Prison

Aslı Erdoğan

Translated by: Sevinç Türkkan

Original text: "Mahpus "


Artwork by Daphne Odjig

She woke up long before the alarm went off. As if wanting to make sure the night was over, she blinked her eyes a few times in the humid twilight. She had slept for a total of three hours, but the night—full of tossing and turning, of dreams freighted with truths much more intense and painful than reality itself—had felt as if it dragged on endlessly. A sense of waiting with no beginning and no end…

For hours she had lain like a chained ghost with her knees pulled up to her belly, afraid to move, pricking up her ears at the slightest noise. Unable to cry, unable to sleep… Without lighting even a candle in the darkness… As if out of sympathy the objects in the room had been restive through the night like her, stirring imperceptibly in troubled agitation.

Moved by an inexplicable sense of responsibility she jumped out of bed. The cold of the house overcame her numbing her, and helping her to not think of anything, anything at all. She went about her daily routine: Brew some tea, empty the ashtray, splash the face with ice-cold water, reach for the pack of cigarettes… The smoke warmed her body with its sly tenderness—a feeling resembling happiness… Suddenly, seized by a sharp nausea rising from the inner parts of her body, she remembered the day lurking in ambush. Everything, all that she tried to keep at bay, crowded her consciousness. She hurried to the kitchen.

She slammed drawers and cupboards noisily, rummaging through the shelves. The pastry and biscuits she’d bought yesterday were gone. She knew, the refrigerator was almost empty still, she searched every square inch of it. She found a jar of honey left somewhere at the bottom. With a child’s appetite, dipping the stale bread slices into her tea she ate them along with the honey. She was neither hungry, nor full. “What an empty feeling inside of me!” she said, rubbing her belly. That’s when she remembered the baby for the first time.

Every morning as soon as she woke up, she would think of the baby in her belly, believing that the baby was thinking of her in return… At times, she was satisfied with a simple, clear image, like that of a college girl with a bright smile, her hair tossed by the wind—a proof of life’s invincibility and resilience. At others, she’d imagine a miniature human—a stain in human form—with perfect little hands, as she’d seen in the ultrasound. Most often though, she’d imagine a magical, cloudy mirror that freed her long-lost youth from the grip of time and carried it forward, into infinity. The image was of someone without a care about the future, someone who no matter where it might look, sees only the familiar, not the unknown. As if until now she’d never had a future, even when she was young, when she’d only had her useless youth. For the first time the future was gaining a form, gradually growing, taking shape in flesh and bone… A warm being stirring into life; feeding as much on interrupted dreams as it did from her own bloodstream… A state of waiting with a definite beginning and an end. A miracle. “I am a pregnant woman,” she would say at every opportunity, anywhere, to anyone she happened to meet… As if she didn’t completely believe in it herself.

The room, crammed with ragged stuff collected from here and there, from acquaintances, from consignment stores, suffocated under the cardigans, blankets, and piles upon piles of newspapers. The dust that had accumulated for weeks made this always dim, small basement apartment look like an ancient tomb slowly being swallowed by the sand. It was as though this place, where she had spent three cold, lonely winters, still belonged to no one—it reflected nothing of her being, offered no hint about her past. Photographs, trinkets, vases, objects that might trigger memories, she avoided these things as if they burned her hands. This was her way of denying her womanhood. She hid old letters—stamped in read—in a Chinese box inlaid with red and black swallows. As if these letters had been written to be saved forever, to be read again and again, awaiting a time when they would all be framed and hung, like a voice resonating from the walls, pained, but never complaining… When she felt strong enough, she would open the letters, taking sustenance from them as though they were a serum she would later replenish with her own blood. Each time, a bit more.

The night before she’d ironed the only available skirt and jacket she could wear—the dark-green set she’d bought her senior year in college. The chair, with her jacket draped over its back, resembled a bow-legged, sulky civil servant. She wore the light-green shirt with a scalloped collar—was it called that?—purchased that same year; an ill-fitting slit skirt, too short for her thickening thighs; and a pair of blunt-toed, low-heel, brown boots that hid the run in her nylons. Completing her look was the chic coat her sister had sent from Stockholm years ago, a couple of sizes too big, and looking almost new, since she didn’t wear it for years.

