(by Simone Perotti)
Istanbul. Looking at Istanbul when one knows its history makes quite an impression. It resembles life, an in attentive pampered traveller, who overlooks the pearls in the hollows of the rocks, in the corolla of flowers that surround the path, but stains its steps with blood that drips from an unhealed wound, dragging entrails that spill from its belly losing them here and there, life is an empty walker, just like this city, a cemetery of entrails and gems, a morgue of divided hearts and jewels. I remember thinking of these images in Jerusalem, the ignominy of humanity, an angry condominium of worshippers who preach goodness while they kill, a consequence of the insane imagination of nothingness, the great excuse, the great metaphor of the void used, moreover, to strike and kill.
Down there, in the deep East, it was for God. But here, what is it for? What is it for these wonderful crumbling houses, these narrow and illogical alleys, that were never thought of before being marked, where did they all run screaming to, and where they all protest today under the stony gaze of hoards of janissaries dressed for their roles in uniforms or suits, agents or students, the eternal official and bourgeois arm of power? What has happened down here throughout the ages?
Istanbul, the city of the people,the babel of races, the jumble of alphabets, languages, words, silences and dances on the pivot of just one leg, a city that rotates, head bent, but also pulls in pride, prejudice, suspicion, everything is too close, everything is in motion, everything touches, joins, is invited to enter. A city with a changeable climate, the city of wind and ridges, joined by the sea, the only city that the sea has perhaps never separated, because two lips sooner or later will close, giving up a kiss to find themselves again. A city of courteous young people, a few undeserved slaps, dreams, a disregard of what has gone before, the immemorial resource, the eternal risk of forgetfulness, beautiful and forgetful who dare peacefully, unaware that they are doing so, perhaps because those who forbid are always more distressed than those who disobey.
Istanbul, a hell for mice, the city of cats,well cared for cats, a saucer of milk in front of every building, dry cat food that you can buy in bulk choosing the flavours, as though it were rice, pasta, bulgur, fish from the Bosphorus, happy cats, never on the alert, too much chaos borders on recklessness, brazen with the few dogs there are, cats who cuddle their humans, talking cats, fawning, invoking, smiling, as out of tune as the Muezzin, and yet singers.
Istanbul that quivers, a city on the brink of collapse, earthquake stricken like no other, burned like no other, wooden, carbonic, fossil-like, oily, muddy, snowy, dusty, and yet lucid, linear, designed, sparkling, standing straight on the deck, gazing at the sea, with one hand holding fast your hat, and another holding down a light dress, flowers, that the wind stretches and shakes like flag, waiting for a ferry that will take it away from a loved one who is always on the wrong bank, always on another shore, elusive and eager, a city which never reaches its goal, but waits. But will it allow itself to be found? Who knows. There is no good reason not to try.
Istanbul that never steals, but cheats and is guilty, consisting of climbs and slopes, breaths and sighs, never impatient, tired and refreshed, fragrant with food, inviting, an expert in promises rather than validations, because looking is easier than kissing, the word of the heartbeat. A city of districts, villages in the city, chapters of the book, identical ingredients of infinite courses, minimal differences between roads that offer something quite different, the districts of craftsmen who have been crafting the same object forever, in the same way, in the same workshop, experts of just one thing, a life dedicated to a chain, a propeller, a knife that instead of cutting ties and binds them.
Istanbul, city of the Mediterranean, a hinge, symbol, flag, as multifarious as the sea, as blue as the sea, as wet and salty as the sea, and like the sea divided, enormous, unexpectedly resounding and silent as the sea, with the same torn and majestic wisdom, that pays attention to those who are wrong whatever their creed, wiser that those who are close to God therefore, more divine than he, and indeed like the Mediterranean blesses corpses every day, baptises babies, care for the sick, the same theatre of the life cycle, which for Istanbul is vaster, from the cell to immensity, and for us is the only journey of the most insignificant of things in the universe: our life.
Istanbul, a wearing city, sticky with perspiration but not malodorous, a clean city that does not wash, a little guilty but sinless, sinful, however, because only the high seas and the desert are innocent, a city that breathes its exhaustion, stupefaction and confusion. Istanbul should be taken as a model, would any other have kept that enchantment after all it has been through? We give in for far less, in comparison we give up and say enough for nothing at all, while life here does not stop, loves do not waver, dreams become projects in which you can always find someone who believes. How does Istanbul manage to regenerate its cells which have been dead for centuries, trampled, burned, gone, scattered in the wind of the Marmara? How can it still believe, why does it not laugh with bitter disillusionment, after all that has passed? There is no way for us to know.
The camera drops on Istanbul from the heavens, it wants to see it close up, understand it… Before the atmosphere it cannot make it out … then it sees it as spot on the map, then clearly on the horizon of the sea, the lens zoom in quickly on districts, then only on one, on the lattice of a block, on a street, on a person, on his eyes, on one. The point cannot understand the line. And above all, it does not know that the line does not know the tangled skein. When trying to fall asleep in the late evening, Istanbul tries as always to count an endless expanse…