My amateurish translation of an excerpt from “The Atlas of Misty Continents” by Ihsan Oktay Anar
The day had long begun in Galata. The streets were filled with the saw-squeaks of the shipwrights, the rattles and clangs of the blacksmiths and pump workers, the yells of stallholders extolling their goods, and the cries of street peddlers which varied in pitch depending on the good being sold.
The elegy prayer from the Arap Mosque mixed in with the organ melodies rising from the church. Murmurs of bartering could be heard in the streets, houses and trading posts, of Genoan, Frankish, Jewish, Armenian, Greek merchants, Muslim and non-Muslim, from seventy-two nations total.
Janissaries, sailors and lowlives distilled ancestral curses to rid them of their last drops of courtesy, hurling them about as if they were a dime a dozen, and reaching for their curved blades to threaten each other. The wharf was filled with ships from the seven climes and four corners of the world.
Barrels of oil, wine, olives and gunpowder, and packages containing spices, ivory, manufactured goods, and an unimaginable array of other things were stacked on the docks, waiting to be hauled away by stick-wielding porters. This was a place where people of every nation and every caste co-existed — people of different temperament and language, but of singular intent.
A Persian shawl of a hundred and sixty Florins on his waist and the clank of lion-marked gold doubloons emanating from his pouch, a rich merchant on his horse bowed his head to avoid an arch, while a beggar with neither leg crawled around and pleaded for alms in the name of Allah.
Spanish pennies, Venetian Ducats, Ottoman Kurush, lion-doubloons, Zlotys, coppers and farthings were counted on trays and filled in pouches, the pouches collected in sacks, the sacks placed in gargantuan chests, and the poor souls bearing the chests were paid a few pennies each, because this was Galata, where the authority of the Sultan was superseded by that of money.