to being a chronicler in a large Eastern army in the days of the Ottoman Empire. Kadare’s portrayal of Tursun Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman army in The Siege and a stand-in for Enver Hoxha and military dictators everywhere, is telling in this regard. “The night was pregnant and he was in its belly, all alone” is, for example, how the chronicler describes the emotional state of the Pasha on the eve of the siege. A turbid character in his twilight years, worried about his declining military career, Tursun Pasha feels crushed by the personal as well as civilizational weight of the task he has set out to achieve. In the belly of his own doubts, he confronts the value of his life spent as a servant to and creator of a nascent and cruel empire. At the end of his vigil, the blood-red sky emerging from the East presages a bloody siege, and his own death is the only possible release from the confines of empire. Thus, the “dark belly” of the night serves multiple symbolic purposes—it is the internal strife of a person unable to escape the crushing weight of history, the yoke of an enormous empire spreading westward, and, obliquely but unmistakably, the communist empire of Stalin. Tursun Pasha’s suicide at the end of the siege underlines the bleak meaning of this metaphor, his death becoming “a kind of nowhere place, a place truly beyond the reach of law, outside the world and the Empire.”

Another element of Kadare’s critique of Hohxa’s regime is his attack on the idea of denationalization, which in The Siege originates from the padishah, or the sultan, which was also a favorite pastime of the more recent communist empire. “The great Padishah,” the quartermaster informs us, “has other men working for him on problems of this kind. They’re all specialists in denationalization. . . [c]raftsmen in the rotting and corroding of nations.” These “craftsmen” perform “damage on the inside, damage secreted from their own ranks, well, yes, that is the evil that can bring [the Christians] to their knees.” In other words, it is ideology much more than war that can break a nation: “You cannot call a country conquered until you have conquered its Heaven.” Like communism, which was brought on with bloody revolutions and ultimately failed, the Ottoman army cannot break the Albanian defenders by force alone; it is the people’s minds and hearts that are the true fortress of a nation. This is a theme that Kadare returns to in his latest novel, Aksidenti (2010; Eng. The Accident), which traces the corruptive influence of distorted Western values in postcommunist southeastern Europe. In The Accident, however, the enemy is not a communist dictator but the ideological assault of unquestioned Western values, which, in the name of freedom, has demolished the moral core of postcommunist Albania Kadare’s circumstances challenge Joseph Brodsky’s notion that exile, physical or mental, is the only reasonable response to an oppressive regime. For Kadare, the only way to resist a dictatorship, whether communist, colonial, or neocolonial, is to fight it, over and over again, from the inside, from within the depths of one’s own soul.

Unlike other dissident authors from various dictatorial regimes, Kadare does not see a light at the end of the historical tunnel. There’s no escaping the eternal cycle of strife and reconciliation. The war continues, under many different guises. There is no salvation on the other side of the borderline, nor at the front lines of a noble revolution. In this sense, Kadare’s circumstances challenge Joseph Brodsky’s notion that exile, physical or mental, is the only reasonable response to an oppressive regime. For Kadare, the only way to resist a dictatorship, whether communist, colonial, or neocolonial, is to fight it, over and over again, from the inside, from within the depths of one’s own soul. Exile implies a naïve belief in the moral superiority of one side over another. And herein lies the explanation for Kadare’s reluctance to sign the Macedonian delegation’s petition to recognize Macedonia’s name—as a political gesture, such petitions are inevitably asking one to pick sides: “Either you are with us, or you are with [them],” as George W. Bush used to say. The role of a writer is not to pick between warring ideological factions, serving the interests of one or the other, but to engage in a sincere, thorough critique of each and, ultimately, to draw attention to what we all have in common—our humanity.

All the main objections to Kadare’s nomination for the Nobel Prize stem from a single source: the inability of a Western audience to leave behind its own cultural provincialism and appreciate a writer who does not fit the world literature stereotype of, as James English describes it, a locally flavored multicultural mélange.

The first one of these objections, the idea that Kadare somehow wasn’t dissident enough and that he cooperated with the Hoxha regime, stems from a typically Western understanding of the anti communist dissident as an outspoken, Solzhenitsyn-like figure who publishes his dissenting work against enormous odds, and then emigrates to the bright and happy West—a Hollywood version of the Eastern European dissident. Kadare, on the other hand, belongs to the invisible multitudes that resisted dictatorial regimes from the inside, a much more daunting and heroic feat. Kadare survived for more than forty years publishing his quietly but unmistakably anticommunist novels under the very Stalinist nose of dictator Enver Hohxa. The only thing that would make him more of a hero would be if he had died under persecution (a constant possibility) and published his heretical stories from communist heaven itself.