Wake up the puppet, shake the dust off her, drag her in front of a mirror. Wipe the traces of tears from her face, put on the everyday stone-face mask so she’s ready to appear in public. Cover the deadly paleness with powders, eye shadow, and layers of colour, or else you won’t pass in the world of humans.

Her appearance was painfully incongruous in spite of the colour coordination she had accomplished after much deliberation… Her hair, which she’d washed at midnight, but couldn’t dry because of the power outage, was frizzy with random curls, resembling a wig from the previous century. She turned on the fluorescent light over the mirror, held her breath, and looked at herself.

To be a woman meant taking on an appearance acceptable to everyone. It meant shouting constantly, “Please, someone, look at me!” “Look at me and turn me into an image to remember forever. The way I could never see myself.” On days when she had to dissolve into the crowds, she painted her cheeks and eyelashes clumsily, covering the circles beneath her eyes, drawing crooked lines across her trembling eyelids. As if drawing her own caricature… She watched with feral satisfaction as the singularity of her face slowly receded with each crude brushstroke, the step-by-step erasure of her self as an anonymous woman emerged in the mirror. It was as if she saw her legs exposed through the slit in another woman’s skirt. She removed the last residues of authenticity by plucking one by one the bristle of blond hair on her chin, deriving an unexpected pleasure from this pain.

She dried her hands on the blue towel—so soft, as if infused with grease. This was the only object of his that she still kept. A towel from Bursa, bought at a discount... warmer, more intimate than all his passionate caresses or the memory of those caresses. It was still here this morning, it hadn’t disappeared—the common fate of objects that bear witness to human loneliness—it had remained, always within reach, waiting. Its mute resolve, its deep-blue-sea softness recalled not so much the man who had left it behind as his absence; and strangely, that feeling seemed to grow with each passing day. “I bought it at the layover,” he told her while rummaging in his tiny bag on that night when he had turned up after so many months. “I thought maybe you wouldn’t have any towels in your house.” “I have a dozen,” she responded, aching…

The doorman had forgotten to leave the paper again. He always ignored the woman living alone in the basement apartment; sniffing out vulnerability was an ancient instinct. She grabbed her hat and put it on before slamming the door behind her.

She climbed up the stifling, dank staircase lined with melted candles, and like a sleepwalker, she walked toward the main street, through the alley whose potholes, cracks and bumps she knew by heart.

Shimmering drops were all that remained of the storm that had pummelled the city throughout the night. A colourless, bright spring sky stretched overhead, cold and indifferent as an empty mirror, a narrow span between temporary horizons… The city’s face, rising straight up in front of her, was wet, tired, quivering with metallic iridescence, shaking itself awake and coming to life. The last rain clouds were passing, slow and sad as a funeral procession.

She walked without paying attention to the muddy puddles, aware of the tapping of her heels as she hurried, placing one foot in front of the other with a steely determination… Repaired, renewed, filled with energy… Raspy car horns in the distance, an engine refusing to start, a garbage truck, a drill penetrating a metal surface… The non-human voices of a world remaking itself each morning…

Soon, a crusade would begin towards the offices, highways, workshops and schools. The city’s soldiers-on-feet, still drowsy with sleep, would fill the sidewalks, after a dream they had wished would never end. Faces, anxious, abstract, tense, muted, angry... Bodies moving through the streets with the restlessness of horses in the harness. Cutting trail over a rocky landscape…. A tapestry of thousands, ten thousands destinies, ambitions, desires, dreams, struggles, crisscrossing, twining indifferently, becoming snarled into a Gordian knot … They would haggle, clash, fight without mercy to claim a role in the plot of another, to snatch a share from a world that had long ago been divided up. The only evidence left behind would be crumpled tissues blowing in the wind.

Streets, muddy sidewalks, crowds, others… The night was over; the day—the yearning for another night—had begun as she quickly disappeared into the city.

 

***

 

She gave a start, turning her head as abruptly as a whiplash when she caught sight of her face in the mirror. Her rouged mouth resembled an open wound. Blood-coloured, overbearing, obscene… She couldn’t stand her reflection and moved away, walking over to the window streaked with rain.

Electricity had only now been installed in this neighbourhood; the frosty, whitish, fluorescent light suddenly illuminated the café, blinding the eye like a belated winter sun. She was the only customer. The younger of the waiters, tired of watching the woman with a suspicious, condescending gaze, began covering the tables with burgundy tablecloths, securing them with clothespins on each corner. In her gaudy outfit, with her legs crossed, she sat as if she were in a display window. He skipped her table, leaving it without a cover. The other waiter was staring absently at the TV, looking as if he’d awakened from hibernation too early and was still unable to collect himself.

