Poets who salute train, machinist, switchman, terminals, staff of terminals, and staff of trains are too many in Turkish poetry. After all, train is a ‘poetry post.’ Therefore, every kind of poetry that shows love, respect, and reverence, and salute to a train as a post that has longings meet is precious. Atilla Ilhan’s poem called ‘Red after Green,’ also among my favorite poems, tells the solitude of Rıza the switchman beautifully: “I am Rıza the switchman, what else did you think brother / the double rails beam in my dream like snakes / freight train moves on like a long rope / commuter train passes, postal train passes/ railcar passes that I cannot stand / I am Rıza the switchman, what else did you think brother / my mind is wasted on double rail switch / wow to a red after green!”
I got so excited when I saw the book titled ‘If Trains Go Crazy’ by Orhan Berent (İletişim Publishing, 2016.) As you all know, although I couldn’t achieve to become the ‘train poet’ of our country, though no establishment offers the title, I think at least I became one of the ‘train writers.’ Well, if only one can become a ‘train writer’ on one’s own account! I shouldn’t be that hard on myself, it is not possible for me to catch up with Mehmet Aycı; however, I have been writing a lot on trains. Maybe, I didn’t even take train rides that many times. On the other hand, writing is a kind of journey. We go by train and we go by writing sometimes.
Orhan Berent is among the passionate writers who collect books and write on trains. ‘If Trains Go Crazy’ is the novel of his love, enthusiasm, and passion for trains. The novel invites us in the warm, exciting, and hectic world of trains from the beginning. It is not the world of passengers, but this time background is the world of train workers, a sincere novel that comes from the inside.
Mümtaz has his eyes on the rails
Here is the synopsis: Having no children from his first wife, machinist Mümtaz, who is an enthusiast of trains especially steam trains, marries a young woman.
Everything goes well for a few months, then the woman, who gets him to make the deed of the house on her name, disappears. When Mümtaz begins to make mistakes because of all this soon provoked discontent, he is removed from his duty and designated as the office clerk. But he has his eyes on the field, in other words, on the rails.
The book tells the story of machinist Mümtaz who makes countless attempts to operate trains again. This time, what interests me is not how he tells the story, but what he tells. I cannot interfere with the reviewers; however, I should mention that I traveled a lot with the machinist in the book and I was worried about Mümtaz who kept putting himself in danger unflinchingly.
Through his detailed descriptions, it is obvious that Orhan Berent has observed trains, the world of terminals very well: “He saw that the steam engine was coming towards him as he was walking through the open-shed entrance of the first way, which was crowned with a triangular pediment, and the arched platforms, which add the Alsancak Terminal a mysterious and romantic ambience.” (pg.6) He also colors the words and creates unforgettable paintings with them in the manner of a painter in the parts where he talks about the Alsancak and Basmane Terminals, among the most beautiful terminals of our country.
His job is so cool and so important to machinist Mümtaz, although he becomes retired: “This job once had a reputation, son… Once fathers used to marry their daughters to men with sword in hand or eagle on hat, did you know that?” (pg.7) The encouragement of the book to train ride is an added bonus. The book has many sentences to tempt the readers from the terminal with sweet waters to crisp bagels, from the sour plums that you could pick at Germencik to honey figs, from Konya Flats that looks fantastic under the snow to Sivas Moorland that looks magnificent under the moon light.
Large and small stone buildings, aqueducts, sycamore, cypress, and poplar trees, ‘flickering oil lamps at switches in cold winter nights,’ ‘the smell of the scorched weeds under the sun,’ ‘the aroma of the wood sleepers,’ ‘the metallic smell of the rails…’ If Trains Go Crazy is a great addition to our literature.