Kadare has dared to attack that holy cow of all Western imperial ideology—freedom. He dared to show that the freedom that succeeded communism has not been the happy ending that the Western press has made it out to be; in fact, it might even be worse than communism itself.

The second objection, leveled by none other than the oracle of Western literary taste,The New Yorker’s critic James Wood, concerns Kadare’s latest novel The Accident, which Wood claims “is spare and often powerful, but it is a bit too spare, so that the ribs of allegory show through, in painful obviousness.” While it is beyond the scope of this essay to go into a close analysis of the novel, it is clear from Wood’s essay that the main plot presents “an allegory about the lures and imprisonments of the new post-Communist tyranny, liberty.” Kadare has dared to attack that holy cow of all Western imperial ideology—freedom. He dared to show that the freedom that succeeded communism has not been the happy ending that the Western press has made it out to be; in fact, it might even be worse than communism itself. The Western press, which had no problem extolling the virtues of Kadare’s prose while he was quietly undermining their ideological enemy—and even criticized him for being too quiet, too subtle in his attacks—suddenly believes that his allegories are too obvious and not subtle enough. Plainly obvious in Wood’s critique is the fact that this is a problem of ideological clash rather than one of literary merit.

The last objection, echoed by the New York Sun in 2005—that his work is too opaque and too hard to translate, his country too remote and ill-known for a Western audience to even understand (let alone appreciate)—stems from the same sort of Western self-centeredness that makes it hard to imagine Kadare as a multidimensional critic of conflicting ideologies. The themes of Kadare’s novels—the allegories to empires old and new; the question of history and its meaning; his quiet yet persistent belief in the perseverance of the human spirit—all these apply across time and boundaries. The context for his stories is not just Albania at various points in history, it is us—the readers, and the worlds that we create in our own minds and hearts. His language, while poetic and indeed difficult to translate in all its effervescent brilliance, retains its power even in double-translation, such as in The Siege, which has been translated into English from the French, not from the original Albanian. Reading translated literature, like contact with anyone other than yourself, always requires a certain amount of intellectual effort; to give up on a writer purely because he sounds foreign is not only an act of laziness but also a loss for us as individual human beings and as a human community.

Finally, to get back to the Nobel prizes, those Oscars of the literary world, what does idealism or a “work of literature in an ideal direction” mean today? Idealists are not people who live in an ivory tower, looking out through their narrow window into a palm-tree-embroidered sky, envisioning a world of calm, peace, and happiness. Idealists are often cranky, and sometimes downright misanthropic. To them, a palm-tree-embroidered sky is more likely to signify the Technicolor glitter and gloom of contemporary pop culture than a bright oasis of the future. In other words, they are intensely involved with the present. For Kadare to keep writing bleak-but-safe critiques of a distant communist past would have been the easy way out; it would have cemented his reputation as that great Eastern European writer who criticized those mean communists. Instead, he chose to comment on things that are uncomfortable, for him as much as for us; that raise questions rather than answer them; that have no resolution in the present, and maybe none in the future. This is idealism. And this is why he should win the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Arizona State University
El Nicho de la Vergenza (The Niche of Shame)

As in The Palace of Dreams, in this dark, powerful novel Kadare deftly utilizes a historical fantasy as a metaphor for the dictatorial repression taking place in Albania at the time of writing. The story is set in the Ottoman Empire in 1822, at the time of a famous rebellion by a powerful Albanian pasha, Ali Baja of Tepelena, against the ruling Sultan. The novel begins at the central square in the Empire's capital, in which one of the walls harbors the "niche of shame", a place where the chopped heads of enemies to the Sultanate (real or imagined!) are exposed to the crowd of onlookers, with the obvious purpose of intimidating them against any idea of misbehavior or thoughts of freedom. The narrator of this section is the guardian of the niche, who informs us that the current head belongs to the Turkish general who failed to bring Ali's head back to the capital. In further chapters the story moves from the Empire's capital to Albania, the rebellious region in the confines of the Empire and to the regions in between, with the points of view switching to the rebel Baja Ali (an 80 year old stalwart who in his hey days negotiated with Napoleon and met Byron on his way to Greece), to his wife, to the army general who ultimately beheads him and to Tunx Hata, the courier in charge of carrying the heads to the capital (who often makes additional money by mounting theatrical shows in which he exhibits the heads to villagers along the route). Kadare tells this story with his usual dark irony and elaborates on the different levels of power play within the Empire. As usual with Kadare, many of the themes and myths recurring in his other novels are evoked here. It is clear that many of his novels are linked to each other in some way or other, each sustaining the next and thus shoring up Kadare's oeuvre as a whole. One of such themes, treated here in detail, is that of the "de-nationalization" of a country under the rule of a bigger power. Here Albania is punished for its rebellion with the imposition of the "cra-cra" rule, the process whereby the people are legally stripped of their traditions, their language, their cultural identity and ultimately their memory. Kadare makes this metaphor quite obvious to reflect the oppressive press censorship prevailing in Hoxha's Albania (some characters in the novel are clear substitutes for real people). This novel was completed about the same time when he began writing The Palace of Dreams, and the Palace is mentioned quite a few times in this novel, not least when trying to pick suitable heads to be exposed in the niche of shame with the help of some premonitory dream. The two novels would be best appreciated if read together.

