Worse Than That. He’s Dead: Found Literature in Istanbul

With thanks to Ahmet, waiter with a white heart

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Turkish phrase bookThe streets of Istanbul channel a torrent of tourists to anointed points of interest.

They flow into the courtyard of Sultan Ahmed’s Blue Mosque, clicking gum and photos of a wedding party, the bride hidden behind impenetrable white.

They swell into the Hagia Sofia—erstwhile basilica and mosque, now museum—and take selfies framed by Islamic calligraphy.

They churn around the vendors, devouring sesame-seeded simit, watermelon, grilled corn, Osmanlı macunu—Ottoman taffy in Crayola colors.

They run past persistent carpet merchants, street hustlers who’ve assumed touching privileges for unaccompanied, uncovered women.

They eddy in quiet corners, settling in for long breakfasts served by those whose hearts are white.* There, in an English Speaking Guide, with “helpful” phrases of dubious content and translation, there be poetry and prose. And here are some serendipitous finds from the book—titles are mine.

Love, K-B

Love Speaks

Love speaks in many ways. Love sometimes speaks in gifts of flowers. Love sometimes speaks in laughter. Love sometimes speaks in words. It will all be different once you get married.


I must make one thing quite clear. If there is one thing I hate, it’s to be swindled.

Do You Like

You are a lovely looking woman. Let us talk a little. Do you like music? I do not like it. Do you like dancing? I do not like it. Will you come for a walk with me? I have a great deal to do. Is anybody in your room? Do not keep me waiting any longer.


What do you know about Nita? Her sense of humor is uproarious. She makes me laugh. That’s what you say.

Everybody Dreams

You tell me your dream. And I’ll tell you mine. How do you know? Know what? That I had a dream. It’s always six to one that somebody’s had a dream. I had a dream about a girl I once knew by the name of Faye. It was the middle of the seventies. Don’t talk to me about the seventies.

That Girl

How’s that girl friend of yours? Hell, Seldon’s a better woman than she is.

Beauty Hard to Find

You have a different face, and that’s beauty hard to find. Have you ever dated a man? Sure plenty of times. Just dates. Just to kill a Saturday night. Every girl does that. You’re jealous?


Jean, couldn’t you take my shoes off? I want a bath, a hot bath, Jean. That is impossible. It is the only wish I cannot grant you yet. How do you mean? Don’t people have baths in here? No, I am the only one, I believe.


Don’t forget to destroy this letter at once.

Oh Istanbul

What do you think of Istanbul, Madam? Istanbul is a very interesting city, but the ways are complicated. You’re right. It causes many problems.

This Is Madness

Your psychology is excellent. My ability has caught the eyes of all human beings. Everybody is a little mad.


There has been an accident. What kind of an accident? It happened in the night. That is very interesting, indeed. Is Clayton seriously injured? Worse than that. He’s dead.


* Turkish expression meaning he's a nice guy.