The Calligrapher’s Night by Yasmine Ghata

The years went by, and from being a pupil I passed to being a teacher. Why hurry? Now that I am dead I no longer have to count minutes. My memory is intact; memories are more tangible than reality. My life flashes past in front of me at the speed of light, assails me and then withdraws without warning. All that I could not grasp while still alive comes back to me intermittently. I am a witness to the visible and the invisible: now I can tell the whole story.

We meet Rikkat Kunt just as her life is ending. It is where the story of her life as a calligrapher begins. Calligraphy is a male dominated career, an art form that is highly regarded. We follow her path to practice among the best, to learn from the great masters. Rikkat describes the moments of calligraphy showing that at times her gift travels through her hand and is guided by the spirit of her deceased teacher and at times is influenced by emotion, and at others by a divine presence. She remembers her marriage and it’s end, the birth of her son and their forced separation, their reunion. In addition to working toward recognition as a woman and defending her work against her husband’s ideal of a woman’s place calligraphers in Turkey are threatened by cultural reforms in which the Arabic language and the art form are abolished to be replaced by the Latin alphabet.

The Calligrapher’s Night is Ghata’s fictionalized account of her grandmother’s life, who was a calligrapher.

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