 ‘I wish I’d ordered a large,’ she thought, drinking the cold, sugary last sip. ‘Look at me, just an ordinary woman sitting by herself! Didn’t they even notice I’m pregnant?’ “Could you please refresh my tea?”

There was nothing in the papers to occupy her mind. National politics, international politics, rates, exchange rates, the arts and culture calendar… The LIFE section. Another new war, with its economic, political, historical causes, the usual colonialist powers, the oppressor and the oppressed, the master-slave dialectic… Women’s photos stood out. Stylish, attractive, as if infected by a chronic youth-beauty virus, women looking at the camera as if facing eternity. They never ate, drank, wore or said anything that wasn’t beautiful. In the flagrant comfort of a life free of tragedy or foolish mistakes, they held forth on human relationships. Fearless, never blinking, they looked directly into the lens… They, too, were retouched. One must learn to think positively; if you can’t change the world, change your attitude. You should love your fellows, but you need to forget about them; own this life, claim it for yourself, the dying are always others anyway. A crossword puzzle hint: an egg-shaped instrument. Her horoscope promised a day full of social activities but she must refrain from unkind acts. A very young woman photographed while doing her warm ups—stretching her long legs on a staircase— complained that she couldn’t find true love. (Try substitutes, darling!). She grimaced and closed the paper. She was surprised to notice how spiteful she’d become toward the real world — if you could call it that — which she could neither reject nor embrace.

“I asked for tea,” she said in a voice that was louder, more jarring and demanding than she had intended….

(Again, she had managed to be ignored.)

“Fine, ma’am, once the water boils!”

            Unable to wait any longer, she opened the package and ate hastily the fresh cheese pastries and buttered buns, as if stuffing them into a trash bin. This was the only way she could subdue the emptiness that gnawed at her like a wild animal hidden in the deep recesses of her body.

            A noxious smell saturated the dirty yellow walls, the tiled floor, the stained drapery. Under the “No Gambling” sign was an algae-ridden, bone-dry fish tank. Two or three empty porcelain vases, framed newspaper clips, a painting of a view of the sea, a console radio covered with lace—probably vintage sixties—made this dull, spiritless space more human than her own house. She felt gloomy. Her gaze settled on the model ship; the best ones used to be made in prison. Gunshots on the TV startled her.

Suddenly she wanted to bolt from the table, to get outside and run away. Since she’d become pregnant, she had been visited with increasing frequency by an urge to walk away without looking back. Once, transferring from one bus to another, staying no more than a night in one place, she had travelled for five days and five nights. In fact, she had intended to go back to her hometown, to see her mother; she wouldn’t have mentioned the baby, since she was planning to have an abortion as soon as she returned to Istanbul. Instead, she had found herself stuck at the bus terminal with her ticket in hand, unable to take “that first step” that initiates every journey. For hours… large tea, another large tea, missed buses—there was always another bus—a Nescafé with milk—no milk, then with cream, another cigarette… Five days and five nights like this, crossing each city from end to end, drawing circles around cities she passed by and quickly forgot; noisy, stinking terminals, announcements, tea cups and ashtrays filled up and emptied time and again; sunless, whitewashed, empty motel rooms… Until the onset of nausea.

Now it was almost over, that horrible, simply horrible nausea, the retching that emptied her guts every morning… Her hypersensitivity to smell, her sore nipples… She was hungry more often and never actually felt full; she tired in an instant. But her skin was flawless, fresh, a youthful blush coloured her cheeks, making her sharp features, her severe expression, agreeable. This winter, she felt the cold less than she had in previous years. A sense of dedication, holiness, and responsibility that she’d never experienced before. But then again, she’d gone back to smoking.

