Arcadiana

A Blog about Literature, Culture and the Environment

Blossoming Hope in Eco-dystopian times: Deniz Gezgin’s Eyes Wings Flowers Tails

BLOG, Hope in dark times

by Merve Günday

Deniz Gezgin’s1 poetic novel Eyes Wings Flowers Tails (2023)2 welcomes its readers to a magical realist universe where weird and fantastic characters become the everyday victims of environmental degradation. Though plunged into the darkness of the exploitation of nature, its “[w]orld is more sudden than we fancy it/…crazier and more of it than we think/ incorrigibly plural” (MacNeice 24).

The novel is set in a dystopian space where ecological balance is shattered and an inexplicable sense of fear looms around. In this setting, winters witness trees with budding branches, new seasons are lived every day, and winds continuously change their direction; everything is in the constant threat of rising water. What is more threatening, plants start to fly, seeds become lighter than ever, birds’ wings get shorter, seas turn into smoke holes while mine workers get poisoned, and following the death of trees even weeds and insects disappear. Moreover, the number of artificial species increases, and natural human-animal-insect subjects are replaced with talking puppets, toy animals, and artificial bees.

Amidst the chaos of this shattered ecology reverberating with a dystopian sense of fear and anxiety, surprisingly “[a]ll the living beings are on the move, everything is in constant transposition” (Gezgin 13). I suggest that this movement implies in a way that there are still some glitters of hope blossoming despite all the death, sickness, or distress caused by the Anthropocene. 

Only what Gezgin calls the Randoms (Gelişigüzeller) can cross the boundaries of rationality by slipping into the constant flow of waters and passing through closed roads. Unlike the Anthropos, notoriously intoxicated with the dream of gaining mastery over the nonhuman, the Randoms are not poisoned by this greed. They are not compelled by the linearity of time and they sense time only through light, similar to the way plants do. In the absence of linearity, “the corridors of the wind, water mouths, and gaps” become their homes (Gezgin 14)3. Gezgin doesn’t give a clear depiction of what she means by the Randoms. They address, I would argue, whatever resists the codes of binarism or mathematical formulation.                 

Inspired by the Randoms, Luçe and Kara, two peripheral characters whose paths cross at the beginning of the novel, resist in this dystopian world.

Echoing the spirit of the Randoms for regeneration, Luçe, the son of a mine worker named Siti, emerges from the magma of a volcano: sleeping in a cradle made of black ashes, he holds on to life. Similarly to Luçe, Kara is also depicted as a victim of ecological devastation: he is found in the middle of a burnt forest surrounded by ashes. Put in a mental institution together with other marginalized children, Kara is not allowed to get in touch with the outside world. However, unlike the others, he does not bend to the will of those who attempt to silence and tame him but rather confronts what lies beyond the cold walls of the institution. 

In the midst of the unsettling Gezgin’s scenery where life and death and natural and artificial are difficult to distinguish, it is shown that the world is surrounded by infinite possibilities of liberation. To put it in the words of the narrator,

“[a]lthough there were no flowers anymore, bees would see petals in the globules and find the nectar in this way…Aren’t globules opened on their own?…Nothing gets lost without leaving a trace…While the Randoms walk around all these traces, they are neither in the past nor in the future. Tails stars bones, lights waters volcanoes, everything is in a constant motion” (Gezgin 39)4.

Despite the loss of bees and their replacement with artificial ones, there are still some natural bees that can find “eucalyptuses, downy oaks, and cedars in grains” (Gezgin 43)5. Motivated by the constant move of the Randoms, as mentioned earlier, Kara finds in the heavy rain that turns everything into mud an opportunity to create a new narrative: following the deep arcs opened by waters, he finds a road, but he does not falter. Rather, in a state of drowsiness, he finds a breach opened by the constant drops of water and follows Bohemian waxwings into the darkness. 

Then, at the end of the tunnel, he meets wooden-legged Çilaba and the rock goat Patina who collect seeds from the few spaces remaining still uninvaded by the Anthropos and plant them in sandbags for their preservation. He also meets a puppet named Avel, who comforts Çilaba and Patina away from the harsh reality of the world by singing and playing. With his help, Kara discovers the world of poetry: “Poetry was a seed of transposition and growth sprouting infinite possibilities” (Gezgin 68)6.

Having encountered such magical characters, Kara reaches the volcano presented at the very beginning of the novel and meets Luçe there. The novel ends with this encounter, implying the beginning of a new phase for both of them: they jump into the volcano crater hand-in-hand and as they pass through, they die into life

In conclusion, despite all the exploitative practices of the Anthropos that erase nature’s blissful melodies, nature is always pregnant with multiple possibilities connecting everything like a rhizome and resisting immobility. As the author puts it in the last lines of the novel: “Wouldn’t the world turn upside down if the living always gathered on the same slope of the same hill?” (Gezgin 95). That’s what the Randoms represent in the novel. Given that the Randoms always find a way to freedom from the tyranny of ecological degradation, I argue that Eyes Wings Flowers Tails make our hopes blossom amidst the darkness of the Anthropocene. What is more important, the human-nonhuman hierarchy is overturned in the novel, as what unlocks the chains of stillness for Kara and Luçe is in fact the nonhuman.

About the author

Merve Günday completed her PhD in English Literature at Middle East Technical University (2022) with a thesis entitled “Alternative Subject Positions and Subject-Object Relations in Keats’s Poetry.”

References

  • Gezgin, Deniz. Eyes Wings Flowers Tails (Gözler Kanatlar Çiçekler Kuyruklar). İstanbul: Can Publishing, 2023.  
  • MacNeice, Louis. “Snow” in Peter McDonald (ed), CollectedPoems: p. 24. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.   

Footnotes

  1. Gezgin is a graduate of Protohistory and Asia Minor Archeology Departments at Ege University. She made her first entrance into literature with her novel Ahraz, followed by YerKuşAğı and Eyes Wings Flowers Tails.   ↩︎
  2. Gezgin’s novel hasn’t been translated into English yet. The translated sections of the work from Turkish to English belong to me. ↩︎
  3. “Gelişigüzellerin konağı rüzgâr koridorları, su ağızları ve boşluklar” (Gezgin 14).
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  4. “Orada artık hiç çiçek olmadığı halde arılar yuvalarda taç yapraklar görür, nektarları böyle bulurdu…Yuvarlar açılmıyor mu kendiliğinden? …Hiçbir şey iz bırakmadan sönüp gitmiyor…Gelişigüzeller bütün bu izlerin üstünde gezinirken ne geçmişte ne gelecekte. Kuyruklar yıldızlar kemikler, ışıklar sular volkanlar her şey kendi boşluğunda sonsuz hareketli” (Gezgin 39).  
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  5. “(…)zerrelerde okaliptüsleri, tüylü meşeleri ve sedirleri” (Gezgin 43). ↩︎
  6.  “Bir yer değiştirme ve büyüme kozasıydı şiir, sesle örülmüş deriyi soyunurken sonsuzca hareketin uç vermesi” (Gezgin 68). ↩︎
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