Communism under the influence - of Kafka : Kadare's fiction

I don't know why but increasingly I'm drawn toward Eastern European 20th-century fiction, and last night started Ismail Kadara's "Agammemnon's Daughter," an Albanian novel (yes, how obscure can you get, right?) of really odd provenance - as the preface explains (not all that clearly) he smuggled the manuscript out a few pages at the time sometime in the mid-80s (he apparently wrote it about 1984-86 and it's set in the 80s) to friends in Paris, was translated into French and published (I think under a pseudonym) in the 90s, then the Hoxner tyrannic regime fell and Kadare identified as the author, translated into French, the English version appearing not till 2003 and translated from the French translation, whew - can't even keep up with all that - the book is the typically grim story of life within a rigid communist country, takes place on May Day, the protagonist is surprised to find himself invited to watch the parade from an official viewing stand, section C, not sure what he's done to meri

t this and feels varying degrees of guilt for being accepted - and of course he looks at all the others and wonders what complicity they've been involved with - hero works for state broadcasting so he could have done a lot, but it's all rather murky; in the back story, his girlfriend, supposed to meet him and join him for the festivities, never shows up, so we're not sure what's happened to her - story owes a deep debt to Kafka, as there are many ruminations about the absurdity and incomprehensibility of the state.

What's behind the veil? The Ottoman fiction of Ismail Kadare.

Ismail Kadare (b. 1936) is the most famous Albanian writer of the twentieth and early twenty-first century. Inside Albania, his works remain popular for their practical role in the construction and preservation of the modern Albanian national culture, and for their skilled evocation of the historical tribulations, controversies, and occasional triumphs of the Albanian people. In addition, Kadare has become a significant figure today on the intellectual scene in Europe, due to his long sojourn in Paris, the translation of his books into a multitude of languages, and his artistic concern with historically sensitive issues in the Balkans, which have featured prominently in international affairs for the past decade and a half. Rumors abound that he has already been a serious contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Another, and more concrete reflection of the cumulative weight and continuing relevance of his works points to the fact that he received, in June 2005, the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for contemporary fiction.

Writing in a variety of modes, including poetry, short stories, nonfiction, one play, several sets of memoirs, and a wealth of novels, Kadare has succeeded both in gaining a great deal of exposure for his native land and in developing a coherent and compelling artistic treatment of a welter of important historical issues. Kadare's first major prose work, The General of the Dead Army (1963), became an international hit. He has gone on to achieve critical acclaim with other novels such as Chronicle in Stone (1971), Broken April (1978), The File on H. (1981), and The Pyramid (1991). His main thematic concerns include Albania's experience under communism, the role of women in traditional societies, the nature of myth and mythmaking, the roots of the dispute over Kosovo/Kosova, the classical Greek heritage of today's Europe, the construction of the Albanian national identity, and the historical experience of the Balkan peoples in the Ottoman Empire. (1)

Kadare forms the point of departure for the present work from the context of this last thematic concern. This essay aims to introduce readers to one of Kadare's richest and most artistically satisfying texts on the Ottoman period, and to suggest a framework for understanding the story and assessing its significance. "The Caravan of Veils" uses potent and contested images, and a gripping plot to drive home the nature of authoritarian rule. Amidst Kadare's diatribes against dictatorship and imperialism, and his critique of a Muslim social practice, the careful readers also find a meditation on the vicissitudes of power. Furthermore, the work prompts readers to take up challenges like those recently expressed by the Spanish writer and Arabist Juan Goytisolo, who decries the "daily inanity" of the Western tendency to "confuse the headscarf with the veil, with the chador, and even with the burka of Afghan women." (2) This view of Islam results from outdated and ignorant, but persistent, imagination, (3) and there has never been a more pressing time than the present to push for more clarity and understanding. The significance of the symbol in this story goes beyond the realm of historical fiction or metaphor: it challenges readers to confront what they really know about one aspect of Islam.