The waiter approached with slow, haughty steps, his eyes fixed on her lips. As if he wanted to ask her something, but didn’t have the courage. Or maybe he was involved in his own private game. She remembered the Chinese box inlaid with swallows, the stamped envelopes, the letters that went on for pages and pages, declaring a war on silence. Dump letters scented with dust, ash, mold, dried blood… As if those traces of ink on paper — carefully chosen words, declarations, exclamation marks, semicolons, etceteras—hadn’t been painstakingly drawn, one by one, with a ballpoint pen, but rather, as if they had all emerged spontaneously, through some fissure in the earth. How detached they were, those letters, in spite of their sincere, eloquent message of love! How cold-blooded and ordinary in the context of so much pain, loss, and tragedy! As if they were reaching out not to her, but to unhearing multitudes, to mirrors on the horizons. And yet she, above all, was someone willing to hear, to listen, to take it all on… What stayed with her after reading and almost committing them to memory, was an oppressive heaviness, a sense of suffocation… And beyond that, the heartache! Her relationships were rooted in words crossed out by prison censors, words she laboured to exhume one by one, like a gravedigger. In what hadn’t been said more than what had, under the censor’s thick, coal-black stripes… The waiter grabbed her empty glass and walked even more haughtily back to the tea stand.

Perched on the edge of the world of humans, sitting there in her dark brown coat, she looked like a pleasant but not very well executed painting, as if she belonged to a bygone era, a long-forgotten time. Her gaze—fragile, inaccessible, clouded—had lost the capacity to see, gaining in its place a faculty much sharper, much darker. She examined her yellowish, swollen fingers and unpolished nails. Her acquired identity had taken over, altered her posture, her manner of sitting, her expression. She held her back straighter, smoking her cigarette by pressing her lips out elegantly to inhale, and blowing the smoke away. But the transformation only served to reveal the woman hiding behind it, deepening the melancholy coiled like a black snake in the hollows of her eyes. In her outdated clothes from ten years prior, a skirt that was much too short, and her frizzy curls, she presented an odd, touching, cheerless figure. Her face—made up in its blotchy paints—was completely naked, altogether broken. Her chapped, nervous lips quivered now and then.

Hers was a deep, dark, agonizing loneliness. It always attacked from the most unexpected place, from what she thought of as the most inaccessible part of herself: her memory. She had watched over her loneliness, tended to it, nursed it with her own blood, and in times of despair, it would feed her in turn. She was like the wrapping that protects a mummy from disintegration, but she couldn’t keep love, no matter how tightly she bound it, from rotting from within. Love was nothing more than a collective unknown. An echo she couldn’t be sure she heard in the permeating silence of her memory. Love was replaced by memories, memories that were repaired and perfected; memories that consumed her, down to the very marrow of her bones… Reignited over and over by the weary breath blown over their ashes, until they were memories no more… A crystallized anguish and longing, a desire that burned in the most remote parts of her body.

“What was that movie called?” the drowsy waiter asked half-heartedly.

“I forgot!”

“Was it good?”

She looked distracted, pensive. Smoking cigarette after cigarette, scribbling on the pages of the newspaper... Her eyes fixed on her blurry reflection on the tabletop as she gazed inward… This outward appearance was a lie, a sleight of hand, a temporary effect, a fragile shell to keep her from being scattered far and wide when the inner eruptions occurred. Without it, her true self would have collapsed to the floor, leaving black streaks behind as it crawled on its knees to escape. (“But, to where?”).

Outside were trees, streets, forgotten seas. Crowds whose shadows fell into one another, on others… The stone building stood there, like a mountain. Solid, colourless, deaf, dark. Shuttered windows, soot-covered ventilation ducts… As if dozens of eyes were looking down through lids sealed shut, weighing the world of humans. She felt sick to her stomach—her stomach, her heart, her soul… She bit her lips. As the taste of lipstick reached her tongue, her eyes began to burn.

A dizzying tug of war had taken hold over her body: between what was lost and gone forever and what hadn’t yet begun, what belonged to her completely and what did not. Something she couldn’t name was growing insistently, unstoppable—a wild, savage, magnificent something; as if she were being forced to grow along with the baby. Kicking out its independence and revealing none of its secrets, the baby wanted to be, and wanted it more with each day that passed. To be somebody, to be itself, to be everything… As soon as this being saw daylight, all by itself it would take the irreversible leap into a world where it could fill its lungs to bursting. In a bloody pool of its own making, it would be born.

