Zona. A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room. Geoff Dyer.

Zona. A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room. Geoff Dyer. Canongate Books, 2013.

Zona - Geoff Dyer


Dyer’s humorous, witty and simultaneously serious style of writing proved addictive for me. For this particular book, my jaw dropping awe while watching three films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the former USSR film director, also served as a magnet. I admit, “the awe” might have something to do with my incomplete understanding of all the three films I have seen of Tarkovsky until today : Solaris, Stalker and Ivan’s Childhood. Apparently, Dyer has also been under Tarkovsky’s spell since the day he had watched Stalker first time as a youngster.

As one may guess, the book is on Stalker, where a trip to “Zona” is the essence of the story. Still, like many of Dyer’s writings, it is on many other things as well. Even those who has not seen Stalker can enjoy reading the book. It is also on Dyer’s childhood, his family, his wife, his fantasies and -at least as important !- his German made grey leather bag.

In spite of the sketch Dyer seems to enjoy making of himself occasionally (basically, a retarded bastard who is drunk most of the time), he must be a very disciplined author and an avid reader. He also has the perfect eyes of the visual critic. The two books by him I have read before (Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It and The Ongoing Moment) and another which was edited by him (Understanding A Photograph by John Berger) was either peripherally (the former) or essentially (the latter) on photography and his seemingly casual approach to photography in general and his approach to photographs in particular has taught me a lot. Now, he is on Stalker; what else could one ask for?

For those who have no idea about the movie Stalker on which this book is centered,The Zone (Zona) is a forbidden part of an unknown country. According to its director, the film has nothing “symbolic” (though many viewers think otherwise). Although the film is categorised as a Science Fiction by many (it was in fact based on a sci-fi story by Strugatsky brothers) there are practically no elements in the film that one may expect to see in a science fiction movie. No space ships, no time travel, no high-tech weapons… It is a philosophical film, for lack of a better word. The tempo is slooooooowwwww… Dyer reports that Tarkovsky insisted on this being particularly slow at the beginning as he wanted those who will not understand the rest of the film anyway can leave on time!

A few quotes :

(About Zone) : “An amazing place where amazement is vain because everything is normal here  (p70)”.

(An aphorism from Kafka pertaining to Zone) : “Beyond a certain point there’s no return. That’s the point that must be reached (p81)”.

“… they are realising that one of mankind’s deepest wishes is the need to complain, to moan, to be disappointed. Perhaps that’s why gods were invented, so you could moan at them for the way things turned out, for things not happening, even, at that relatively late stage of human develeopment (as personified by Thomas Hardy), for not existing (p111)”.

“He has gone from extreme skepticism to fearful belief. Perhaps this says something about the nature of faith. Maybe there is no belief without fear – fear of the consequences of that belief (p137)”.

(An anectode about “Writer”, one of the leading characters in the movie) :  “A true writer, as defined by Thomas Mann : someone who finds writing more difficult than other people (p 148)”.

“Not many people can confront the truth about themselves. If they did they’d run a mile, would take an immediate and profound dislike to the person in whose skin they’d learned to sit quite tolerably all these years (p165)”.

“We think we have huge goals in life but actually, when it comes to it, we’ll settle quite happily for something trivial that we’ve had all the time and which made our lives bearable (p167)”.

And, finally :

“The only good life is one in which there is no need for miracles (p178)”.

The movie, Stalker, is essentially on “faith, hope and belief”. And, it is painfully so.

Dyer’s book makes -among other things- this fact clear.

Do you have faith? Do you need hope? What do you believe?

Stalker will never become an old film about something trivial because it forces you discover your real replies to the above questions. It then leaves you wondering whether your answers were really true to yourself and makes you ask the same questions again in an unending loop.

Now, I should watch it the fourth time.


Understanding A Photograph. John Berger.

Understanding A Photograph. John Berger. Edited and Introduced by Geoff Dyer. Penguin Books, 2013.


Thanks to Geoff Dyer who, once again, opened my eyes to what are behind and beyond the photographs. This little volume of articles written between 1967 – 2007 by John Berger are a must for those trying to really understand what is photography about and what (if anything) can be achieved by its practice. Judging from the number of lines I had underlined with my pencil, the book deserves to be read again soon.

I will just add a few quotes to increase potential readers’ appetite! :

The speed with which the possible uses of photography were seized upon is surely an indication of photography’s profound, central applicability to industrial capitalism. (p.49)

Yet, unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. (p.52)

All photographs are of the past, yet in them an instant of the past is arrested so that, unlike a lived past, it can never lead to the present. (p.62)

Certainty may be instantaneous; doubt requires duration; meaning is born of the two. (p64).

With just a little bit of exaggeration, I can claim that every sentence in this book deserves to be quoted!

John Berger is an exceptionally good writer. This shows most strikingly in his “Between Here and Then” (p. 184-189) which is only tangentially on photography. It is a about a house, a family, a life and a clock! I read this article as a complete story three times within the same day. So tasteful! The final quote is from this one :

Your concern is not with the moment, but with the past and future. And you ask a strange question : what happens if (or when) the past and future stop? Does this change the now, and if so, how?

Will be my bedside book.


İçimdeki Yağmur. Geoff Dyer (Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It).

İçimdeki Yağmur. Geoff Dyer. Çeviren Uğur Mehter. Hitkitap 2008.

Dyer’ı hayranı olmadığım bir köşe yazarının (Serdar Turgut) övücü yazısı üzerine tanıma gereği duydum. Merakım, bir ölçüde, Dyer’ın Tarkovski’nin Stalker filminden çok etkilenmiş olduğu bilgisine dayanıyordu. Ortalama izleyicinin sıkıntıdan patlayacağı kesin olan bu hem sovyet hem metafizik filmi seven postmodern bir İngiliz yazar! Oh, my god! Bu adamı okumam gerek dedim. İki kitabını aldım Dyer’ın; öteki, sırasını bekliyor. (Stalker’ı da bu günlerde yeniden izleyeceğim).
Kitap, görünürde, gezi yazılarından oluşuyor. Ancak, gezilen yerler dekor değilse bile; ilginç, karmaşık zihinsel yolculukların bahanesi oluyor. Dyer, kendini ipe sapa gelmez, güvenilmez ve esrarkeş bir adam gibi sunsa da, aslında sanat tarihi ve yazın yönlerinden dopdolu. Esprili, daha doğrusu ironik bir yazış tarzı var; hayli ingiliz. Bunu kazıyınca, özde depresif değilse bile; nihilist, hiç değilse küskün denebilecek bir karakter çıkıyor ortaya… Serdar Turgut ile bir ortak noktası da var Dyer’ın: Pipisinden söz etmeyi seviyor!
Çeviri, kitabın havasına ve Dyer’ın tarzına çok uygun gibi görünüyor. İngilizce olan öteki kitabını okuduktan sonra, bu konuya yeniden dönebilirim. Kitabın İngilizce ve Türkçe adları arasındaki fark (uçurum!) aslında basit ve bir ölçüde mantıklı bir nedene dayanıyor: Her ikisi de, kitabı oluşturan onbir ayrı yazıdan birinin adı… Bu yazılar her ne kadar birbirinden ayrı ve bağımsız olarak okunabilir biçimde yazılmış (belki de öyle yayımlanmış) olsa da; kitap, yazılar arası göndermelerle dolu. Bu da, onu, bir yazılar toplamı olmanın ötesine götürüyor.
Kolay okunan bir kitap. Sizi nereye götürebileceği büyük ölçüde size bağlı. Uyar mı?