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Love’s Shadow As Seen In Books

What is love? A disease, to some authors. Like all diseases, it’s curable, but sometimes leaves a scar. To some poets, it’s the sole power that renews one’s inner light every single time. In his book, Leo Bormans sets out t explore the various corners of love with 100 people from all across the world who have given some thought to the subject matter. Bormans, whose previous book (a similar take but on happiness) sold hundreds of thousands of copies and published in every country, carried out a two-year long-study to write about love, a more demanding subject in all aspects.

A hundred researchers from 50 countries, including Ayça Özen from Turkey, focus on the different aspects of love based on their expertise. Each researcher wrote 1,000 words, contents ranging from the roots of bisexuality to self-love, in an attempt to understand the range, from formulas for love to destructive jealousy. Offering different perspectives for the questions in most people’s minds who try to make sense of loyalty, love and affection while they’re experiencing it now or did so in the past. The book comprises a scale from the fast-paced loves of our time to familial love, sex to marriage, divorce to loneliness, first love to the nursing home. The book, naturally, is also about romance because we still believe that love exists in this time and in this demented world.

Mihrap lives in one of Istanbul’s oldest neighbourhoods. She’s a divorcee, still young, in her early 30s. She’s gone back home to live with her mother. It’s the ‘90s -a time which we’ve already started yearning for; Wheel of Fortune is on TV. It’s a time of promises, dreams, and hopeful expectance in a form, despite everything else. There are Mihrap,her mother Asiye, Tülay and Ayten along with other women in the neighbourhood. They talk about their troubles with smiles on their faces, possibly believing that happiness is a luxury for them. There’s always love too – whether in their dreams or in the past, though it doesn’t end like the ones on the soap operas they watch.

Mihrap has Dalyan: “Dalyan, breadwinner of my future home, the cause of my great depression, the main ingredient in the spell I’m wishing to cast, the fault line in my heart, the big fish that swallowed me up…” In Our Time Sinem Sal takes the family picture of the women who are the main pillars of not only a period in time, but of the entire country. These joyful and brave women who know how to pick themselves and other women up when they fall, occasionally stumbling, are tied to each other with an almost hidden root since who knows when.

In their work that spans a century from the 1850s to the 1950s, Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell publish the photographs of love and affection between men. In these never before published pictures, men are the heroes of a time when homosexuality was taboo. A gay couple themselves, Nini and Treadwell find a black-and white picture in an antique store 20 years ago. Dating back to the 1920s, this photograph shows two men in a romantic pose. With that, they start collecting pictures of similar nature.

Their collection slowly grows into an archive amounting to 3,000 pictures of men in love. The book includes 300 photographs from the collection which ranges from Australia to France, Germany to Japan and Bulgaria. The men in this collection prove that love doesn’t care about prohibitions, taboos, or rules. “Love isn’t heterosexual,” says the couple and adds, “It’s not bisexual or homosexual either. Love is just love.”

“Tezer  zlü and I made two promises to each other,” writes Leyla Erbil. “The first was to write a novel about the institution of marriage, husbands, and mostly our spouses.” She kept her promise with Love in Letters. İlhan Berk believes that rebellion is the primary force in the works of Leyla Erbil, one of the most prominent authors in Turkish literature - a rebellion against the rules of literary genres, the imposition of life, the feeling of being cornered. Built with a series of letters laden with private confessions exchanged between a handful of people, the novel comprises various rebellions. Although it bears the word “love” in its title, Love in Letters doesn’t talk about romantic and pure love only found in fantasy.

These letters are more ruthless, filled with revenge; seldom cold, distant, and proper to the reality of the era. While discovering the inner worlds of characters with a total of 87 letters, we also witness the rebellion of Jale, the protagonist, who comes to realize that the love she believed in was actually a lie and is determined to take revenge instead of acceptance and suffering. As a woman who is cheated on and dishonoured but chooses to leave her husband instead of silently taking it, Jale doesn’t care about society’s expectations and, for that, serves as a representative of feminist discourse in Turkish literature. However, no matter what she does, she knows that she will always carry the traces of this cheating: “Even if I cheated on him with all the men in the world, I knew that I would be the defeated one and that I would always feel this sense of frustration until the day I die, since I know that it was him who cheated first and forced me to cheat as well.”


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