Bookperformance and The Personal Pronoun "We"

“Reading is a singular act,
it requires a plural action” 

CyM, 2011

by Nihan Kuzu* 2013

When I heard of this bookperformance thing for the first time,it captivated my attention and I started following it. Knowing the nature of Çiğdem (our very special “beloved author”) a little from reading her book, I just couldn’t help joining her performance.

When I entered into the space, to join an Author-Reader Performance. The chairs that were placed like a spiral already underlined an organic connection of the space into the performance and I chose a chair to sit on.

It is actually a normal process for the mind to travel from the unknown to the known or to try to guess what could happen soon. However, that blurry state of the safety zone was kind of “poked” as was the first moments of the performance. As the Yüzüm Kitap, 2012 states, being aware of “the futility of trying to comprehend” might be possible in the theory but not so much in the practice. At least in my case it wasn’t so possible to get conscious of this in the practice. That might have been the proof of my struggle to comprehend what we were doing or what we were trying to achieve. In that slippery ground the book started to talk through the voices of the author and the readers that were present there. After experiencing a long moment of hesitation about being involved or not into this walk of the book, I started reading it out within the sentences that could have been my own sentences which were strangely written in the book in my hand. I know that we all employ the same or similar words to transfer our emotions or to refer to some situations we are in. Still I had always thought that the way I am putting the words in line might be different than the way someone else puts them in line. I cannot explain the experience of witnessing someone else telling you something with the words that you think belong to yourself. I guess this is the proof of how carefully Çiğdem is listening to herself or others. As someone who studies theatre I noticed how the theatricality in daily language is reflected so at ease, which is quality that is always referred by the professors both in literature and in theatre. Besides, it is such a strange taste to witness how some people belonging to different backgrounds, ages, status could come together read and listen together.

“Like”wise, it was a kind of field conflict when someone else became involved in the voice of the word that you are reading out without your permission and dragging the voice that you created into another mood. At the beginning, this process was a kind of voice battle, but then it naturally found its own rhythm, tranquility, harmony and joy, which was a precious experience as well. Because, everybody that was present at that slippery ground became aware of the fact that this voice belonged to all of us. So, that slippery ground became concrete and safe thanks to this awareness created together:

“Are you writing a book? Yes, I am. Is it your first book? Yes, it is. It is always the same story. No, it isn’t, there are various stories in it. I mean it is always the same story, that is the story of the first book! Not really, I am only telling about my stories and their background stories of being my stories. Here you go, it is always the same story! In the end, yes, they are all different parts of one whole story. There you go, you are still continuing to tell the same story. There is no need for a continuity in it, all could also be read in bits and pieces. I bet you are writing about your own life story. How do you know about that? Because, it is always the same story, that’s how I know about it. That’s right, I am writing about my own life, but it doesn’t matter what you are writing about. What matters then? What matters is how you write it! How I write it? Yes, how I write it.” (Yüzüm Kitap, 92)

Regarding all these things, I had a nice and authentic experience at this bookperformance event in which there was a guitarist who could accompany some of the texts musically. Besides, Çiğdem herself accompanied the text with some smooth sounds while a reader was reading her text. It was obvious that all was a flow. Still, I would like to suggest a few things if I am an “Reader-Author” of this “bookperformance” that claims to be “the best of all possible worlds” politically and socially. The author could be more clear about what it is to be an “Author-Reader” at the beginning of the event so that the people who are supposed to or willing to take on this role could be comforted. Although the process of the performance eventually makes this clear by itself, taking into account that many of the readers could be shy, an explanation would be of help if it wouldn’t break the natural construction process.

*Nihan Kuzu, an academic focusing on theatre and theory at Ankara University.