İbret Taşı

Baş kaldıran paşaların, başarısız sadrazamların kesilen başlarının yerleştirildiği İbret Taşı, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nun başkentinde ürkütücü bir simge olarak yer almıştı. On dokuzuncu yüzyılın başlarında Yanya Valisi olarak hizmet eden, ancak kendi nüfuzunu artırarak padişaha baş kaldıran Tepedelenli Ali Paşa, Arnavut halkına bir devlet vermeye niyetliyken, Saray paşanın kafasını İbret Taşı'nda görmek istiyordu. Halkların kimliklerinin silinmesi amacıyla kurulan idari rejim yaşamı ıssızlaştırdıkça zalimlik tiyatrosu tek gösteri halini alacaktı. Puslu Balkan topraklarında dolaşan dedikodular ve rüyalar, insanların kaderlerini belirlemekte, mülkiyetin paylaşımının özgürlükten çok daha önemli olduğunu fısıldamaktaydı.

Arnavutluk'taki Osmanlı geçmişinin izlerini süren İsmail Kadare, İbret Taşı'nı yazdığı yetmişli yıllardaki komünist düzenle de alegorik bağlar kurarak, Kafka'yı aratmayan fantastik bir kâbus bürokrasisi yaratıyor. Duraklama dönemindeki Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nun batıya yöneldiği modernleşme sürecinde gerçekten yaşanan olaylar üzerine oturttuğu romanında devletlerin idarecilerine, memurlarına ve halklarına dair hep geçerli zorbaca yaklaşımlarının minyatürünü işliyor. Osmanlı'nın derin izler bıraktığı Arnavutluk'un yaşayan en büyük yazarından önemli bir dönem romanı. - See more at:

Bahar Vardarlı

“Kötücül Gücün Romanı” olarak adlandırmak isterim bu kitabı. Türklerin “öteki” olarak algılanıp bu romanın kurgulandığı bir gerçek. Onun için bu romanı tartışırken bir yabancının gözünden olayları göreceğimizi kabullenmek gerek. Kendi tarihinin karanlık sayfalarını karşıdan görmek, hatta bir düşmanının gözünden kendine bakmak…

Her olayı veya kişiyi, zamanını ve devrini göz önüne alıp öyle değerlendirmek gerek. Bu kitap imparatorluklar devrinin romanı... Günümüzde devletin karşısında kişinin ve insan haklarının egemenliğinin öne geçtiği bir devirde; ( bunun da ne kadar geçerli olduğunu içinde yaşadığımız iç ve dış ortam gösteriyor) bu roman devletin gücünün karanlığını bir kâbus gibi okurun üzerine akıtıyor. İnsan, bu insanlık dışı güç karşısında ezildiğini, bunaldığını, çaresizliğini, içine düştüğü kara kuyuyu derinliklerinde hissediyor ve titriyor. İnsanın Abdullah'ın sonunda yaptığı gibi isyan edesi geliyor, bu kara kâbusta yaşamak istemiyor...

Güç, herkesin sahip olmak istediği iktidar. Gücün kimin elinde olduğu çok önemli. Gücün kullanımında akıl, bilgi, sevgi olmazsa eğer, güç yetersiz, yetkisiz, kötü insanların eline geçer ve sonunda felaketler getirir. İnsanlığın yaşadığı bunca bunalım gücü elinde bulundurma ve hâkimiyetini devam ettirme savaşının sonucudur. Güce bir defa sahip olan onu ömür boyu yitirmemek için elinden gelen zulmü yapar, yeter ki iktidar olsun. Güç insan tabiatını da bozar, insanı yalana, kibre, kıskançlığa, düşmanlığa, ayrımcılığa, acımasızlığa ve en kötüsü suç işlemeye kadar götürür. İnsan bilir ki sonunda ölüm zamanı geldiğinde kendisiyle baş başa kalacak ve dünyada edindiği maddi hiçbir şey onunla gelmeyecek; gene de hırsla gücün peşinde koşar...

Osmanlı İmparatorluğu, üç kıtaya yayılan, yirmi dokuz halka, 33 millete, kırk dile ve dört iklime sahip kudretli bir devlet. Gücün simgesi! " İmparatorluğun geceden büyük olduğu söyleniyordu. Bir ucuna gece çökerken öbür ucunda sabah oluyordu. Gecenin örtüsü doğudan batıya devletin gücünü sarmaya yetmiyor, ya başı, ya ayakları dışarıda kalıyordu. Eğer Arnavutluk başıysa, ayaklar Hindistan yakınlarında bir yer olmalıydı. Başı tam gövdesinin ortasında olan bu devlet ahtapot gibi kollarını her bir yana uzatmıştı."

