TRUE JOURNEY IS RETURN — GOZO AND SAGRE

Welcome! As promised, I’m here to celebrate my 250th post with you. Many thanks to people who give my posts a chance even though I constantly feel like I’m lacking. In truth, I meant to celebrate my 200th post, but while I was busy thinking about what to write about, I noticed I passed the mark.

When I tweeted about having no idea about how to celebrate, iniksbane suggested I could write about the anime/manga community here in Turkey. This is something I’d be happy to read about myself since I have no idea what’s going on as well. I seldom mingle with IRL fans and usually keep it to myself and my close friend circles. I remember going to 2 or 3 cons back in the day but went solely to promote the kendo club I was a member of. Nevertheless, writing about something that came out in Turkey and is infused with Middle Eastern culture seemed like a great idea. I decided to talk about a magnificent graphic novel that I enjoyed. Since I hardly think it’ll get translated into English, I thought you wouldn’t mind spoilers.

Before I dive into a detailed summary, I wanted to clarify something. I couldn’t find an exact word for ‘seyyah’. At first, I thought of pilgrims, but as far as I’m concerned pilgrimage has something to do with religion/belief. Or at least, that’s the connotation. People who are seyyahs, not only travel but also record local customs about anything and everything that catches their attention, make sociological observations, and these travelogues not only are an excellent documentation of social and political life during that time but also reflect how a certain culture is seen from another’s perspective as writing cannot be completely devoid of its author. 

Travelogues were a common literary genre in the Medieval Middle East literature and one of the important contributions is Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname, with a whopping 10 volumes and is still the most cited work by historians. I looked at the destinations he’s traveled to and wow, my man’s been to places. Additionally, in this graphic novel, seyyahs travel from one library to another to copy books/documents to enrich libraries as a whole. They function as distributors of knowledge as well. In the end, I decided to use ‘traveler’ for an easier read but wanted to point out that these people aren’t merely traveling. If you do know a word that could correspond to seyyah, please let me know in the comments!

On a land named Odriya, a man sits day after day on a giant rock at the center of the city. Sagre is already deemed ‘useless’ by the townsfolk because he doesn’t contribute to anything. What can he do, he just doesn’t feel like it! He recently has one thing on his mind, though; that woman he came across the other night when she was sitting by the fire all alone. Overhearing she might already have someone she’s interested in discourages Sagre a little, but if what she looks for in a partner is someone who’s seen “the land where the sun rises”, then that’s what he’s going to become: A traveler.

He scurries over to the city library to consult Napuzar, an esteemed teacher and librarian of Odriya. I said consult, but little of Napuzar’s words or inquiries reach Sagre’s ears as he’s alrHe scurries over to the city library to consult Napuzar, an esteemed teacher and librarian of Odriya. I said consult, but little of Napuzar’s words or inquiries reach Sagre’s ears as he’s already certain he’ll make a fine traveler. Doesn’t matter if he can only read a little, or the farthest he traveled is the woods. Napuzar tells him that he’s free to come back to study and prepare to become a traveler once he gets permission from the wise Mother Okra. That’s what Sagre does, but sitting in the library all day and reading one book after another doesn’t sit well with his short attention span.

Napuzar, in response to Sagre saying he’s the smartest and most agile travel he’ll see: I’ve never come across someone who’d admit they’re stupid anyway… What do you plan to achieve with becoming a traveler?
Sagre: You’ll be benefiting from my knowledge, what more do you want?
Napuzar: …
Sagre: ….
“I didn’t know what to do. I can’t decide on my own.”

In the meantime, Yelkovan arrives at the Odriya library. She is known as the best of the travelers, who’s seen or read most of the things there is to explore and is known to be either on the road or holed up in one of the seven city’s libraries. She immediately asks to see Napuzar alone, as she came across a hidden library in Caborya and stole a book. Stealing from libraries is a grave breach, but Yelkovan is desperate because the contents of the book are too shocking for her to handle alone. The world as a whole obeys the Murka Law, which deems every living being equal and forbids killing another. That means no inequal rulers or the killing of animals has been banned for a long time. However, according to the book, animals are secretly being killed in Caborya. And the rest of the cities need this to hold Caborya accountable.

I’m guessing you see what’s to come. Sagre is so bored out of his mind in the library that he decides he did enough studying and needs to explore already. Then he grabs a book, THE book, that’s casually lying on Napuzar’s desk, packing up and making his way out of the city. Soon after Napuzar connects the dots, he urges Yelkovan and Morev, another traveler, to accompany her, to immediately go after Sagre and seize it.

Yelkovan: If he didn’t stray from the course, it wouldn’t take long for me to find him. When do I leave?
Napuzar: At sunrise.

From there on, it’s Sagre and his overconfidence that puts him in dangerous and From there on, it’s Sagre and his overconfidence that puts him in dangerous and unexpected predicaments, his meeting with Gozo, a being that’s only visible to Sagre. Gozo is silent, as he is an all-knowing being who chooses to stay so, and a bird called Ude explains Gozo’s behavior when needed. We also discover the truth behind Caborya and how Dazar, a librarian similar to Napuzar, has become a tyrant ruling the city, slaughtered animals, and accumulated wealth. One imprisoned animal turned mad in the process and now wreaks havoc when it comes across a city. The great dilemma Odriya faces: not having the physical means to peacefully stop this wild beast called Zendar and not willing to break their long-obeyed law of not killing animals either. Sagre, once stepping out into the world, immediately forgetting why he wanted to travel in the first place and immersing himself in the excitement. And the final reveal being Zarabel, the woman Sagre saw at the rooftop, actually being the lover of Yelkovan.

Gozo and Sagre by Uğur Erbaş is a fairytale-like story with great world-building and impeccable visual storytelling. And it’s pretty funny, too. While the narration is written in a poetic manner, we also see Sagre making smart-ass comebacks with his bass-boosted confidence. Or at one point in the story, Yelkovan and Morev encounter the mad beast Zendar and have to separate from each other. The next morning, Yelkovan comes back to the woods yelling his companion’s name worriedly. Hearing him struggling, she follows his voice only to find him… taking his morning dump and for a while traveling together becomes awkward. The graphic novel manages to tell a grand story but stays human at the same time and this delicate balance is preserved throughout the story.

Me: !

Another interesting bit I’d like to point out is the concept of love in the Islamic and Sufist context, which we call ashk in Turkish. Love plays a central role both in the belief itself and in its philosophy, hence the word ashk is used not only in a romantic/friendship/familial context but in a broader sense. It is a concept that transcends and doesn’t discriminate between the everyday and sacred, hence it is believed that all beings come to life because God loves them, and equally deserve mercy, compassion, care, and attention. The ashk one feels and the beauty one sees encapsulates the world itself, its habitants, your beloved, and the God. 

So when I said Sagre falls in love with Zarabel and sets out to become a traveler for her sake but things change once he steps foot into the unknown, it’s not to mean Sagre is quick to change or his feelings have no substance. Sure, he’s a fella who’s full of himself and quite self-centered. However, his journey and meeting with Gozo, thus his enlightenment and finding God if I were to make a blunt analogy, could be read as a type of love that’s everchanging. Both Sagre’s transformation and Murka laws has roots in the Islamic concept of ashk. 

I could nitpick about certain small details but honestly, I finished the whole graphic novel in one sitting. I enjoyed its unique art style and lively color palettes, laughed out loud at certain points, and came to care about all of its flawed yet charming characters. I hope it was fun reading as much as I enjoyed writing the post, and as always, thank you for giving my posts a read. See you around!

If it’s your first time visiting my blog, you can click on the image below to find ways on how to connect with me ~

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