Elegant Effendi is now a corpse lying in the bottom of the well, but no one knows this except the murderer who killed him. He has been missing for 4 days, and his wife and children are distraught. Before his death, Elegant was the best illuminator in the Sultan’s workshop and earned 900 silver coins per month. He worked on manuscripts because the Sultan paid highly for it. Elegant acknowledges that the reader must be interested in the afterlife, and he explains that his narration is proof that another world exists. He has yet to see Heaven, but this is to be expected. The fact that his body remains unburied causes his soul great distress, and he recalls with horror the moment when the murderer sneaked up and smashed his skull with a rock. He clung to life, but as soon as he began to die he was overcome with a feeling of relief.
The opening of the novel provides a twist on the conventions of the thriller genre. To some extent, the setup is familiar: a crime has just taken place, and we learn some details about the identity of the victim but not the murderer. However in this case, the victim is narrating from beyond the grave, a fact that introduces the surreal and supernatural elements of the novel. Elegant’s perspective from the afterlife also introduces the themes of religion and moral ambiguity. Elegant is in the afterlife, but it remains unclear whether he will get to heaven.
Elegant is not upset about his death, but he is concerned that people still think he is alive. He longs for people to catch the murderer and torture him slowly; until then, Elegant will not be able to rest. He warns that his murder is part of a broader “conspiracy” against Islam and its traditions, which was foretold by the Hoja of Erzurum. Elegant admits that when he was a young apprentice, he was dismissive of “truths and voices from beyond,” and now he has ended up dead. He hopes his body rots quickly, so people will be able to find him by the smell.
Clearly, Elegant believes that his perspective as someone speaking from the afterlife will confer authority to his words. In contrast to his younger self, Elegant now takes seriously the concerns of religion and tradition. However, the exact issue Elegant is discussing remains unclear. Overall, the main purpose of this opening passage is to build up a sinister atmosphere of mystery and suspense.