A Review of Faruk Ulay's Terra Infirma
Norman Lock

Faruk Ulay's ninety-nine terse propositions combine in Terra Infirma to produce a remarkable document, whose elusive purpose seems to us to describe a universe of radical disjunction and astonishment. In some of these, elegant statements of perception confront us with the minutiae of beauty and brutality. In others, false syllogisms startle and disturb us. Ulay succeeds by creating on the page a universe as dazzling, mysterious, and dangerous as any of the products of the Surrealists.
His intention is other than to make a unified fiction, much less a story; but Terra Infirma contains in its austere form vestiges of narrative perhaps of a journey, whose veiled end we can discern with diffidence, uncertain of our capacity for reason in a landscape so apparently lacking in solidity. Let proposition 88 stand as epigraph: "He puts such a distance between himself and us that we're unable to know what he says. We do not know him. His unintelligible words are like a stranger signaling from afar."
Ulay has composed the original in Turkish. Knowing this adds, inevitably, a fillip to our appreciation of his starkly brilliant texts, which may exist in our minds only; for there is nothing, in its particulars, which localizes or, say, nationalizes Terra Infirma. Ulay is not, in this work, concerned with questions of travel or politics, although both are felt.
Ozlem Sensoy's translation, in its limpidity, must be said to succeed admirably in rendering Ulay's composition into English. The word composition is an apt description of Ulay's enterprise, in that he is also a graphic artist; one whose English would seem to be capable (in the correspondence I have had with him) of having produced the original work in his adopted tongue. One wonders if, like Beckett, Ulay is transmuting his inventions through the filter of translation, in order to effect some further magic. Knowing that Faruk Ulay is also a designer may explain the sureness of structure, elegance of expression, and freshness of imagery that conspire in the work under discussion.

Terra Infirma [2005] is now available from Triple Press.