‘Transaction’ by Menekşe Toprak, translated from Turkish by İdil Aydoğan

“Her rage was fuelled even more after reading the short story the man had recommended[…] The detailed description of sex bordered on pornography, and the fact that the story was about a prostitute and her client drove her absolutely insane. She was furious at the man’s bravado, at the message he was sending, that he had intended to get her into bed that very same night, and the fact that she, knowing exactly his intentions, had almost gone all the way with the game.”

A young woman is in Istanbul on a short business trip. Influenced by the city’s reckless energy where anything goes, she accepts a dinner invitation from an older man she has met by chance that day at a conference. At dinner, one minute he’s affectionately brushing aside strands of her hair that have fallen on her forehead as if he were her older brother. The next minute, he’s openly making sexual references. Having noticed a John Updike book in her bag – a recent purchase – he recommends she reads one of the stories in it: ‘Transaction’. Going further, he invites her to his private flat, which he calls his hideout, to listen to it as an audiobook, boasting about how marvellously the story describes sexual desire. She thinks she has everything under control, yet as the evening progresses, she begins to lose her sense of boundaries and only ‘just’ manages to end the night on her own terms. Even so, after she returns to her home city, haunted by his erotic memory, she becomes obsessed with him. Toprak diligently explores the range of emotions – intimidation, fear, rage, depression, and lust – the young woman experiences in this game of seduction where eventually, switching the roles she becomes the pursuer.

Published in Istanbul in Women’s Short Stories, edited by Hande Öğüt, Milet Publishing, 2012

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