Part I: THE TERROR
[From Elia Kazan's "A LIFE" (Knopf, 1988), pp. 550-552.]
A little later I said to Stellio, "Tell Molly what happened at your
store". From his place of business, Stellio supplied cotton woods,
wholesale, to small merchants in the interior. He'd told me about the
last great riot that had taken place in the cotton woods wholesale
market and had been, so Stellio believed, subsidized by the government.
"They brought several hundred criminals from the interior, gave them
plenty raki, the cheap kind, a bottle to each man, put them on the
boat to Istanbul, and told them, 'Go 'head, the city is yours. Take
what you want, so long it's Greek or Armenian.'''
"Did they break into your store?" Molly asked. She'd been nervous
ever since we'd reached Turkey. For some reason that was not scientific,
she believed Turkey was darker than other countries. She distrusted
the food and loathed the toilets.
"No," Stellio said. "My place they don't touch." Then he told how
that had happened. He had a neighbor in the same center of wholesale
cotton goods stores, a Turkish merchant but still a friend. This man
knew what Stellio did not, that a riot was being stirred up, a ritual
warning to the minorities in that society to be content to stay in
their proper places. These holidays for criminals were celebrated
regularly in that city, Stellio said.
"Where were the authorities?" Molly asked. A law-respecting Yankee,
she was indignant.
"The authorities?" Stellio said. "They buy the raki. All the Greek
stores in the middle part of Istanbul would be hit, my friend told me;
there'd be enough raki for maybe three days, and food too, lambs to
slaughter and roast at night, whole herds. So my friend, he came to me
one day and he put a little mark over my door, where no one could
notice it unless they were looking for it, something like a crescent.
'What's that?' I asked. 'Leave it,' he said. So I did. The trouble
lasted three days, and I stayed at home, blocking our windows as we
used to when we lived in the interior and there was trouble. Suddenly
all was quiet again; maybe they were sleeping from the raki, I thought,
and I went down to the city, and every Greek store in our area except
mine had had its windows smashed and there were cotton woods all over
the street, in the mud and the puddles of water, and the donkeys had
left little presents on the top. All that wealth--such hard work to
make money here--gone. Finished! No doubt there was also plenty cotton
goods going to the interior to put on the golos of their wives--excuse
the expression, Molly--here." He hit his behind. "That night," Stellio
said, "I took my friend to dinner."
Molly tried to joke. "Is this trip absolutely necessary?" she said
to me. "That's why I told Elia," Stellio said, "better less in the
papers where we're going." He turned to me. "When we get there, don't
be big American hero, criticizing everything to the journalists. The
less you say the better." He turned to Molly. "Tell him to be careful,"
he said. "Why do you live here?" Molly asked. She was outraged by the
situation. "It's not easy to move," Stellio said. "Especially if you
have a little money. You can't take it out."
I studied my cousin's face; it was uncreased. Although he lived in
continuous worry--the shortest walk had the possibility of danger,
which is why he always hurried on the street--he still managed to be
affable. He made his way by pleasing his enemies as well as his friends.
He was the most circumspect man I've ever known, neat and clean and
well-ordered. Which came from a lifetime of concern for the consequences
of any out-of-the-way behavior. He had lived all his life under the eye
of authority he knew to be hostile. Fear had ordered his life. I compared
myself: I was not altogether different. I am, for instance, neurotically
prompt--in fact, always ahead of time for appointments. Why? So as not
to allow the least opening for criticism. I recognized myself in him.