Esteemed readers!  I am very honored and excited to share with you another effort of the tireless Batumanologist Kaya Genç, appearing in the June issue of Turkish Vogue:

vogue ecinniler 1 vogue ecinniler 2

The title, “Şatodaki Yazar” (“The Writer in the Castle”), alludes both to a certain famous depressing writer, and also to my Gothic situation as writer-in-residence at Koç University, which I am happy to say has been extended through June 2012(!).

Many thanks to Kaya for the sympathetic reporting, and also to Korhan Karaoysal (no shortage of K’s here) for the equally sympathetic photographs. Those who enjoy Korhan’s work as much as I do are urged to consult his amazing pictures of Turkey’s first sports camp for the disabled.


Speaking of the disabled, the following slogan recently caught my eye on a street in Turkey’s most Kafkaesque city: “EVERY HEALTHY PERSON IS A POTENTIAL DISABLED PERSON.”


(That looks like snow but was actually rain.)

I wasn’t sure I understood it right, so I consulted an online translator (using this page) and learned an equally inspirational variant: “You may be thinking that you are healthy, but remember that one day you may be retarded!” Was it Marcus Aurelius who once said the same thing?

I leave you with 2 more photos from Kars.

First, the Kafkas Tekel (lit., approx., “Caucasus Liquor”) store, at the foot of the Kars castle:

kafkas tekel

Second, the Kafkas Medical Supply store, where you can go if you wake up one morning with, for example, six feet, and need a a couple more pairs of orthopedic clogs to wear to the races:


Karpe diem, living readers!

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17 Responses to “KAFKAS MEDIKAL”

  1. SW Foska Says:

    “Batumanologist” – not batumancer?

  2. Damion Searls Says:

    That Kafkas Tekel picture is fantastic — I love the taxi and the flag. It should be a book cover. (Of “The Castle”?)

    And of course “Tekel” is from the original Writing on the Wall (the source of the phrase — see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_writing_on_the_wall). Its meaning, supplied by a real Authorized Translator (the prophet Daniel), is Kafkan too: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”

  3. Elif Says:

    Or Batumaniac! (I thought of this at a Batuman family reunion the other night…)

    Illustrious Damion – WOW!!! I can’t believe the writing on the wall says “booze”! Here is my translation: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting – have a drink.”

    (In Turkish “tekel” is literally “monopoly,” referring to the Turkish state booze monopoly, which was I believe privatized a few years back. I wonder if it’s related to shekel?)

  4. SW Foska Says:

    In German Teckel is another word for a dachshund or sausage dog. Maybe this is a riposte to those who wrote about Kafka’s cats, or dick.

  5. Elif Says:

    oboy, the “writing on the wall” just keeps getting more complicated/ ominous. if that wasn’t enough, it seems that sometimes the writing on the wall is located, not actually on the wall, but on the ear of a dog that has successfully sniffed to its conclusion a 48-hour-old blood trail.

  6. SW Foska Says:

    This is becoming like a scene from In der Strafkolonie, transposed to Jaroslav Hasek’s Cynological Institute (now operating out of Kars)…

  7. Damion Searls Says:

    According to the wikimind, “Tekel” in Aramaic is indeed a spelling of shekel, from the root meaning “to weigh.” The writing on the wall, “Mene Mene Tekel Uparshim”, thus equals 2 minas plus one shekel plus a demi-mina, or 151 shekels, or $277 and 8.5 cents in modern US dollars (wiki again! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mina_(unit) ).

    I’m not sure about the Turkish connection, though I will now think of The Writing on the Wall as saying “Monopoly.” Paraphrase: You have been weighed and found wanting — do not pass Go, do not collect $277.085.

  8. Colin Says:

    Hmm. Tekel seems to split up into tek (single) and el (hand). Turcophone Wikipedia also gives “Tek parti rejimi”, which sounds like a disco but is actually a one-party state. And “tek” as in “odd” as in “odd numbers”.

  9. Margaret Says:

    Do you know, is there anywhere in Istanbul to buy an English language copy of The Possessed?

  10. Elif Says:

    dear margaret! robinson crusoe used to carry it, but for some reason stopped restocking, so it’s currently on back order. it would be fabulous if you asked them to restock! (i tried asking them once myself, but i think they just thought i was a crazy person.) otherwise the only place where i know it’s in stock is the koç university bookstore, which is a bit out of the way.

  11. Bobby Musker Says:

    Dear Elif,
    I have a question. Are you teaching at Koc University, or just a “”resident writer” there?

  12. Charles Says:

    Try Pandora. According to their website, it’s in stock.

  13. Elif Says:

    dear bobby, thank you for your kind comments! i was just “in residence” here for 2010-11, but am happy to say i will be teaching a nonfiction workshop in 2011-12. re: orlando figes, that was a joke, i have no reason to believe that prof. figes ever said anything mean about me.

  14. Crystal Says:

    “The Writer in the Castle”…. inspires something in me. Think it needs to marinate a bit, but wanted to congratulate you on this “gig” (for lack of a better word – my vocabulary is not it’s best at 1:30 in the morning!). It seems like a really neat place. I am only getting started reading your entries, but already I am enjoying them. I think you are quite a talented writer and gifted with a bright personality and intelligence. Keep up the excellent work! Perhaps this is cliche’…but you inspire me in many ways to keep my creative persona alive and productive.


  15. Geoff Roberts Says:

    Kars? Isn’t that where Orhan Pamuck’s K spent a couple of weeks hunting down the headscarf girls and refalling in love with an old flame? So the fact that it wasn’t snowing is very relevant to our understanding of the sub-text. As for kafka’s medical, have you noticed that there is a poster for ‘Baby Scales’ right next door? Don’t Turkish babies get weighed?

  16. Margaret Says:

    Wonderful, thank you, I will try Pandora, or if not I will happily be a squeaky wheel at Robinson Crusoe!

  17. Elif Says:

    @ geoff: yes, yes, yes, and yes. in fact, the purveyor of those baby scales is none other than kafkas medikal (it’s a new windowpane, not a new establishment). verily, few passions can equal that of turkish people for weighing their babies… and, in k city, who knows how much your baby might weigh tomorrow morning?

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