REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

THIS IS THE REPUBLIC - Aziz NESİN

THIS IS THE REPUBLIC

If I'm asked "Who is the greatest man you know in the world?" I at once say "Mr. Zekai"; our third class teacher Mr. Zekai… Why is he a great man? I definitely don't know. Maybe because he is very clean and smartly dressed… Every morning he comes to the classroom with a shiny shave… We haven't seen him with a little beard, even once. He doesn't wear colored shirt. The collar is as white as snow, but how white it is… The knot of the tie fits the collar so mill metrically that it does not move even a bit… His trousers are neatly ironed… his shoes are all the time painted, shining… His hair is combed backwards all the time but it isn't oily, or brilliantine or pomade smeared… His teeth are spotlessly clean…

I had never seen such a man like a real man until that time before… I thought, "His salary must be a thousand, a hundred thousand liras." Because to me, one can't wear in such a smart way otherwise… He often says to us:

"It isn't a shame to wear old or patched clothes, but it's a shame to wear torn out, dirty clothes."

I love his those words most, because they suit me. I wear old clothes, I wear patched clothes but they aren't dirty, they aren't torn out… my mother did not make me wear torn out, dirty clothes even a single day.

The most popular word on those days was "the Republic". When the word "the Republic" is uttered Mr. Zekai bears in my mind. To me, the Republic gained flesh and bones; became alive and turned into Mr. Zekai… I love the Republic very much. I love Mr. Zekai very much, too.

Why do I love? Maybe because my father doesn't love… My father who is the admirer of "our Effendi Abdulhamit Han", and who says "deserving of heaven" first when uttering his name, and who left us alone and enjoyed the Independence War voluntarily, and burned at the guerilla war, doesn't love the Republic at all, he is the enemy of it. And day-by-day his hostility increases. Maybe I love the Republic very much because my father doesn't love it. After all, I don't even know what the Republic means… But I love my father very very very much, as well. If only my father had loved the republic as much as I love. There is a thing I know: if there was not the Republic, I would not be able to go to that government school; I understood that.

Mr. Zekai always moves about with a ruler in his hand. If there is someone who behaves naughtily, someone who did not study his lesson…

"Open your hand!" he says.

He hits in the palm of the hand with the ruler. Sometimes he hits with the sharp edge of the ruler. Once, one more, one more… the child whose palm of hand is hit by the sharp edge of the ruler writhes in pain:

"Ouch!" He stoops.

Maybe I love Mr. Zekai because he moves about the school with the ruler in his hand. He never beats me… every children are frighten of him, a respectful fright… Well, he doesn't beat so often.

Mr. Zekai has an illness about his eyes. They turn red, and there is rheum at the feet of his eyelash. I love Mr. Zekai so much that I love his reddened eyes; they give him a peculiarity. When I grow up maybe my eyes become like his.

Mr. Zekai is single… He doesn't want to get married, if he wanted all the girls would like to marry him. He lives in a mud-brick house having two floors in Bozdogan Kemeri.

I feel respect for him even while I'm passing by his house, I can't turn my head towards the house.

Aziz NESİN