Wooden Birds
by Asli Erdogan, translated by Nebile Direkçigil

Asli Erdoğan is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Named one of the 50 most promising authors of the future by French literary magazine Lire, her work has been translated into 15 different languages. She is also a prominent human rights activist and PEN member.

Erdoğan was recently arrested  for alleged terrorist activity alongside more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem newspaper, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily. Writers’ Centre Norwich joins PEN International, UNESCO City of Krakow and other freedom of speech organisations across the world who are calling for her immediate release. Sign the petition calling for Asli Erdoğan’s release 

Follow and use the hashtags: #LetAsliErdoganFree #AslıErdoğanıBırakın 

Read ‘Wooden Birds’, a short story by Asli (translated by Nebile Direkçigil), below.

The door of the room opened suddenly and a red head burst in. Dijana’s voice, breathless and impatient, was heard. “Come on now, Felicita! Shall we be waiting for you all day? Get that big arse of yours out of bed. You’re dead inside, woman, dead.”

The door was shut as quickly as it was opened; the antiseptic smell of the hospital corridor, Dijana’s shrill voice and superficial but hurtful mocking remained outside.

Filiz, whom the lung patients called “Felicita” (“Happiness”), was in reality an extremely pessimistic, reserved and embittered person. Her status as a political emigré, her Ph.D. in history and the volumes of books in her room had rendered her a not-so-endearing intellectual in the eyes of the patients. “Ah, that Felicita of ours,” Dijana would say, “I’d rather read a book on oncology than attempt a chat with her. She hardly ever opens her mouth.” That dark and withered Felicita of ours! She was in the nick for two years in her country: Felicita, whose head was buried in books, who had not managed to learn to speak German without an accent in all these ten years!

Filiz got up from the bed very slowly. Her long-lasting illness—pneumonia in both lungs and chronic asthma—had taught her to use her strength sparingly. She would yield to the whims of her body that whined and begged continuously.

For the first time in eight months she was to leave the hospital premises. On the roll of patients in the recuperation phase who were granted the two-hour Saturday leave this week, there was also the name “Filiz Kumcuoğlu.:” Dijana, who had turned the hoodwinking of the nurse on duty at nights and the pinching of the patients’ files into the greatest adventure of her hospital life, had been informed on Monday of this development. She had prepared “a big surprise.” THE AMAZON EXPRESS! Filiz deserved to participate in the secret of the third-floor patients and embark upon the Amazon Express. In truth, Filiz had absolutely no expectations whatsoever. At the very most, they would go to the only settlement in a radius of thirty kilometres, T. village, and have a glass or two. Perhaps they might meet the village lads or the male patients of the men’s sanatorium, as spent as themselves. What else was there to do in the midst of the Black Forest?

Filiz remembered all of a sudden, just as she was leaving the room, a story she had heard at least twenty years ago and then buried in one of the unfrequented recesses of her memory. At the beginning of this century, the consumptive female patients of the Halki Island Sanatorium would go in secret to the woods at night and make love with the consumptive male patients. Pale-faced women in white nighties, ordained to die, walking with torches alight in their hands… She had not believed the truth of the story, but found it poetic and tragic. Poetry had long forsaken her life; her personal tragedies had so multiplied that like parasitic plants they had drained the sap of her being.

Get out of the double-glazed door! Turn your back on that sombre, frowning, gray sign, ‘T. Hospital, Unit of Lung Diseases’ and looking neither left nor right, walk fast. To the line where the gigantic shadow of the building terminates. And right there, pause at the boundary of the empire of the sun, hold your breath and slowly take that single step, the single step that shall lead you out of the shadow. So that even the frail northern sun warms your back all of a sudden and you convince yourself that you can erase your past completely! Let the sun play little games in your hair, let the woods be attired in raw colors, let the lineaments of the world be obliterated and let truth be transformed into pure light.

Continue reading >>

Read another story by Asli, ‘The Prisoner’, published by Words Without Borders.

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