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Authors: Aline Ohanesian

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Orhan's Inheritance

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ORHAN

S

INHERITANCE

a novel

A
LINE
O
HANESIAN

ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL 2015

For Vram,

who made it possible

and for Alec and Vaughn,

who made it necessary

The past is not dead; it’s not even past.

—WILLIAM FAULKNER

Language is the house of being.

In its home man dwells.

—MARTIN HEIDEGGER

 
   
 

Contents

PART I

CHAPTER 1

An Axe in the Forest

CHAPTER 2

Pilgrimage to Ararat

CHAPTER 3

Home

CHAPTER 4

White Days

CHAPTER 5

The Staff of Moses

 

PART II

CHAPTER 6

Normal

CHAPTER 7

Red River

CHAPTER 8

The Crier

CHAPTER 9

Under the Mulberry Tree

CHAPTER 10

Bedros and the Dress

CHAPTER 11

Infidels

CHAPTER 12

Kismet

CHAPTER 13

The Whips of Satan

 

PART III

CHAPTER 14

Selling Minds

CHAPTER 15

Ani

CHAPTER 16

Memory’s Garden

CHAPTER 17

The Fountain

 

PART IV

CHAPTER 18

The Pretty Ones

CHAPTER 19

The Road to Kangal

CHAPTER 20

Empty Prayers

CHAPTER 21

God’s Will, Inşallah

CHAPTER 22

Eagle Eye

CHAPTER 23

Ctesiphon

CHAPTER 24

Place of Sin

CHAPTER 25

Rebirth

CHAPTER 26

Altar of Contrition

CHAPTER 27

Spilled Porridge

CHAPTER 28

Ghosts

CHAPTER 29

Resurrection

CHAPTER 30

The Handmaid

CHAPTER 31

Finding Faith

 

PART V

CHAPTER 32

Exile

CHAPTER 33

Decrepit Seed

CHAPTER 34

The Photographer

CHAPTER 35

Semantics

CHAPTER 36

Witness

CHAPTER 37

Fatma Forgiven

CHAPTER 38

Transformation

 

Acknowledgments

A Note from the Author

About the Author

About Algonquin

PART I

1990

CHAPTER 1

An Axe in the Forest

THEY FOUND HIM
inside one of seventeen cauldrons in the courtyard, steeping in an indigo dye two shades darker than the summer sky. His arms and chin were propped over the copper edge, but the rest of Kemal Türkoğlu, age ninety-three, had turned a pretty pale blue. Orhan was told the old men of the village stood in front of the soaking corpse, fingering their worry beads, while their sons waited, holding dice from abandoned backgammon games. Modesty forbade any female spectators, but within hours the news spread from one kitchen and vendor’s stall to the next. Orhan’s grandfather, his
dede,
had immersed his body, naked except for his britches, into a vat of fabric dye outside their family home.

Orhan sinks into the backseat of the private car, a luxury he talked himself into when the dread of a seven-hour bus ride back to the village started to overwhelm his grief. He wanted to mourn in private, away from the chickens, the elderly, the traveling merchants, or worse yet, the odd acquaintance that could normally be found on a bus ride to Anatolia, the interior of Turkey. He told himself he could afford a little luxury now, but the car showed up an hour late, sporting a broken air conditioner and a driver reeking of cheap cologne and sweat. Orhan lights a cigarette and shuts his eyes against the sting of the man’s body odor.

“Going to visit your family?” the driver asks.

“Yes,” answers Orhan.

“That’s nice. So many young people leave their villages and never come back,” he says.

The truth is it’s been three years since his last visit. Had Dede had the good sense to move out of that godforsaken place, there would be no reason to go back. The car veers off the highway, making its way along a recently paved road toward the city of Sivas, on whose outskirts Karod village is located. The driver slows down and opens a window, letting the
terroir
-laden scent of soil waft into the car’s cavity. Unlike Istanbul, whose majesty is reflected in the Bosporus, Central Anatolia is the quintessential other Turkey, in which allusions of majesty or progress are much harder to come by. Here shepherds follow the bleating of long-haired goats, and squat village women carry bundles of kindling on their backs. Time and progress are two long-lost relatives who send an occasional letter. The ancient roads of Sivas Province, once a part of the famed Silk Road, have seen the stomping of Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman feet. Dry-rotted timber, blocks of concrete, and sheets of corrugated tin stand feebly upon ancient Byzantine stone structures whose architectural complexity suggests a more glorious past. Layer upon layer of earth and civilization washed downstream by the muddy waters of the Kizil Irmak, the Red River, produces a kind of sedimentary aesthetic. Orhan thinks of the unbearable heat of Anatolian summers acting as an adhesive for all these different layers.

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