COFFEE AND LITERATURE
Neither coffee nor the coffeehouse is the heart’s behest
The heart seeks friendship – coffee is a pretext
– Turkish, Anonymous
Yahya Kemal had enrolled in the ”Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques”. In fact, the whole Quartier was like an open, free university. Conversations about art and literature could be heard everywhere, as if they were snacks served with the coffee. Literary plays were performed in almost every theatre, almost every newspaper printed literary leading articles, there were papers devoted to literature, theatre and art, and many famous writers held literary conferences. Almost every coffeehouse had a famous writer or artist as a regular customer; at almost all of them, the gathering of specific customers felt like academic symposia.
- Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar, Paris’te Yahya Kemal (Yahya Kemal in Paris)
Well that’s about it: you never considered getting rich nor surrendering to the will of fate, nor anything else. You now know that all your dreams – even the wilder dreams of your youth – were nothing more than the aroma of coffee drifting out of some coffeehouse in a tiny neighbourhood.
- Demir Özlü, Gezintiler II (Excursions II)
Among the many good and bad things that we inherited from the Turks – who should be seen as the fathers of modern Greeks – is coffee; the famous Turkish Coffee. We should immediately point out that most of the Greek words kafes [kahve] (coffee), kafenes [kahvehane] (coffeehouse), kafecis [kahveci] (coffeehouse owner), tabis [tâbi] (subordinate), yedeki [yedek] (spare), briki [ibrik] (ewer), flincani [fincan] (coffee cup), delves [telve] (coffee grounds), kavurdistri [kavurucu] (parcher), kaymaki [kaymak] (cream), cezves [cezve] (coffeepot), theryaklis [tiryaki] (addict) have Turkish roots.
- Elias Petropoulos, Turkish Coffee in Greece
You have to stop by Aux Deux Magots in the early morning: coffee, a croissant, another coffee. A little ahead of you, before your opium has kicked in, will be an old American woman writing a letter. Could it be that she knew Fitzgerald or Gertrude Stein? Suddenly the roaring 20s come to mind: the years of Hemingway, Djuna Barnes, Joyce. In actual fact, they are more associated with ”tea”.
- Enis Batur, Kediler Krallara Bakabilir (Cats Can Look At Kings)
COFFEE (café). Clears the mind – Only the coffee from Le Havre is good. – At an important meal, it should be drunk standing. – It is cool to drink coffee without sugar; it gives the impression that you have lived in the East.
- Gustave Flaubert, Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues (Dictionary of Received Ideas)
Turks wearing salwar pantaloons, tabards, and fezes; Turks with wide foreheads, thick eyebrows and thick napes; Turks with long silver watch chains, their wide knees splayed to the sides, seated on little stools, their hookah pipes set up, sipping with great, deep pleasure from large cups.
A tiny, dishevelled apprentice coffeehouse waiter with rolled up sleeves, an apron at his waist and wearing a fez deftly beats out some warbling melody with the two ends of the tongs in his hand: he wanders about exclaiming ”The lords are coming.”
- Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar, Hayattan Sayfalar (Pages From Life)
A café terrace is more fun than any open-air theatre you can think of. It is the first step towards that stage of form on which we can believe that we are all free, famous, and loved, or at the very least at peace with the rest of the world.
- Léon-Paul Fargue, Poisons
When he isn’t painting his boat, Niko is drinking rakı, Niko goes silent. It’s his silence that covers the tables. Those whitewashed, uneven walls are his loneliness. A ship he bought from a shop in Constanza stands right next to the samovar. This picture is from Piraeus, these shellfish are from Batum. These nets poured tons of fish onto the shore. Niko blends his coffee with the screaming seagulls of old summers, with the swordfish and octopi which escaped harpoon and the hottest suns. Sea-scorpions still dwell in the depths.
- Oktay Rifat, Niko’nun Kahvesi (Niko’s Coffee)
In the hours around sunset, I always find myself at the quay by Tophane, in front of a coffeehouse, sitting in the open air – it was an eastern tradition to watch people coming and going, to watch the night begin to fall… The divans lined up in the open air slowly fill with people of all races dressed in all the varied costumes of the East, without discrimination. The waiters seem rushed off their feet, rushing hither and thither as they serve little cups of coffee, rakı, sugar and leather cups containing the coals for the hookahs’ fire; the most leisurely hours of the evening are about to begin, the hookahs take flame and the air is filled with the lovely smell of smoke rising from golden yellow cigarettes.”
- Pierre Loti, İstanbul
I like coffee houses. An old man has donned his spectacles. Another is furious about some customer who won’t give up the newspaper. Two old men are playing dominos, like kids. Three other people are wrapped up in some political discussion that would never even occur to you. What a fuss people can make about some little item in the news that you wouldn’t even have noticed, honestly! Then, suddenly, you find yourself caught up listening to a man talking about how he would wipe out the black market. At first his ideas sound ridiculous. Later, you’ll tell yourself; ”That’s not such a bad idea after all.”
- Sait Faik Abasıyanık, Kıraathaneler (Coffeehouses)
Messeret Coffeehouse serves the whole of Istanbul. There isn’t a single man of letters who hasn’t sat there at least once. But coffee is associated more with journalists than literary types. Most of them come here to write their news and articles for the newspapers.
- Salâh Birsel, Kahveler Kitabı (The Book of Coffeehouses)
Hoca Kadri Efendi, a member of the Young Turk movement, spent his whole day at this coffeehouse [La Closerie des Lilas]. The poet Yahya Kemal Beyatlı used to say that he was a regular at that coffeehouse for 9 years during his student days. According to the metal plates on the tables, Lord Byron, Anatole France, André Gide and Lenin were also regulars. Yahya Kemal met a pre-revolutionary Lenin in this coffeehouse.