Waiting for Fear
Waiting for Fear (2021)
Translated by Fulya Peker
For other books translated by Fulya Peker, see Ferit Edgü, Noone
In this book of collected stories, Oğuz Atay, one of the most renowned and influential Turkish writers of the 20th century, traces the existential conflicts of different “selves” struggling to survive.
In the first story, we follow a shabby, ghost-like man wandering the streets, encountering crowds who try to tailor an identity that they think would better fit him than his white coat. In the next, we enter a dark attic with a woman and watch her confront the dusty memories of a forgotten and unsettling past. Then we sneak into the house of a man who after receiving an enigmatic letter from a secret sect, severs his connection with the outside world and digs deeper into his fears so as to unearth some sense of self-worth. In three confrontational letter-stories, Atay reveals economical, generational, and educational cultural clashes with great linguistic precision: a lowly man’s inflated respect for his superior; a son’s intimate dialogue with his dead father; a young man’s relentless fixation on love. In another story, we enter the reinforced-concrete imitation of the famous Trojan horse to hear the conflicting voices of ancestry and bureaucracy, the politics and poetics of a society in transition. And finally, we get off the train of our thoughts at a deserted station to encounter a railroad storyseller whose stories slowly fade away on the tracks of memory.
In these stories, through peeling away the layers of each isolated and alienated persona, Atay exposes how social identities are constructed. Without merely invoking sympathy or empathy for the “other,” he reveals the walls built over time between singular and plural pronouns, between the rather ambiguous victims and victors of each story. Atay’s precision in short-circuiting familiar processes of reasoning and memory within the daily flow of time, his dark yet highly ironic tone in dismantling the edifices of social norms, calls to mind writers such as Dostoievski and Kafka.
Waiting for Fear is now available for the first time in English.