The Crying Pomegranate: Translation excerpts from a Dervish novel in German

Author’s biographical statement

Links to the author

From: Der weinende Granatapfel. A Dervish novel by Alev Tekinay. Phantastische Bibliothek: Band 249 (also: Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1990).

The Crying Pomegranate

1

Violent jolts shook Ferdinand in his sleep; he rolled around in a swift move.  His body cringed; his cramped fingers grasping the creases of the bedspread; big drops of hot sweat on his forehead.  He sighed and groaned in his sleep, his lips half open, his throat completely dry.  He reached out his hand into the air, as if to catch something.  His breath was cut short, his heart in trembles with unease and a peculiar fear.

Ferdinand wanted to have a tight hold of the images – not to forget or lose them again.  His hand fell back onto the bed like a dead bird, the impact of it waking him up. In heavy exhaustion, he opened his eyes.  Exhausted, as if he had just had a fight against the powerful images that once again left him in defeat.

Without turning on the nightlight, he sat up in his bed, his fingers searching for the cigarette package.  He loved the gentle darkness; he found solace in it.  Like a mother, or a lover.  Yet, Ferdinand Tauber had neither a mother nor a lover.

He wiped off the sweat drops from his forehead with his pajama sleeve, lit a cigarette and smiled in muse at the fact how rapid the dream world was disentangling.

He never had such encumbering dreams as those of tonight, although he was to be considered a master of dreams.  In fact, he lived more in the dream world than in the real one.  Reality was to him only a surface, only a transparent skin over the unreal, higher world.

Ferdinand Tauber became even angrier in his realization how unable he was to remember the particular dream he had been having every night for some time now.  For how long, he couldn’t recall.

Only a few fragments were hanging on to his memory, as he tried in exhaustion to put them together like mosaic pieces.

When he woke up, his teeth were in a tight clench and his body felt like a gigantic log.  But now his body was loosening little by little and an indescribable feeling ran through his heart.  He felt how an unknown something moved in his innermost being, triggering that familiar sweet ache, the one that Ferdinand Tauber could not describe.

When he finally managed to gather some of the mosaic pieces, the images began to gain a stunning clarity, one that surpassed each reality of his student life thus far.  It seemed to be a hasty racing sequence without a central point.  But, no!  There was one.  It’s only that…as soon as the image stream began to flow toward this focal point, everything became non-transparent like a piece of muddy glass, and finally, real dark, pitch-dark.  In fact, now, only the last images remained bright and alive, those that Ferdinand wanted to touch before he woke up bathed in sweat:

With milky white sails, he was soaring on a sea that looked like a violet mirror lit up by a full moon.  Though the waves were gentle in their thrust against the ship, she tilted in a sudden move and began to sink.  Deeper and deeper, Ferdinand fell into the Abyss until all his senses vanished, until everything dissolved and was wiped out.

What was there before, though?  What was there before the mysterious sailing trip?

With strained brows Ferdinand forced his memory to play back the film.  Before, there was – before – a reddish glow and a – his memory flickered like a shooting star and – then it extinguished again.  How nearby, still, Ferdinand felt the central point; half a heart beat long, for a flash!

Suddenly, he remembered a recent conversation with Klaus in the university cafeteria.  Klaus, a TU student, to whom Ferdinand actually would not have credited this much imagination, spoke of a video camera that presumably filmed people’s dreams.  The next day then, one would be able to play the tape while forwarding or rewinding it as often as one desired.

Of course, Klaus did not know anything about Ferdinand’s nightly torments.  Not even Rudi, Ferdinand’s best friend and roommate, knew anything about them.  Rudi only knew Ferdinand was a dreamer from birth.  Ferdinand kept his nightly dreams of his lack of recollection a secret from his friend Rudi.  He was protecting this secret; he wanted to keep it to himself alone.

But in case one such video camera should ever be invented one day…With seriousness and a total concentration, Ferdinand stared at the ceiling, as if that were a television screen.  Then, he pressed on an imaginary button, forward and backward, further forward, until the reddish glow appeared.

Several figures were moving around in the hazy redness, obscured, in slow motion.  People?  Trees?  Buildings?

But then the figures became more and more blurry until they were lost in full disappearance and everything remained dead silent inside Ferdinand.  He got up, exhausted and shaking, went to the window, opened it and inhaled, in long breaths, the freshness of the night.  Actually, it wasn’t night anymore.  Pale streaks of light were crossing the horizon.  The day was already dawning over the mountains that the clear weather made visible from the windows of the big old building on Clemens Street.

The mountains in the blue distance always awakened in Ferdinand wanderlust and a sense of freedom, of unbounded freedom at the same time.

Not too long ago, when Ferdinand was still preparing for the exams, his longing for this freedom had become almost unbearable.  But now that the exams were over, that everything was over, his studies, the graduation…yes, Doctor Tauber…Ferdinand felt paralyzed.  He didn’t know what he was supposed to do with his new self, the graduated Orientalist, the doctor of philosophy.

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