Bu büyük güç karşısında, 350 yıldan bu yana Arnavutlar ikinci kez isyan ediyordu. İhtirasına yenilen Tepedelenli Ali Paşa başkaldırıyordu. Ancak isyan Arnavutlar için hüsranla sonuçlanacak Tepedelenlinin başı âleme ibret olsun diye Pâyitahtta “İbret Taşı” nda sergilenecekti.

İsyan bastırıldığında “kre-kra” rejimine göre Arnavutluğun bütün kültür işleri silinecek, isimler değiştirilecek, şarkılar yasaklanacak, sözcükler değiştirilecek, hatta dil yok edilecek, efsaneler unutturulacak, kültür itibarsızlaştırılacak ve zaman içinde yok edilmesi sağlanacaktı.

Bu romanda vurgulanan nokta insanın doğası gereği kötücül oluşudur. “İnsan eli ve aklı karanlıklar getirir.” Zincire vurulmuş insanların üzerinde yaşamak zordur.

“Sen bana hiç suç işlememiş imparator adı versene.”


— Ama unutma! Cellâtların mezar taşlarında dahi isimleri olmaz. Kararlı mısın?
— Olsun, dedi. İsmim hatırlanmayacak belki, fakat ben unutulmayacağım.

Cellât Arapçada, kamçı ile vuran-eziyet eden anlamındadır. Eski Türklerde kırbaçla dayak cezâlarını uygulayan, Osmanlıda her türlü ölüm cezâsını îfâ eden şahıslar.

Umûmiyetle Hırvat dönmeleri veya çingenelerden seçilen cellâtlar, 15. yy dan itibâren kullanılmaya başlanmıştı. 16. yy da padişahın özel koruması olan dilsizler, aynı zamanda cellât vazîfesini de îfâ ederlerdi. Dilsizler, pâdişâhın en küçük bir işâretinin dahi ne anlama geldiğini çok iyi bilirlerdi. Sağır ve dilsizlere bu vazîfenin tevdî edilmesi, mahkûmun son çığlıklarını duyup etkilenmemesi ya da kurbanın yalvarmasıyla merhamete gelmemesi içindi.


16. yy da bostancı ocağına bağlı bir de cellât ocağı kuruldu. İlk kurulduğu zamanlar cellât ocağında 5 cellât mevcut iken, zamanla cellâtların sayısı artarak 70 e ulaştı. Cellâtların lideri olan cellâtbaşı, bostancıların lideri bostancıbaşına bağlıydı. Sıradan mahkûmların cezâlarını diğer cellâtlar îfâ ederken, devlet adamlarının ve mühim şahsiyetlerin infâzını cellâtbaşı gerçekleştirirdi. Vezirlerin, kazaskerlerin, beylerbeyilerin vs. üst düzey devlet adamlarının îdamlarında bostancıbaşı da bulunur, îdam fermânını okuyarak, mahkûmu tesellî eden sözler söylerdi. Sonra da cellâtbaşı infâzı îfâ ederdi. Saraydan çıkan infaz emri; eğer îdam sarayda olacaksa bostancıbaşıya, saray veya İstanbul dışında olacaksa kapıcıbaşına verilirdi.

—Bostancıbaşı! Götürün şu mendeburu Balıkhâne Kasrı’na.

Pâdişâhın gür sesiyle söylediği bu cümle, Arz Odası’nın çinili duvarlarında yankılanınca, karşısındaki şahıs buz kesilir, yağmurda kalmış ıslak it gibi titremeye başlardı.


Bostancıbaşı, cellâtların başıydı. Balıkhâne Kasrı ise, îdamlık siyâsî mahkûmların îdam edilmeden önce üç gün bekletildikleri zindan. Bu mekân, Gülhâne Parkı’nın sâhile yakın kısmında bulunan aşı ( kızıl ) renkli, büyükçe bir kasırdı. Îdamlık mahkûmlar, evvelâ bostancıların kollarında bu kasra gönderilirler, haklarında verilen karar Dîvân-ı Hümâyun’da tekrar görüşülüp suçu sâbit olduğu ve ölümü hak ettiği anlaşılırsa, mahkûm üçüncü gün îdam edilirdi. Böylelikle Osmanlı sultanları, anlık bir öfke ve yanlış bir kararla bir mâsumun kanına girmemiş oluyorlardı.

