Esther says she knows the reader will be curious what Shekure wrote in the letter. It is now evening, and Esther is at home in the Jewish Quarter with her husband, Nesim. She recalls that earlier that day, she was given a letter by Hayriye, and was shocked because she assumed it was for Hasan. She notes that Hasan is Shekure’s husband’s brother, who is also in love with Shekure. Esther was surprised to learn it was not for Hasan, but for Black. Esther is ashamed to admit that she read the letter; in it, Shekure tells Black that since he left, she got married and had two sons. She confesses that after Black’s outburst which caused him to leave Istanbul, it took her a long time to regain honor in Enishte’s eyes. As a result, she hopes Black doesn’t come to the house gain, and she returns a picture Black painted and gave to her along with the letter. Esther notes that some people will be confused how she, an “illiterate Jew,” can read. She explains that “a letter doesn’t communicate by words alone.”
Esther is a comic character, but she serves an important role in the novel. As a Jewish woman, she is an outsider to the group of Istanbulites that the novel depicts, and this perspective allows her to explain the narrative in a more holistic (if not objective) way than some of the other narrators. Furthermore, Esther is not only an outsider, but also a gossip, who loves to know as much as possible about other people’s lives. Indeed, Esther’s curiosity is so strong that it enables her to read Shekure’s letter despite claiming to be illiterate. This detail suggests that reading is as much about being open to information as it is about literally reading.
Esther lists the ways in which the letter reveals information that have nothing to do with the words Shekure wrote. The way the letter is sent to Black via Esther, the way it is folded, the smell of the letter, and the enclosed painting (which depicts Shirin and Hüsrev) all contradict Shekure’s claim that she wants Black to stop coming to Enishte’s house. Esther explains that often, illiterate women who receive love letters will ask someone to read the letter for them, asking the reader to repeat the letter so many times that by the end they both have memorized it. Some of the letter-readers are cruel, and will treat the letter like it belongs to them and not give it back to the addressee. In these circumstances, Esther sometimes intervenes to get the letter back.
Although the connection is not made explicitly, Esther’s reflection about reading is also relevant to the novel’s exploration of ideas about creation and representation. The question of how a reader gains meaning from a letter is similar, after all, to the question of how a viewer gains meaning from a painting. In both cases, meaning is not entirely dictated by the creator of the letter or painting, but rather produced through the interpretation of the reader or viewer.