The Garden of Departed Cats, Bilge Karasu
Metis Fiction
13 x 19.5 cm, 232 pp
ISBN No. 975-342-063-3

1st Print: 1979
7th Print: March 2006
Bilge Karasu
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About the Author
Bilge Karasu (1930-1995) graduated from the Philosophy Department of Istanbul University and taught at Hacettepe University for many years. One of Turkey’s most respected writers, Karasu published four books of short stories, three novels and four collections of essays. His first novel Gece (Night) is the winner of the 1991 Pegasus Literature Award; Uzun Sürmüş bir Günün Akşamı (The Evening of a Very Long Day) won the 1971 Sait Faik Short Story Award, and the English translation of Karasu’s Göçmüş Kediler Bahçesi (The Garden of Departed Cats) by Aron Aji was awarded the 2004 National Translation Award in the USA.
       Usually referred to as "the sage of Turkish literature," Bilge Karasu is an influential reference point in the progress of Turkish fiction writing. A perfectionist, a philosopher, and a master of literary arts, he left behind a body of work, which, although intricately woven and at times obscure, skillfully outlines a world unmatched in its crystal clear transparency. The fact that he is labeled "the most difficult writer in the Turkish language" arises from his uncompromising loyalty to pure literature, which he described as a structure to be accomplished by a constant interaction between the writer and the reader.
Other Books from Metis
Troya'da Ölüm Vardı (Death in Troy, 1963
Uzun Sürmüş Bir Günün Akşamı (The Evening of a Very Long Day),
(The Evening of a Very Long Day),
Kısmet Büfesi (The Kiosk Called Fate), 1982
Gece (Night), 1985 (Night), 1985
Kılavuz (The Guide), 1990
Ne Kitapsız Ne Kedisiz (Not Without Books Nor Without Cats), 1994
Narla İncire Gazel (Ode to the Pomegranate and the Fig), 1995
Altı Ay Bir Güz (Six Months and an Autumn), published post-mortem, 1996
Lağımlaranası ya da Beyoğlu (Beyoğlu the Mother of Sewage), published post-mortem, 1999
Öteki Metinler (Other Texts), published post-mortem, 1999
Bilge Karasu
The Garden of Departed Cats

Göçmüş Kediler Bahçesi

Rights sold / published by:
English: New Directions
German: Literaturca

A surreal, utterly unique novel.
       In an ancient Mediterranean city, a tradition is maintained: every ten years an archaic game of human chess is staged, the players (visitors versus locals) bearing weapons. This archaic game, the central event of The Garden of the Departed Cats, may prove as fatal as the deadly attraction our narrator feels for the local man who is the Vizier, or Captain, of the home team. Their "romance" (which, though inconclusive, magnetizes our protagonist to accept the Vizier's challenge to play) provides the skeletal structure of this experimental novel. Each of their brief interactions works as a single chapter. And interleaved between their chapters are a dozen fable-like stories. The folk tale might concern a 13th-century herbal that identifies a kind of tulip, a "red salamander," which dooms anyone who eats it to never tell a lie ever again. Or the tale might be an ancient story of a terrible stoat-like creature that feeds for years on the body of whomever it sinks its claws into, like guilt. These strange fables work independently of the main narrative but, in curious and unpredictable ways, (and reminiscent of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table), they echo and double its chief themes: love, its recalcitrance, its cat-like finickiness, and its refusal to be rushed. The Garden of the Departed Cats is a work of peculiar beauty and strangeness, the whole layered and shiny like a piece of mica.
The Garden of Departed Cats
The Prey
The Man Who Misses His Ride, Night After Night
A Medieval Monk
In Praise of the Fearless Porcupine
In Praise of the Crab
The Sun-Man of the Rainy City
The Man Walking in the Tunnel
"Kill Me, Master!"
Our Sea
Hurt Me Not
Another Peak
Where the Tale Also Rips Suddenly
Joseph Dewey, Context
"Nameless characters move about a cryptic text-scape, an elusive environment constructed from the lyric energy of language, a symbolic world coaxed into depth, plots unhinged from causality, rent by intrusive absurdities—these are disquieting fables that are breathtakingly enthralling. …Karasu constructs form-intensive texts that calibrate the force of his profound (and indignant) moral imagination."
Roberta Micallef, AATT Bulletin, 2005
"Many of the texts from the Middle East that are available in translation are highly political texts. The Garden of Departed Cats is about a much more basic and at once much larger question, interactions between the hunter and the hunted. Karasu makes the reader wonder, question and doubt the very nature of love and humanity. I found myself revisiting the text over and over again. Each time I discovered a new layer, a new inter-pretation and a new depth to this amazing work by a master wordsmith."
First I looked at his hands.
       His English sounded north European. He could be German, Dutch or Scandinavian. Or perhaps Austrian, but that didn’t occur to me. His accent evoked snow, lakes, pines, elk with tangled antlers. He spoke little, but perhaps because of his accent, I started noticing that the color of his hair was lighter than the dark chestnut shade I’d remembered from the night before; if someone asked me now, I’d say he was blond.
       Yet he had the hands of a Mediterranean.
       Dark skin paler between the fingers, hands lined with olive-green veins…
       The beauty of his hands left an indelible impression in my mind. The darkness rising like water from below covered us up to our knees, but his face was still in the light. He looked swarthy, definitely so, befitting the dark skin of his hands.
       Yet, soon, in the last rays of the sun, I would note –trembling with excitement– that I wasn’t mistaken about the golden hue of his hair... Click for more 

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