I get into the police car with four officers from the Anti-Terrorism Branch. They are taking me to the prison.
When the car moves, one of the policemen says, ‘I read your novel, Cheating.’
I am surprised: ‘You did?’
Among my books, it is the one which received the harshest reviews; provoked the most anger, the most vilification. Despite all this criticism, it sold over half a million copies.
I don’t remember now exactly what it was that critics didn’t like in that book in which I told the story of a woman cheating on her husband.
The scene that I remember in relation to that novel is quite different to the story’s subject.
I live in a neighbourhood where the old Ottoman pashas’ mansions with their sprawling grounds have been transformed into large flats with small front gardens in which one can still find bitter orange, pomegranate and plum trees as well as rose beds from the past. The grandchildren of those old pashas still reside in these apartment buildings.
The streets of this neighbourhood are quiet and peaceful.
I used to take walks on those streets.
During one of my walks, shortly after Cheating had been published, I ran into three ladies chatting just outside a garden.
Three old ladies. One could tell from their simple elegance, from the brooches custom made for them by jewellers from long ago and whose value only a trained eye would spot, from the single row of pearls around their necks, and from their neatly arranged silver hair and their proud grace that they had spent their youthful years in those mansions.
When they saw me, they turned towards me and blocked my way.
We stood facing each other.
A quizzical, sinful smile was on their faces. They came closer.
Laughing gently, one of them said:
‘How come you know about all that?’
Addressed to a novelist who has told the story of a two-timing woman, this question and the manner in which it was posed amounted to a certain confession, even a partnership in crime.
No charm on earth perhaps is rarer and more provocative than coquettishness wrapped in elegance.
For a few minutes, we savoured that confession, then we parted.
I never forgot those ladies.
The question the policemen taking me to the prison asked repeatedly was quite different:
‘Do women really cheat like that?’
There wouldn’t be many people whose answer to the question ‘who is more naïve – old ladies from the long-gone mansions or the cops of the Anti-Terrorism Branch?’ would be ‘the cops’.
But I can definitely tell you that, when it comes to the subject of women, the police are the more naïve.