Ahmet Altan’s Endgame

Join English PEN and Canongate Books at the Arcola Theatre this Sunday, 30 August, to celebrate the launch of Endgame, and read an extract of the novel here. 

The town was sleeping.

Someone is always up in a big city but in a small town everyone goes to bed around the same time. That’s something I found out after I got here.

I was sitting under a towering eucalyptus tree on the main street, on one of those old-fashioned benches with names and hearts carved into its dark wooden planks.

I’d wanted to sit there ever since I came to town, but that night was the first time.

I leaned back.

I looked up at the sky.

They were all sleeping, dreaming. Dreaming together.

I watched their dreams slip out through windows, doors and chimneys. I watched them rise up into the clouds, flaunting their colours; I could almost see them, talking, laughing, sobbing, making love. There they all were, entwined in deep embraces on velvet-curtained stages, in stables and on dark streets, in sitting rooms and by the sea. A neighing horse, two women kissing, a tearful child racing through the night, a horde of golden coins, a glistening knife. Sometimes I caught sight of a man or a woman vanishing from their own dreams to haunt the dreams of others.

I watched the town dreaming.

I wasn’t drunk, or at least not from drink. I had just taken a life.

I remembered it like a dream.

But I couldn’t remember much. I remembered an arm – my arm, though somehow it was severed from my body, wandering far away, beyond my grasp. It was holding a gun. I don’t remember pulling the trigger; I only heard the shot. And then I saw a mouth opening, as if to speak, a face contorted, one hand in the air, the other clutching the wound. And then a body falling, but no blood.

What is it people feel when they kill another human being? My body was taut, seized by a fear I had never known before, and then it seemed I had drifted off to sleep.

I left the house and made my way here.

I don’t remember thinking about anything in particular.

I sat down. What a careless novelist I was, no different from God.

A good novelist doesn’t build on coincidence, or stoop to coincidence to get out of a corner.

But God has a savage sense of humour. And coincidence is his favourite joke. And life is nothing but a string of coincidences.

You see, I was a stranger in town. I came from a big city, far away.

I stayed there to write a book about murder. And so what if I turned out to be the killer? I’ll simply put it down as God’s work, another one of his cruel coincidences, taunting his own creation.

The entire town was steeped in dream.

I was the only one awake. Or was I dreaming? The time has come to tell you what happened.

But the story isn’t really mine, and if it is savage beyond belief it is because it comes from the hand of a cruel and indifferent God.
Buy tickets to see Ahmet Altan in conversation with Philippe Sands on 30 August

Pre-order  your copy of Ahmet Altan’s Endgame, translated by Alexander Dawe

Copies will also be available to buy and get signed at the Arcola Theatre 

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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