Sunday, December 20, 2009

OFF THE RECORD

It would be indecent to keep writing from Turkey without noting that my martial arts meditations are taking place against a bleak backdrop. Almost every conversation I've had here in the past week has suggested a mood of hopelessness. This does not mean that things are, in fact, hopeless, but certainly these are the unhappiest times I've seen in Turkey since I arrived here four years ago.

My notebook is full of bizarre and alarming comments made to me off the record recently. I am not sure how seriously to take any one of these comments, individually, but taken collectively, they suggest the mood of a madhouse.

"In this part of the world," one government official said, "two plus two doesn't necessarily equal four. Sometimes it's six, sometimes it's ten. If you don't understand this in your heart, you cannot understand this region. If you've grown up thinking rationally, you won't understand it."

Every story I write here -- even a feature about the Turkish art market -- is touched by the sentiment that behind everything is a sinister conspiracy. "There's 50 billion dollars worth of narcotics flowing in from Afghanistan, Iran," said one art dealer. "You can't put that money in the bank, but you can put it in art."

Sadly, that makes a lot of sense, and is probably at least partly true.


video

Inci Eviner, "Harem"

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