She had condemned someone else, her own child, to life, knowing too well she would be unable to protect it, neither from the truths of life and death, nor from their lies… Who could protect anyone anyway? She was handing down her tragedy—her own creation of thirty-two years, and that which had passed from generation to generation. Hadn’t she refused, in the end, to abort the baby in order to connect to the world of humans with a thin, immortal, unbreakable cord? In order to let loose a triumphant cry against loneliness, to cast the long chain of her anchor as far as she could toward the unknowable harbours of the future? So that, in time, she could exist in her own story? She tailored a heart for the unborn child from her defeated, wounded heart; a brand-new face from her own intolerable face… Now no one could knock her down, trample her, destroy her. Perhaps this was her message in a bottle, sent to the mirror on the horizons; to everything she had lost, to everything she was going to lose, to experience, past and future… A child. A decision deferred; an irreversible light that seeped through her skin, into her womb; hope and regret, a fluke. Its hands had even taken shape, perfectly formed, a miraculous stain in the shape of a human. Very soon, ‘I am alive,’ it would say, ‘I am not a mummy… I want life itself.’

“Here’s your tea. I apologize, but it finished brewing only now…” The young waiter was standing right next to her, too close; she couldn’t tell if he was being polite or mocking her. The smell of soap emanated from his hands. There was an allure, a provocation in his notably swarthy, thick, rough wrists. He wasn’t fond of words—he rounded them off as if chewing cud, spitting them from the corner of his mouth.

 “I don’t want it anymore,” she said, raising her eyes from her reflection on the table full of fingerprints…

“I’m sorry, what? Well, but…”

“I don’t want it anymore. Please bring me the check.” She looked up at him, her hands folded on the table. The waiter hesitated for a moment, looking at the dark, wet shadows under her eyes. Had she been crying? He turned his back to her, a back too young and strong to worry about such caprices.

She leaned back, taking a deep breath. She looked out at the street like an actress observing the stage she was about to enter. The buses were running busily, the bus stops filling and emptying in turn, lines forming in front of ATMs. The city’s day of social activities was about to begin. Everyone seemed to be sufficiently content. With themselves, with everything…

Now the streets were filled with women peering at display windows with shrewd eyes… Masters of bargaining, they determined the fate of this noisy, angry world. They had talented fingers; their breasts were firm under their bras. They gave birth, they breastfed, raised children; they kept their houses stocked with all kinds of cheeses, they had framed pictures, porcelain vases for their flowers; they never hesitated in showing their claws to waiters, doormen, and above all, other women. Authentic tragedies, losses, humiliations, they bore them silently as if keeping a secret, convincing themselves that their suffering was not in vain. They held on to life with long, colourful fingernails that concealed their defeats. With a saint’s patience they scraped and scraped, then licked the stardust smeared on their hands with the impatience of a goddess. While she, all she wanted was an opportunity to prosecute life —if only she could find a single witness… Were they really happy, these women? She folded the paper —she had filled its margins and corners with kites, arrows and clumsily drawn female faces—gathered her belongings and closed her purse. She wiped her eyes, leaned down to adjust her nylons and straighten her skirt. She looked at the stone building. Massive, gloomy, solemn, it stood there waiting. It hadn’t dissolved into the night or oozed into the darkness like tar. Unshakeable, untouchable, unassailable. Still, like anyone who takes it upon himself to be God’s messenger, it couldn’t hide its worldliness. This made its commands all the more unbearable. To pronounce a death verdict through a paper straw…

In the yard trampled by countless footsteps, but without a human trace to be seen, a bitter wind was swirling. Ominous, accursed, haunted… It made the trees shiver, scattering papers, plastic bottles, men and women who were hard to tell apart from each other. The crowd, subject to an inexorable, relentless will, rushed toward the building as if caught up in a fishnet pulled suddenly from the water, then quickly fell into line before being swallowed up by the doors in twos and threes. Now, let them struggle, leap, climb onto each other’s backs as much as they wanted! The stone building simply ground up everyone trapped in its net. Countless lives, years, seasons, hours, dreams and disappointments, hopes and regrets… The time was up. Not yet! No. Now.

She left a good tip and headed for the door. It was as if time, dammed up by a logjam all night long, had finally burst through, and now its rushing floodwaters dragged along everything in its path. The clock’s second hand had switched sides and was on the attack, forging ahead. ‘Calm down, girl,’ she said to herself, ‘calm down, my baby!’ Don’t abandon me!’ It was as if her entire body was trying to pull itself together; as if she could not get a breath through her parched throat. In front of the stone building, grinning and baring its gums, she felt vulnerable, like a lone bug that had just sprung out from the safety of its shelter. She rubbed her eyes, adjusted her skirt, and walked slowly, gracelessly. As if she were dragging along a massive tail.

