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In the 1500s, when Sultan Selim returns from his campaign to Persia, a Janissary soldier brings with him to Istanbul some scrolls that show various human and demon figures. A pasha in the Council is informed about the scrolls the Janissary soldier hands in to the palace library. The pasha, who considers these scrolls sinful because Islam does not allow paintings, tears them into pieces with his dagger and hides them in a secret corner of the library. On the other hand, feeling that the figures on the scrolls are meant to tell him something, he cannot bring himself to destroy them altogether.

The story continues in the present day. Metin, a young author, meets with his literary agent Beyza in a cafe on the seaside along the Bosphorus. This section begins with Metin's inner voice reading a paragraph from the novel he has been writing with a blind man as the protagonist. After Beyza arrives, Metin tells her about the distress and heartache he is going through because of his girlfriend with whom he had parted. Beyza tells him about a new project and tells him that a wealthy man named Yigit Ulasli is in search of an author to write a story on a certain subject he will determine. The author the wealthy man chooses will be hosted in an old mansion in Büyükada, the biggest and the most spectacular island in Istanbul, and moreover, he will be paid quite a generous fee for his writing work at the end of the three months. Metin accepts participating in this project since the idea of spending three months on an island away from the city, which inevitably reminds him of this lost love, appeals to him.

Mr. Yigit has invested a significant portion of his wealth on his painting collection. His biggest ambition is the enigmatic artist Mehmed Siyah Kalem[1]. The drawings of this artist that were displayed during the Turks Exhibition[2] in England are actually drawings that tell stories. Each piece told a story about the shamanic beliefs of the nomadic Turks and the legends and stories of their times. The Ottoman considered these scrolls as impious and against Islam, and consequently, tore them into pieces. When the drawings were no longer in one piece, the stories they told became a secret. Yigit wants to have stories about those drawings written and convey them to the public through a striking activity. However, he has one condition: In order not to depend on a single writer, he has designed this project in the form of a contest. There is another author in the mansion, and at the end of the three months, the better story will win and be used during the event.

Mehmet Karakalem - Drawing

[1] Muhammad Siyah Qalam – ‘Muhammad of the Black Pen'. Little is known about the artist or where and when he created the 50 extant works attributed to him. It is thought that they must have originated in a rural hinterland exposed to Chinese influence, although this remains highly debated.

[2] The exhibition that was organized by the Royal Academy of Arts in Britain from January to April 2005. http://www.turks.org.uk

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