The Atlas of Misty Continents

I finished this novel last week. What a shame! Considering it was published in 1992. I try to follow Turkish literature closely but I have this personal problem. When everybody is talking about a book, recommending or suggesting, I develop this enemity against the book. I hardly get it and read it. I have been hearing İhsan Oktay Anar’s book for long. But as it happens to me with some popular books I somehow resisted reading it.

I owe an apology since I read it and I found the book amazing. Unfortunately I found out from a valuable Turkish translator’s website that the book has not been translated into English yet. If this info is still up to date, I think some publishers owe apologies to this book as well!

kitalarThe book is settled in 17th Century Ottoman Empire. We follow dreams of a man called Uzun İhsan throughout the book. His story takes us different parts of the city, different social groups and their lives and a unique philosophy of life presented and pursued by some of the characters. Author, İhsan Oktay Anar is a philosophy professor, you feel it in every aspect of the book. However, you feel it in a nice way not as a stick in your eye. You follow, question, try to answer but not in a boring way but in a sweet and enjoyable way. As a sociologist myself, I can definitely say as sociologists and philosophers we know how to push people to boredom when we write or talk. Luckily this book is on the brilliant side: Telling you a philosophical and historical story in a intelligent and efficient way instead of trying to convince you to a certain truth.

Once more, I should say that this book should be translated into English or any other languages. It would be a must read for people who like historical, philosophical novels with a strong fictional base.

Happines of Being on the Way

How good it is to migrate every day!
How beautiful it is to stop somewhere every day!
How nice it is to flow without freezing and getting muddy!
What word that belongs to yesterday,
Is gone, my loved one, with yesterday,
Now is the time to say new things.

Jalal ud-din Rumi

In time, we forgot about happiness of first moments of relationships, of new starts, of choices. In time we focus on the end, the reward and outcome. Instead of the mindful movement of the beginning, we direct our gaze to end. We get easily trapped by the thought that “we should finish’’ “we should be successful” “we should have a promotion, or degree” just to be happy again.

This occurred to me when I was just thinking about my PhD adventure. I have been in my program around 5 years now. In time, I totally forgot about why I chose to pursue a PhD, why I chose my topic, why I decided to be in academia. Only thing prevailed in my mind is my obsession with finishing it whatever it takes. Last couple of days, I just sat back, and tried to untie myself from my exhaustion with my research. I tried to remember the time (which was even before I started to university) when I made my decision to pursue an academic career. And I also tried to remember that I chose a life as a researcher just for the joy of researching, creative epiphany movements in writing, and joy of sharing experience and knowledge with people around me. Not for money, not for a big career, or fancy toys…

I also remembered that as a lifelong nomad, I wanted to be in that present movement (in a distinct part of the world) reading my books, researching on different topics, and being able to travel. That made me realize our modern world does not accept us successful unless we reach to a strong position in a big university, or we reach the best funding, or we finish what we are working on quickly to jump into another thing. The system tries to inflict its obsession with success, time and ends on us.

That is why I just prefer to remember how I loved the process, how I loved being on the way instead of reaching the end of story.