Üç gün boyunca bu zindanın soğuk odalarında âkıbetini bekleyen mahkûmun, affedilmesi için dua etmekten başka elinden bir şey gelmezdi. Seçimsiz ve çâresiz beklerdi âkıbetini. Üçüncü gün sonunda zindanın demir kapısı açılır ve elinde tepsiyle, insan azmanı bostancıbaşı görünürdü. Tepsideki bir kadeh şerbeti mahkûma sunmak için gelen bostancı, saygıda kusur etmezdi. Sessizce içeri girer, saygıyla şerbeti sunardı. Genellikle pek konuşma olmazdı aralarında. Buna gerek de yoktu zâten. Zîrâ mahkûm, bostancıbaşının getirdiği kadehin renginden âkıbetini anlardı. Eğer şerbet, beyaz kadehle gelmişse affedildiğine, kırmızı kadehle gelmişse îdam edileceğine işâretti. Kadeh beyazsa mahkûmun yüzüne kan gelir, rahat bir nefes alarak şerbetini içer ve yine bostancıların nezâretinde kendisi için sâhilde, yalı köşkünün önündeki bostancı kayıkhânesinde hazırlanmış çektiriye binerek, sürgün edildiği mekâna doğru yol alırdı. Zîrâ îdamdan affedilmenin karşılığı sürgündü. Ve beyaz kadehin mânâsı da bu idi. Kızıl kadehe gelince… Ölüm demek olan kızıl renkli kadehi görür görmez mahkûmun yüzündeki kan çekilir, beti benzi atar, suratı bembeyaz kesilirdi korkudan. Zîrâ az sonra içeceği buz gibi şerbet onun ecel ( şehâdet ) şerbeti olacaktı.


Dünyadan son nasîbi olan buz gibi şerbeti içen mahkûm, ölümün bütün soğukluğunun duvarlarına sindiği bu korkunç zindandan çıkarılır, Topkapı Sarayı’nın 1. kapısı Bâb-ı Hümâyunla 2. kapısı Bâbusselâm arasında bulunan Cellât Çeşmesi’nin önüne getirilir ve çeşmenin önündeki taşın üzerine başı konularak bostancıbaşının da nezâretinde, cellâtbaşının güçlü bir kılıç darbesiyle îdâm edilirdi. İnfaz gerçekleştikten sonra cellâtlar, kanlı palalarını, satırlarını, bu çeşmede yıkadıkları için çeşmeye Cellât Çeşmesi denmişti. Bir diğer adı da siyâsî mahkûmların infâzı burada vâkî olduğundan Siyâset Çeşmesi. Cellâtlara ise “Meydân-ı Siyâset Ustası” denirdi bir dönem. Bâzen de mahkûm, Balıkhâne Kasrı’nda şerbetini içer içmez kementle boğularak öldürülür, cesedi de ayağına taş bağlanılarak denize atılırdı. Başı kesilerek öldürülenlerin kesik başı, çeşmenin önünde ve karşısında bulunan Seng-i İbret ( İbret Taşı ) ismindeki sütunların üzerine ya da Bâb-ı Hümâyûn’un ( Saray’ın en dış kapısı ) nişlerine konulur, üç gün bekletildikten sonra, başsız cesedi gibi kellesi de denize atılırdı. Yabancı seyyahlar, Sarayburnu açıklarından gemiyle geçerlerken, denizin yüzünde böyle nice başsız cesetlere rastladıklarını yazmışlardı.


Sultan 2. Mahmut’un sadrazamı Mehmet Emin Rauf Paşa da Balıkhâne Kasrı’na kapatılanlardan. Hâlet Efendi’nin hışmına uğrayıp 1818 de 3 gün bu kasrın karanlık odasında ecel teri döktükten sonra, endişeyle âkıbetini beklerken, zindanın demir kapısı açılmış, Bostancıbaşı elinde tepsi, içeri girmişti. Rauf Paşa korkuyla tepsideki kadehin rengine baktı evvelâ. Paşa’nın, karşısında bostancıbaşıyı gördüğü an geçirdiği şok ve müthiş ölüm korkusu sebebiyle erkekliğini dahi kaybettiği meşhurdur. Sultan Mahmut, affettiği yakışıklı sadrazamına iltifatta bulunmuştu daha sonra:

—Kallâvî kavuğun böylesine yakıştığı bu başa nasıl kıyılır?

Rauf Paşa zâten affedilecekti. Lâkin padişah bunu lâtif bir sebebe bağlayarak iltifatta bulunmuştu. Böylece Rauf Paşa, başına kallâvî kavuk ( sadrazam kavuğu ) çok yakıştığı için îdamdan kurtulan sadrazam olarak târihe geçti.


Balıkhâne Kasrı’na kapatılan son de vlet adamı ise 1822 de azledilen Sadrazam Hacı Salih Paşa idi. Îdamdan güç belâ kurtulmuştu.

