THE STONE BUILDING
The Stone Building, holder of Sait Faik Prize 2010, the most prestigious literary prize in Turkey, is a demanding book, emotionally, intellectually and morally. Not only it confronts heavy themes as torture, betrayal and madness, but also its style and form try to stretch the limits of literary narration. It is intended to be a journey into the Night Eternal, a groping, painful journey into the basements, cellars, un—trodden paths of the memory, the obscure corners, labyrinthine corridors, dungeons and cells of the human soul, the tragedy of the world is accumulated and closed within. The language is intense, poetic and metaphorical, at times stormy, at times piercing, ruthless, at others lyrical and tender. Imagery, obscurity, shades, echoes and undertones are the main elements as well as rhythm and vibration. The entire structure is in fact built a musical composition, with polyphony and counterpoint. Texts, passages, sentences repeat and echo one other, flow in circles, loops or in fugue form, almost as leitmotifs or tunes sang by different voices, sometimes simultaneously. Conscious emission of linearity, a plot, a time axis or even fully developed characters to carry the story; shrinking and expanding of time and space; mixing of dreams with reality and madness, various
shifts and the continuous transformation of the subject, first person I... All are implemented to probe the limits of narration, to tell the untenable, the irreversible split of the human soul and the ultimate loss of self under the blows of reality.
Although this is an exceptionally hard story on torture, at no point, there is an actual depiction of a torture scene, pornography of pain and blood is strictly avoided. The difficult task of translation was successfully undertaken by Jean Descat(French), Ulla Lundstrom(Swedish) and Gunvald Ims(Norwegian). Actes Sud, Gyldendal and Ramus editions more or less simultaneously appeared at the end of 2012, with overwhelming reviews in all three countries. Especially in France, The Stone Building was a major turning point for the author.
Oratorio for one victim of torture (Le Monde, France)
An elegy for victims of terror (Le Temps, France)
A sublime poem—novel: Loss of self under blows (Politis, France)
Overwhelming, breath taking language, endless stream of metaphors, narration that pulls you in a maelstrom.... As if you are at the center of a maelstrom, when you think you are lost, the waters suddenly calm down, perhaps you have arrived at the eye of the storm. (Arbetarsbladet,
The Stone Building is a musical composition, with loops, repetitions, voices that flow into each other and heard simultaneously, composed by rules polyphony and counterpoint. (Kristianbladet,
With her magical language, Asli Erdogan tells us the story of an angel that falls amongst human beings and loses his wings... His vision or gaze left to us ... The chorus of tortured children... She tells us about the strongest and the most fragile things on earth. ( Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden)
Asli Erdogan is not a writer of compromises. What she starts up, she finishes. This leads to an illuminated text, the light comes from both her commitment and her anger, her willingness to empathize. Often the images supersede one another, in an inward moving pattern, almost until an abstraction is reached —when the human brutality suddenly appears, again— kept together by the night as a gloomy paste. (NRK, Norway)
Erdogan dwells on the suffering, the physical torture, the wounds, the aching and the swellings, the sorrow and the pain, but she does this in a caring, devoted way, and in an uniquely lyrical and musical language that contrasts the suffering she describes, with the effect, strangely enough, of strengthening the suffering. (Stavanger Aftenblad, Norway)
The most innovative aspect of the novel is its usage of 1st person, I and the second person you. The subject, the traditional narrator is used more as a frame through which characters temporarily appear and disappear, giving it volume and heat, or as a musical instrument through which different voices sing, sometimes simultaneously. It is left open for interpretation which story belongs to whom.
The story is divided into 7 parts: The Beginning, The Humans, The Stones, The Dreams, The Roaring Laughter, The Stories and The Endings (three finales were written for the book). In The Beginning, we hear our first narrator and through his/her eyes, meet the protagonist: A tramp, a mad man living on the streets, sidewalks and rooftops, simply named as A, the anonymous. His face is divided into two unequal parts with a huge, hideous scar. A. is continuously talking, narrating seemingly incoherent stories, telling the indecipherable truth about the Stone Building, sometimes giving sermons to mankind, sometimes confessing to sea gulls, and very often roaring with laughter. As we approach step by step towards the Stone Building, the narrator is transformed into the inner voice of A.
The Stone Building, architecturally resembling the notorious police headquarters of Istanbul in the70s, is in fact a timeless, abstract building —some readers have interpreted it as a prison, concentration camp or lunatic asylum. It is not only a metaphor for oppression and oppressive institutions, but more it stands for the inner world, the human heart or soul, and at the end, turns into the metaphor of semi—told, uncompleted story, the novel itself, or any human destiny.. Once we cross the point of no return and enter the building, different voices will reach us from behind the solid and bare walls, dim corridors. Voices of the prisoners of the stone building: A young girl waiting to be interrogated, the quire of the tortured street children, the betrayed and the betrayer, voices that speak to us of maddening fear, despair, passion, grief, suicide, and an anonymous scream... Each one of the victims will slowly, painfully crawl on his/her belly on the cold
stones to arrive, one by one, at the core of the labyrinth, simply an empty room, a dirty window... Each will contribute his/her part for the story of the actual protagonist of the novel: The Angel.
An angel has come down to live among humans and is now waiting in one of the torture chambers, with his face scarred into the unequal parts. In fact, the story or fate of the angel, even his existence will never be confirmed, since he is d from the substance of dreams and recollected images, but his tragic end is for certain.
The Stone Building is essentially constructed from oppositions and counterparts: The mad man and the angel, a scream and a tune, the dying and the survivor, the betrayed and the betrayer, the survivors and the missing...The opposites split and come together, in the same voice, same fate, same sentence... Sacred and profane stand side by side, as tragic with the most ordinary and dirty, violence with poetry. Lyricism is woven into the harshest reality, even at times ironically: The quire of the tortured street children, the missing tune and the roaring laughter of the angel, the rooftops opening into the sky as well as the 5th floor ( torture chambers are located), the call of the wind into The Last Free Country, into suicide...
The novel has three different endings: The Finale of the Survivors, The Farewell of A. and the epilogue of the author, as she comes out as her real self to assume all the characters and voices of the Stone Building. Now the stone building has been transformed into an uncompleted story, through which her split selves tried to speak. There is someone in her who has died, someone else within has survived a thousand times, there is one who has betrayed and another who has been betrayed, one of her faces is turned towards the oppressor while the other towards the victim, but all these selves or rather the conditions of being human are no longer able to hear each other. In fact, the Human Story, Life itself, is never completed, someone or something, perhaps a word, perhaps a tune, is forever lost and will remain forever missing.