08th February, 2002, Radikal
Children of the Delapidated Houses
“RazorBoy” is the story of a group of children who experience the violence and cruelty of the street. Kıvılcım, who spent two years of her life listening to these children’s ‘stories that were worth being told’, hopes to change the readers’ ‘point of view’.
Sometimes while we are walking down Istiklal Street, some pungent smell blows towards our faces. We sometimes get startled when we enter ATM booths. If it is night time and we are a little bit merry, we clench more tightly to our bags when we notice some small shadows approaching us. Later on we either go to the cinema or to a café with the money we have just withdrawn, or we just go and sleep in our beds. It is definite that the thinner we have smelled, the hungry and naked children we have seen hurt us, after that, immediately after that, we forget everything about it. There is always a place where we can escape from the night, from the violence and the laws of the night. Gönül Kıvılcım had worked on some news about street children in her journalism life, but after that she could not put her camera back in her bag and leave them behind. She spent about two years with these children who, she says, “have some stories worth being told.” In the end, she penned ‘Razor Boy’ deriving from what she had listened, and from what she had felt.
‘Razor Boy’ is the story of a group of ‘street children’ who are struggling to survive, who know violence, rape, death, hunger, blood, misery and the smell of thinner very well. A group of ‘children’ who listen to the arabesque songs, embrace their thinner soaked cloth in order to avoid cold and pain, see themselves as a president or a king in their dreams and create their own strict rules against the brutal rules of society.
Razor Boy who experiences friendships and love to die for, with his blood brother Kunt, his chick Gül; Nail, Mongrel and Bastard who sells himself in exchange for drugs… Turning each page, the reader encounters a new adventure of these children who beg for money to buy drugs, steal something from cars, forget themselves after toking and who had to grow up at a very early age. If the novel is able to ‘wash the eyes, make them see in another way’, as Kıvılcım hopes, each corner and each bridge will have some different meanings.
How did you decide to write a book about street children?
It was during the time whilst working as a Journalist that the 50th Anniversary of UNICEF was approaching and I was asked to work on some news about children living on the streets, I suddenly found myself among them. I was not able to just go home after finishing the news like my other colleagues could, I felt that I was standing in front of a mountain and I wanted to see what was on the other side and the souls of the children there because I felt there were stories worth telling inside their souls. The coldness, the violence, the laws of the street and the hunger prevailing there… all of them were very devastating. I thought that these stories had to be told. And I spent two years learning about them.
To enter into their world was not so easy, I guess?
They cannot open up at once. They cannot immediately give a voice to the wounds in their souls. They make up stories until they can trust you. They made up stories to me until I met their bare faces and I listened to them. Then they bared their hearts and souls to me. They talked about their fathers, the beatings of their fathers, about rapes, about the trousers they were wearing in layers to protect themselves from being raped…
Have you really met Razor Boy?
As a character Razor Boy is a mixture of all of them. But all of the characters are from the street, from real life. However, I wanted to reflect this reality with a different language. The language of the novel is not a classic and realistic language; I think the language I used corresponds to their lives. The images sometimes get blurred at other times can become clearer just like in their lives.
It must be a little bit difficult to avoid being ‘arabesque’ while treating such a subject. Did you feel that difficulty?
Of course I did. It is like being on the edge of a knife. They are already arabesque, they write poems for example. Their poems are very sensitive but on the other hand very arabesque. By placing a narrator in the novel I tried to keep the distance in order to get over this arabesque style. Looking from the outside the narrator puts some interpretation on their lives and sometimes, makes fun of their arabesqueness. If the novel talked only within their languages, I could not have overcome that.
What is the most striking thing on the street? The thing that impressed you most during that time?
The violence of the street. It is not something conceivable or something that could be understood just by looking from a distance, you have to experience it. The wounds the violence has made in the children’s souls makes it a very cruel world but on the other hand there is an innocent childhood behind their cruel faces.
We frequently confront the duality of adolescence and childhood in the novel. They have not been shaped like us, they haven’t been to school and they have grown up away from their families. They haven’t experienced the process of socialization. That’s why their hearts have remained so naive. However they have very different aspects, they use the word ‘bourgeoisie’, for instance, but I didn’t use that word in the novel as I thought the reader wouldn’t consider it as something real, so I used the word ‘classy’ instead.
They are living so much on the edge of life. They hold on to each other against life and people. So their loves and friendships are always to die for.
Yes, they are really on the edge. We are always avoiding them; we are always looking at them from a long distance. When a murder is committed, we cry out for ‘our security rights’. What about their rights? They also have rights like sheltering and nutritional rights and we don’t think about that. That’s why I drew very eccentric characters in this novel; I think I reflect my rebellious side in this way… As a consequence they hold on to each other; they experience love in a very different way. Love is already cruel; it becomes much crueler on the street under those circumstances. One of the most emphasized themes is ‘being fatherless’. Fathers have always turned their backs on their children. That is what they all have in common.
So ‘being fatherless’ is equal to the absence of an authority? Like a state?
These children were exiled to places out of the city in trains during a large congress in Istanbul. In this sense, yes, of course, you are right. We are like that as a society. We see them every day but pretend not to have seen them; as we are uncomfortable about confronting this reality. In this sense ‘Razor Boy’ is a settlement of my own conscience. I felt that way while I was writing.
Most important of all is that they have no identities. None of them have an identity card and those who do have one have to destroy it, because they live their lives running away. It also has an ironic meaning, I guess. They are non-existent. They have been penalized for some reason; they have to change places. They are timeless, placeless and even invisible.
But they are invisible because we don’t see them or because we don’t look at them.
They are so helpless, so desperate. They don’t see any way out. There isn’t an end for them. Some commit suicide; some get burnt unconsciously while they are high on thinners; there are many incidents like that. But generally they can’t escape that life. The novel ends in a way emphasizing this desperation. It ends abruptly, as if nothing was changing, and a change was impossible anyway.
Do you think there is no hope?
To have hope, we first have to change ourselves. There are a few people and some organisations making efforts, but under these circumstances, it is very difficult to be optimistic.
Literature can be transforming; it can change people’s worlds and views. While writing a novel on this subject, did you ever think of it?
There is a line by an Iranian poem, it says “Eyes must be washed, everything must be seen in a different way”. If the reader is able to see in a different way it would make me very happy. Writers have a different kind of sensitivity towards life and take this sensitivity to different areas. Sometimes to their childhood and sometimes to a city. I put a social group under the magnifying glass this time and I tried to reflect their lives.
At the moment, are you doing something for children actively?
I am a member of The Children of Hope Association. But I haven’t been able to do much other than paying contributions since my son was born. They have a house in Avcılar and I used to visit them before. they also sometimes visit me. I do know that they need a lot of things and I also wish that more non-governmental organisations would strike into this subject.