The first three chapters of the novel, translated by
Paris Year Zero
Scheherazade was thinking of life and Shahrbaz of Scheherazade. From the eyes of the king Scheherazade means life, so destroying her would be destroying life. And so it can be said that Scheherazade was thinking of Scheherazade and Shahrbaz of Scheherazade. Scheherazade tells stories and story is a symbol of life.
At seven o'clock I was still asleep. The cold brightness of the autumn morning leaked lazily from behind the windowpane and through the cracks in the curtains. I'd been staring at the beautiful face and white arms of Scheherazade all night. At daybreak when sleep pulled its weight on my eyelids, Scheherazade crept out of the bed. Listless and sleepy I looked at her through semi-open eyes. A moment later she was in the shower. The sound of the water and the warm steam that passed under the door numbed my nerves. Heavy sleep, light sleep, I passed from one sleep to another. This was a calmness that Paris granted me. The city of writers; the city of stories. I was thinking of Scheherazade's story and developing my own. A story that began with a late night voice on the 18th of September 1974. As though I were traveling in one of the adventurous nights of one thousand and one nights. I was twenty four years old and Scheherazade was without age. The music of Korsakov attested to this strange concurrence (or this strange lack of concurrence of pasts and future). The room was half dark and due to listlessness and lassitude from a deep sleep after a long night, I hadn't found the strength to come out of the bed. A vinyl still rotated on a gramophone next to me and it seemed as if the sharp needle carved the threads of my soul. Korsakov was also like the reneger (broken his oath) Shahrbaz spellbound by the beauty of Scheherazade and the enchantment of her stories. And I was thinking of a king who at one time promised to eliminate all the women of the harem after the first night of love making. But Scheherazade was not only a woman. She was the person who told the despotic king that in this world there are more important things than the experience of women's disloyalty. And which of these things is higher than the secret of stories and the art of storytelling?
So you appeared to me! In the cold brightness of morning, when the tremendous sound of wind instruments subsided and gentle songs of violin mixed with the graceful smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. In that moment I understood how the attraction of a woman can overcome the crooked imagination of men like Shahrbaz and me. Attraction that superseded the crookedly imagined disloyalty by the name of loyalty. Scheherazade was the objective essence of the story and in that delightful morning of autumn, accompanied by Shahrbaz and Korsakov, I knelt before this new revelation.
I asked myself what does Scheherazade do now? She had gone to Cafe D'Orleans. At eight o'clock in the morning she had a meeting with a young revolutionary student. The young revolutionary was - as far as I know- a permanent organizer of student demonstrations against the cruel rulers of despotisms in every corner of the world. I didn't know Cafe D'Orleans. I had heard this name in the midst going in and out of sleep and a moment later with the sound of the door my short connection was cut with the brightness and humidity of the cold world outside. Now I have drawn the curtains and once again closed my eyes. The cold brightness of the morning has crept under my eyelids and my skin. In this retreat I've lend my ears to your voice, and you're no longer there... You're so far from my reach! I don't know Orleans and to this day I haven't set foot there. Tell me where is this small place in the vast area between us... Do you remember a long night that happened to us with your sweet songs and the elation of wine? I follow my own story. You were my Scheherazade, so tell me where the way to Orleans is. Tell me, but know that -even if I know- I won't follow you... Just as the tyrannical emperor of the eastern kingdom freed you so free and free in the land of stories you could continue your eternal life and tell stories within stories and remain ageless and, sometimes - on a whim- alight on us...
I imagine that after receiving the plan for a new mission you came home in the afternoon. You took a shower once again and got ready in a hurry to go out. When you were going to dry your hair your eyes met my long-winded message which had filled the mirror with lipstick. That day was the first day of my life in Paris. I had gone out for a short stroll. And this stroll stirred the same excitement in me that perhaps, Gauguin had succumbed to when he stepped onto the Island of Tahiti. Paris, the beloved city of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Pound, Miller, Sartre, Gide, Malraux was in front of me. The city of writers. A city that Rousseau, Voltaire, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Hugo had created their best works behind its gates. I strolled along the streets and parks near the house and very soon was exhausted from sheer excitement. I crept into a dark snug bar. The moment when you were reading my message on the mirror I was alone in a corner with a small bottle of rum. I was so jubilant and drunk that I imagined that like Pierre, the young heir of Count Bezukhov, I could brace the cold wind at the highest precipice of existence and even fly. I was hunkered in the corner of a window, youth was a flight and old age a precipice. A cold wind stroked my cheekbones, with a warm inside I was thinking of words that I had written to you: "I'm not the sweetened king of your stories. I'm a writer without a crown and a throne that destiny has placed in your path. I want to write a story so I'm always with you. Remember and specially remember that your behavior should not be devoid of lascivious attraction. Since without lasciviousness I believe our story will not have any substance and also, I believe, too, that my land, my motherland, the place from which I rose, the place to which I belonged, is a land of lasciviousness and humor. That's how I've read history and the geography of my birthplace has always dictated so to me. You know me well and I, too, -have no other choice than to say once more, I believe- that I know you. I think of you and you're gazing at your own image in the mirror. So lets pass together you and I through mirrors..."
Novel in 409 pages