She remembered the egg-shaped instrument: Ocarina!

“She forgot her hat,” said the young waiter.

“Who?”

“That funny-looking woman who sat by the window for hours.”

 

That night she had dreamed of a marsh that extended from one horizon to the other. Reeds taller than a human, scraggly plants with long tangled arms, trees that shivered like old women with brittle limbs, giant vines… Low clouds that almost touched the earth… The man was running with all his strength… Plunging through the mud, staggering, lurching, running, running away. Covered in blood and mud… Packs of barking dogs grow louder and louder, the snare tightens. Hopelessly, he lifts his head, as if praying, cursing or rebelling, perhaps he wants to look up at the sky for one last time. He sees the ladder descending from the clouds. A ladder made of giant, translucent raindrops like diamonds—an unexpected gift from the heavens. Climbing, he begins to crumble, disintegrating into a thousand specks of light raining down upon the earth.

That is when the Woman becomes visible. The Goddess of the Marsh. She emerges from among the dead, groping forward through dark waters. Buried to her hips in the mud, she lets her roots sink deeper, down into the earth’s memory; moss, dead leaves, leeches hang from her hair, her eyes become food for marsh beasts. She hides the man beneath her skirt, hides him inside the warm, soft, viscous clay. As the night presses on, the dogs and the hunters leave. A terrifying green glow of thousands of poisonous eyes—instead of stars—illuminates the swamp; the air trembles with thousands of trails suddenly lost; nothing is heard but the wheezing of the wind. No one could spend the night here. Other than the Woman… She belongs here. This is her true world, this wind, this silence, this terrifying green. The swamp night where the dead and the living call to each other, where the darkness of the earth is inseparable from the darkness of humans. The swamp night that embraces the wayward, the lost, the defeated, whispering visions of underworld rivers… Silently, under the pale moonlight, her flesh ripping, ripping, she brings the man back into the world. Smeared in mud and blood. Something has gone wrong—she has birthed a monstrosity with arms for legs and legs for arms. Shaking himself off, the man resumes his escape, trying to run on his feeble arms, falling to the ground and rising, writhing, crawling… The woman extends the ladder she has braided from her hair. “Take this road,” she tells him, pointing to the path opening across the dark waters, created by her ponderous, muddy tears…

She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Standing upright and still, like a statue of a goddess at the edge of a cliff. Exposed to all blows. Her face devoid of expression, her gaze fixed. Staring at an imaginary horizon, with eyes no longer able to see, turned into dried-up wells, clutching her purse tightly against her stomach. Her voice was lost, she could not speak. The wind blew her hair about, swaying her body as if she were a cypress tree. Now she could set herself afire on the edge of the abyss, let her smoke disperse. She had turned into a defiant call, into a prayer: COME. ‘Show yourself to me even for a second, even just once! I cannot go back to that long, painful waiting. To that emptiness… I cannot bear it any longer.’

She remained like that until the prisoner was taken from the stone building and carried to the prison van. Upright, inscrutable, mute. Blown by the wind… Exposed to all blows. She saw all of it. The brief light in his eyes—bewilderment, joy, gratitude, or love, or none of these; the slight movement at the corner of his lips, the almost imperceptible farewell gesture of his hands cuffed on his chest, his thumbs bending, pointing to the ground—and at that instant, the guard pushing the man violently, swearing—his head hitting the metal frame as he and the others were shoved into the vehicle… She saw it all.

Even long after the prison van disappeared, she stood there, stock-still, rubbing her brow as if it were her own head that had been bashed.

Aslı Erdoğan

Aslı Erdoğan is an extraordinary personality and award-winning writer of four novels, a book of poetic prose, and two essay collections. She is well-established in Turkey and Europe, and an emerging voice in the U.S. She was imprisoned last year for her writings in a pro-Kurdish newspaper. She was released after four months in prison and is awaiting trial.

Sevinç Türkkan

Sevinç Türkkan teaches modern Turkish literature and intellectual history at the University of Rochester. She translates from Turkish, German and Bulgarian; her translations from German appear in Best European Fiction, and her translation of Aslı Erdoğan’s book The Stone Building and Other Places is forthcoming from City Lights Books next year. She has published several scholarly pieces as well, and is at work on a book manuscript titled Translation Criticism and the construction of World Literature.