Ancient Greek philosophers taught that our world is atoms moving in the emptiness. Our world is a way in the emptiness. Whirlpools of atoms create multitude of worlds. And we, – we are only tiny clots of particles, doomed to the eternal journey in the Universe; like crystals in a kaleidoscope, in every their new position and every their new step form a part of a new world.
The plot of a famous Russian poet Gleb Shulyapkov’s novel is simple: a young journalist takes to the road. He leaves for Istanbul to collect the stuff for his first book – a book about Architect Sinan – Mimar Sinan. He leaves for many reasons, which are expounded comprehensively. Only one reason is passed over in silence, the one that is more evident and more important than the others. It seems that the young man’s jactation is based on the illness from which Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin used to suffer: …No, early on his heart was cooling //and he was bored with social noise;… // The illness with which he’d been smitten // should have been analyzed when caught, // something like spleen, that scourge of Britain, // or Russia’s chondria, for short…
Numerous factors affect his choice for direction. His father long ago left their family for a Turkish women and later disappeared somewhere in Istanbul. His girlfriend has gone to live to the USA, and he attempts to respond. In addition, he is driven by his scientific interest in Islam and in the Osman architecture. To be true, it proves to be difficult to call the journalist’s girlfriend his beloved – this is another point in which he resembles Pushkin’s Onegin and other characters of Russian classical literature, who, being dissillusioned with life, leave, in search of themselves, for the Caucasus, i.e. for the East. Incidentally, the plot of “The Sinan’s Book” partly reminds Pamuk’s “The New Life”, the hero of which sets out on his journey following a mysterious book, a story that can bring him to a new world and grant him with a new life. “Who has ever returned on time from America?”, ponders the hero. – “And I’ve realized that the decision is taken… I went on unpaid leave and also set out on my journey. But to the opposite direction” (Ch. 3). But who has ever returned on time from the East? Surely, either snow will fill up the roads from Kars, or the Roc will lead astray…
The Pamuk’s famous phrase: “Right at this place the film breaks” is ready to fall down from my fingertips. Yes, right at this place all Russian disappears and all Eastern begins. All Turkish. It was not in vain that the famous Russian poet Alexander Blok once said about us the Russians in his “The Scythians”: “Yes, we are Scythians// Yes, we are Asians”. Once a Russian man only finds himself in the East, all his Russian Scythianness, Asianness and consanguinity with the East gets out. The rebellious thought arises: the tremendous superficial closeness of the Russian orthodox culture, maybe even that of the Russian Orthodox Christianity, to the Islamic culture is striking. Remember the tradition to hide women from foreign men’s sights, the one that existed in Russia before Peter the Great, the common men’s (“muzhik”) and old monks’ traditional Russian beards, the way Russian women are wrapped up, even at present, in their headscarves and long skirts. «The Sinan’s mosque is given to those who enter it at once, just as life that the Allah presents in all its entirety to a human being at the moment of birth. The flow of the invisible and ineffable power, which can be easily compared with the will of the Most High, pierces a man as he only stands under the dome of that building» (Ch. 65). In the same way, the Russian Orthodox church – not the Greek, not the Byzantine – is also given to those who enter it at once, in its entirety. As a whole. Entirely and completely, with all its gold, with all its beauty. You enter it, and the Gate to the Kingdom of Heaven is in front of you: the golden altar.
Gleb the Moscowite almost at once becomes Galip the Turk, and for the couple of weeks of his cultural trip even manages to live another short life, in which there is a love, aspiration, work, problems, losses, and encounters.
«With astonishment and with a sort of admiration I’ve found out that the art of Islam ideally reflects the modern world. Motley and united. Superficial. Intricate. The world where time has finished», – says the hero (Ch. 3). Yes, that is what the World under the Allah’s eyes is like. The great master Behzad from Herat saw it this way. The World under the God’s eyes. The Russians see it this way when speeding like Gogol’s swift “troyka”, headily, without seeing the way ahead…
«The Dead Souls», Nikolay Gogol: “And you, Russia of mine–are not you also speeding like a troika which naught can overtake?… Whither, then, are you speeding, O Russia of mine? Whither? Answer me! But no answer comes–only the weird sound of your collar-bells. Rent into a thousand shreds, the air roars past you, for you are overtaking the whole world, and shall one day force all nations, all empires to stand aside, to give you way!” «That is a great nation, and it has a perfect future», – says about Turkey a passing acquaintance of Gleb-Galip in Kayseri. – «The most important thing is not to be melancholic, not to be nostalgic about the past. It’ll never return, and it needn’t to. Just go ahead! And no European unions! This is a Muslim country indeed – and you cannot even imagine to what extent» (Ch. 58).
It seems that having found himself in Istanbul, the journalist falls out of time. «The past has finished, has become empty» (Ch. 96). How long the story lasts– a week, two weeks, a half- year – we cannot know. Who the hero is looking for in Istanbul – lost himself, or his lost father, or lost Sinan – we cannot know. Who the hero is – a Moscow journalist, who, after visiting Istanbul, loses “the former himself” and founds “the new himself”, like Pamuk’s Galip from “The Black Book”? Is he the Greek architect, Allah’s and Sultan’s slave? Or is he a Soviet high-ranked engineer, who can easily travel abroad and who flees from the Soviet regime? Or is he the author of the novel himself? We cannot know.
Open-heartedness grants a jewellery exactitude of perception. One should not be a specialist in Turkish culture to see that “tugra” is a model of the Universe. A scientist remembers the type of the script, but he will not likely to notice that an empty place on paper between “basmala” and “tugra” is not just paper, but the sky. The secrets of the World opened to the openhearted. The Russians and the Turks are openhearted and therefore self-sufficient: each nation goes its way, and not very often looks round to fellow-travelers. Both the countries go their way, in their space, forming their world, in the eternal journey between the East and the West. Moreover, both are conscious that they will never become Europe, no matter how they try.
The novel’s name is “The Sinan’s Book”, but for some reason one would like to name it “The Sinan’s Way”. The Sinan’s way has, at last, been cognized and passed. Henceforth, the master is free.
“Everything flows and nothing stays” (Heraclitus). Never stay the Bosporus waters. Maybe one day they will tide out, and the flow will turn back, but meanwhile… Night have covered Istanbul, night have covered the everlasting city, the city of cities – the city of the Greek Constantine, the city of the Osman Mehmet, the city of the Greek, who was an Allah’s servant and a God’s slave, Sinan.