The poor hearts of the rich: Mehmet Eroğlu’s “Mermer Köşk”

© Mine Krause

At first sight you might think Mehmet Eroğlu’s latest novel Mermer Köşk (English: Villa Marbre) tells a more than ordinary story: Rich woman meets poor man. Right from the beginning, the reader expects them to fall for each other. And of course they do. But the plot would be far too simple if there wasn’t much more to it than just a forbidden love story. Mehmet Eroğlu highlights the destructive aspects of appearances in Turkish society by describing the individual fates of all characters: Uğur Bakıcı (“uğur” meaning “luck” and “bakıcı” “caretaker”), in contrast to his name, is neither lucky, nor empathetic. After a miserable childhood spent in poverty, he had to struggle very hard to become a lawyer. Bitterness and arrogance have become his best weapons against the derogatory behaviour of others, including his superiors: the members of the Demir family. Hasan Demir is the CEO of the Demir Holding, one of the richest companies of the country. Together with his wife Neslihan, his two daughters Öykü and Ezgi, and his brother İsmail, the Demirs turn the life of their employee Uğur Bakıcı into a living hell until it is payback time.

None of the main characters in this novel can be described as having an engaging or friendly personality. The name “Demir”, meaning “iron”, is wisely chosen for this family whose members seem to have rather cold, calculating hearts. Öykü, Ezgi, but especially İsmail and the “iron lady” Neslihan who both are masters of the “puppet theatre” around them, create a world of intrigues, jealousy, lies, deceit, manipulation and revenge whenever and wherever they can. With his opportunistic and spiteful nature, Uğur tries to hide the inferiority complex he is suffering from since his early childhood. He would do anything for money and power, which is the reason why he perfectly fits into this family of hypocrites. Even in his most passionate moments with Öykü, he is always driven by intense anger and the lust for revenge because he hates his life. The only two people in the world he loves are his sweet sister Meral and her communist husband Hüseyin Yoldaş. They are probably also the only two characters of the novel you might feel sympathy for. All the others reflect a world of soulless creatures manipulated by power struggles and false ambitions.

© Mine Krause

Evil seems to be contagious: Corruption, physical and verbal violence, murder disguised as suicide, blackmail, addiction – the list is endless. Now and then, the conscience of one or the other wakes up but is immediately silenced with shallow self-justifications. Set in an atmosphere of general terror which Mehmet Eroğlu hints at by mentioning the massacre of Suruç and the Ankara bombings of the year 2015, the restlessness inside the Demirs’ villa could be regarded as an indirect reflection of a destructive world characterized by a profound lack of love and empathy. The rotting legs of both, Ezgi and her uncle İsmail, turn into a metaphor for the rottenness of society as a whole.

What is left of love when all the passion is gone? In Öykü’s and Uğur‘s case strictly nothing. Not only is their love built on appearances but subconsciously always driven by unresolved traumas haunting them from the past. The same is true for Ezgi, Neslihan and İsmail who all try to cover up their pain by clinging to power and appearances. This superficial lifestyle brings nothing but unhappiness. Death, insanity, drugs or suicide: At the end, all characters find an individual way of escaping their misery. The novel’s last chapters surprise with an unexpected turn of events and a very artistic shift of narrative perspectives. Mermer Köşk is completely different from all the other novels written by Mehmet Eroğlu. However, in terms of narrative style, change of perspectives and richness of imagination, the author remains true to himself. I kindly thank him for having sent me his latest work. As it is with every good book, at least one sentence stays in our minds forever: “The eye sees today, the mind sees tomorrow, but curiosity sees our inner self” (“Göz bugünü, akıl yarını, meraksa içimizi görür.”).

Paris, 04/08/2017               © Mine Krause





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