Sarayda böyle kötü bir şöhrete sahip Balıkhâne Kasrı, padişahın gazâbına uğrayanların, “Kapı arası”nda tutuklanarak, cezâlarının infâz edilmek üzere hapsedildikleri ve haklarındaki ferman gelene kadar, ölümle yaşam arasında gidip geldikleri, ecel terleri döktükleri yerdi.

Mahkûmlar için “Balıkhâne” korkunç bir kelime idi. “Götürün Balıkhâneye” sözü, ölüm demekti. Bir diğer korkunç kelime ise “Bostancı Fırını”. Topkapı Sarayı 1. avlunun ziyârete kapalı kısımlarında bulunan fırının yanındaki küçük bir hapishâneydi burası. Burada infaz öncesi konuşturulmak istenen mahkûmlara işkence de yapılır ve bu işkencehâne fırının hemen arkasında olduğu için buraya da fırın denirdi. “Fırına götürün” demek işkence veya îdam emri demekti. Îdam edilecek kişiler, haklarındaki ferman çıkana kadar Bostancıbaşı tarafından tutuklanmış olarak fırında beklerlerdi. Bostancıbaşı hapsinden sağ kurtulan da pek olmazdı.

Balıkhâne Kasrı ve Bostancı Fırınından başka, borçlular Baba Cafer Zindanına, siyasî suçlular, tutuklanan yabancı sefîrler Yedikule Zindanlarına atılırdı.

Fatih’ten beri birçok mahkûmun son nefeslerini verdiği bir diğer mekân da Yedikule Zindanları. Ve îdamların infâz edildiği Zindan Kulesi. Bizanslı mahkûmlardan Osmanlılara kadar birçok zavallının ölüm çığlıklarının duvarlarına sindiği bu korkunç kule, kapısından içeri adım atanın, bir daha çıkamayacağını bildiği, uğursuz ve korkunç bir zindan idi. Sıradan bir Osmanlı vatandaşından, Padişah Genç Osman’a kadar nice zavallının kanını içen bu zindan, ilk îdam edilen Osmanlı sadrazamı Çandarlı Halil Paşa’dan, son idam edilen sadrazam Benderli Ali Paşa’ya kadar birçok önemli zevâtın da ölümle buluşma noktası olmuştu.

Siyâsî suçluların kellesi, sarayda cellât çeşmesi önünde kesilir ve seng-i ibrette sergilenirdi. Halktan ve sıradan şahıslar, umûmiyetle suçu işledikleri ya da yakalandıkları yerde veyâhut Yavuz Selim Camii’nin Haliç’e inen kısmı Parmakkapı’da asılarak îdâm edilirlerdi. Yeniçerilerin îdâmı ise, ocak içinden yetişen cellâtlar tarafından, Rumeli Hisârı’ndaki zindanda yapılırdı. Ve idâm, hisarın burçlarından atılan tek pârelik bir top sesiyle duyurulurdu. Top sesi, bir yeniçerinin daha ölümünün sesiydi.

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Kadare/Kafka: Concreteness and Absurdity

Having returned from a trip to Albania in September, perhaps the strangest and least-known corner of Europe, I read a novel in a handsome Vintage edition I had picked up in Tirana by Ismail Kadare, the country's most famous writer. As I read it, I became subtly but insistently conscious of what I thought might be echoes of Kafka's The Castle. I hesitated because I have no idea whether the dialogue I was perceiving was conscious or purely something that happened to scratch against my memory of studying Kafka at MA level, but when I found Kadare's Broken April slots next to Kafka on my bookshelf, I felt serendipity at work (and as I google the two names, I find that I am hardly the only one to awaken to the comparison).

Like Kafka's nightmarish village, ruled over by the inscrutable authority and impassable bureaucracy of the Castle, the world depicted in Broken April - that of the binding blood feuds of the Albanian mountains - is haunting and disorientating. Enigmatic figures, bearing the black armband of those entangled in the demands of the Kanun, or revenge code, shuffle along desolate mountain roads. Gjorg, the main character, is one such condemned man. Realising the violent and the nonviolent part of the codes are inextricable, mutually reinforcing and hence in the last instance indistinguishable, he comes to describe himself 'as if trapped in bird-lime by the bloody part of the Kanun' (p. 30). He enters a surreal and sheared-off time after committing the murder required of him: the grace or truce of thirty days before the family whose son he killed are allowed to come after him.

