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Disregard for boundaries and a harmful connection.

I feign sleep

Yasemin lives in a high-rise housing estate.
Yasemin lives in a high-rise housing estate.

Disregard for boundaries and a harmful connection.

An instant connection is formed between Yasemin and Vito, both staring into each other's amber eyes. Their eyes meet one October morning years later and it's like an instant attraction, a love that Yasemin believes will save her from her life. But this is not the case. In her novel "I lie down tired," Deniz Ohde delves into the realm of a toxic relationship and the powerlessness felt by women.

The first chapter of the novel begins with the phrase "Yasemin was conceived out of a lack of will," a phrase that is repeated again and again throughout the book. Unwilling but too drunk, Yasemin's mother was taken advantage of by her husband. This relationship is supposed to be mended in the future, but it remains loveless and so does that of Yasemin with her mother.

A formative incident comes at age 14, when Yasemin slept over at her neighbor Lydia's house and awakens to Vito entering the room and slipping into bed with her. Lydia attempts to defend herself by stating "the child," but he refuses to let go. Yasemin's memories of this night are warped, as she feels she didn't even wake up despite being aware of the situation. In this moment, Yasemin feels "like a deer who is handed over from one hunter to another." A childhood of sexual assault is the foundation for Yasemin's future relationships.

During her youth and into her adult life, she endures numerous instances of violence that go unnoticed or unpunished. As a child, an orthopedic technician closes his hand on the base of her breast. "Behaviour: unremarkably friendly" is written in her medical file from when she developed a mild spinal curvature. On the bus, a stranger's hand lingers on her thigh, and Yasemin pretends to not be disturbed. For everything that has transpired, she blames herself, apologizes, even for things that are not her fault.

Saying Yes, Feeling Nothing

"Your words describe the situation, my feelings explain it," is the underlying concept of Deniz Ohde's new novel, "I lie down tired." A tempestuous and unsettling assault on how women are treated in society is threaded throughout. Ohde's debut, "Streulicht," won multiple awards in 2020. In this follow-up book, the focus is again on the life of a young woman as she deals with the many forms of psychological and physical violence endured by women, the accompanying guilt, and the shame all too often left unaddressed.

Growing up in a high-rise complex, the only reminders of childhood pastimes are the missing soccer netting and the basketball hoops for fear of them being destroyed. It's on the morning of January 11, seven weeks before her fourteenth birthday, when Yasemin catches a glimpse of Vito's amber eyes and falls on love, longing for salvation from her crumbling family life. She enjoys the attention and validation she craves from him, even when it's coupled with manipulation and humiliation.

Her subsequent marriage to a loving man named Hermann, who provides Yasemin with the safety and intimacy she desires, ends due to a subconscious but inexplicable desire to reconnect with Vito. When Yasemin was 13, Vito said, "You simply accept," which makes sense of her inability to say no to him despite her feelings of guilt and resentment.

Intertwining Motifs

Ohde artfully intertwines a multitude of metaphors and motifs in her story, however some may be perceived as too on-the-nose. One notable symbol is Yasemin's deformed spine after a riding accident, representing the inherent societal oppression of women. Unfortunately, her spine loses its stability in Yasemin's adult life when Vito reappears.

Furthermore, the title of the book, "I lie down tired," hints at her physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion brought on by feelings of guilt and powerlessness. In the end, it's a fortunate occurrence that saves Yasemin from meeting the same fate as her friend Imma, one of the countless women who fall victim to gender-based murders.

I encountered Vito as if he were an exposed dagger. I believed I was discovering a completely new existence through him, but what I truly desired was devastation.

Many sentences such as this one strike a chord with the audience. Ohde possesses an exceptional mastery of language and articulates women's powerlessness with fierce accuracy and strength. Ultimately, she grants her main character a spark of optimism: Yasemin gradually breaks free from her restraints.

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