In this month, he must go to a castle called Orok to pay the so-called blood tax, and it is here that allusions to Kafka seem unmistakeable: Now that Gjorg caught sight of it in the distance, not believing that it was really the castle, he could not make out its shape. In the fog its silhouette seemed neither high nor low, and sometimes he thought it must be quite spread out and sometimes he thought it a compact mass....even when he was quite close, he could make out nothing distinctly. He was sure that it must be the castle and he was certain that it was nor...Its appearance changed as he approached (p. 54) This is very similar to a passage in The Castle. And when we discover a bureaucratic apparatchik at the heart of Orok who is responsible for overseeing the blood ledger, coldly recording the unbroken chain of killings from 1611 to the present, we are certainly in Kafkaesque territory. The horror is reinforced by a kind of dark comedy: the bureaucrat Ukacierra fears that the revenge code is waning, and as it is his financial and administrative 'department' he frets and panics: one day, only a single killing happens, skimming desperately close to no killings at all: 'it would have been the first day of its kind - a blank - in a century, perhaps during two, three, five the very idea that such a day might come about, Mark was terror-stricken. And to imagine that it just might have happened' (p.139). His is the overwrought panic of every office middle-manager forced to run their eyes over a spreadsheet.

Yet, if Kadare's world is filled with a strange, dark claustrophobia borrowed from Kafka's, there is a marked difference. Kadare's novel has a strictly defined geographical place (although its historical one is rather more elusive). Hungarian critic Georg Lukács famously attacked Kafka as representing the worst of bourgeois modernist excess: the notion of a tortured and fragmented individual lost in a meaningless and absurd world, and the problems of freedom faced by such an individual, was a middle-class illusion. For the Marxist Lukács, the vertigo of the estranged self caught in its own 'abstract' potentiality could only be a bourgeois anxiety: in reality, the world was not full of atomised individuals, nor was it inexplicable: rather the world was a meaningful totality, that is, the totality of capitalist brutality which linked all individuals together into a single economic system. Such a system provided rather more finite pathways, so-called 'concrete potentiality' Yet the interesting thing about Kadare's Kafka-tinged world is that it is not a world of abstract potentiality, but concrete potentiality. It is a distinctly Albanian world, rooted in real custom, social forms, historical context.

A genuine Kulla (tower of refuge) in Northern Albania which I was able to visit. What does this mean? A simple reading would simply say that Kadare is saying that the real existential terror(ism) lies in the real world. The 20th century possesses a horror equal to any philosopher's nightmare. Yet I think there is something more at stake, an issue which I have been discussing - fascinatingly - with two of my excellent third-year seminars at NUI Maynooth. The Kanun system does possess a certain Kafkaesque irrationality, and characters note this in this novel itself: 'the concept of "the guest", like every great idea, carried with it not only its sublime aspect but its absurd aspect too' (p. 88). It is highlighted by using outsiders to look in, from the outside, on the blood code: especially in the shape of Bessian, an academic from Tirana. But the very concrete context of the Albanian mountain culture is also the context of meaning. Gjorg himself, early on, argues that whilst 'life outside the whirlpool of blood might perhaps be more peaceful, by the same token it would be even more dull and meaningless...clans that were in the blood feud lived in a different order of days and seasons, accompanied as it were by an inner tremor; the people were more handsome, and the young men were in favour with the women' (p. 34).

The lesson here, I think, is that when Kadare locates Kafkaesque madness within a society, a culture, and a law he is also willing to acknowledge these things as sites of meaning. By moving his existentialist novel inside the terms of a very specific national and historical culture - Albania - he is asserting that meaning and absurdity, freedom and determinism, inhere in the same world. The kind of existential dilemma that Lukács sees in Kafka (which might, I hasten to add, be accused of being a rather unfair misreading of The Castle) is one which sees existence as a problem which can be conceived in a purely abstract realm: beyond any actual culture or history. Broken April, by contrast, very definitely locates an existential dilemma within the thrownness of an actual, concrete individual. Gjorg has nationality. He has culture, he has a historical position. It is the locus of his freedom, but also the trajectory that propel him to his own death. It is freedom and unfreedom wrapped in one enigmatic tangle.

All spaces of freedom are orientated by laws of one sort or another, explicit or implicit, and if the centre of those laws is enquired into too deeply, then it shall reveal itself as absurd. Yet laws must be set, and a centre must be held. Any culture, and its anthropological rules, can be seen as absurd from outside: but there is no absolute outside of culture, absurdity is only relative. There is no Archimedean position. This is, I feel, why Kadare evokes a certain Kafkaesque tone in his work: to show both the grandeur and the almost pathetic savagery of the Kanun, alongside each other, because of each other. The heart of the blood code is the source for meaning and rational order in the Albanian society of that time and place: but precisely as such it is the dark site for its irrationality - for any order will confess its own irrationality, its own terror even, if pressed hard enough. The 'inner tremor' felt by Gjorg is the lived experience of this duality, this paradox.


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