ozgur_mumcu_turkish_coverThe Peace Machine
by Özgür Mumcu

English: Pushkin Press
German: btb-Random House in a pre-empt
Italian: Bompiani
Spanish: Catedral in a pre-empt
Catalan: Catedral in a pre-empt

The Peace Machine is set in the early 1900s before the outbreak of World War I, a period of time when people believed that humanity had reached its zenith. At the beginning of the book, an orphan named Celal is caught stealing a loaf of bread from a merchant, who locks him up in his cellar. Celal manages to escape and eventually he finds work at a slaughterhouse. The owner of the slaughterhouse wants to buy a hundred bulls for the Festival of the Sacrifice, but an inexperienced telegraph operator accidentally places the order for a thousand bulls. After selling everything in his possession, the cattle trader buys up all of the bulls he can find and sets off to deliver them to the slaughterhouse in Istanbul. When he doesn’t pay the shepherds, however, they abandon the herd and it takes over the city streets. Just as one of the bulls is about to trample a well-dressed man to death, Celal steps in and knocks the bull to the ground with a single blow. The man, whose name is Arif Bey, turns out to be an aristocrat from the province of Manisa. Out of gratitude, he decides to adopt Celal, who grows up as a prince on Arif Bey’s manor. Years earlier, Arif Bey’s wife had been killed in an accident, and although Celal brings cheer to his home, once again Arif Bey succumbs to melancholy. Unable to bear the loss of his wife, he commits suicide. Celal comes into a large inheritance but in the meantime he has been engaged in a unique occupation: writing erotic French novels which people have to read on the sly because they’re illegal.

After losing a rigged duel, Celal is forced to leave Istanbul and he has nowhere else to go except France, where his friend Jean lives. When he arrives at the port in France, he is informed by the commissioner of police that Jean has been killed. The commissioner knows that Celal is a writer so he gives Celal a manuscript which his friend had written in the hope that Celal will read it over. The manuscript turns out to be a play which consists of a dialogue between Arif Bey and Monsieur Pierre. In the play, Monsieur Pierre asks Arif Bey for help so that he can create a peace machine which will put an end to all wars. He explains that good and evil resonate in different ways in the human soul and that those waves of electricity are affected by magnetism; he claims that since the nearby mountains are magnetic, the spiritual resonance of the local population is quite easy to detect, making it possible to take measurements of the waves and create a machine that will guide people towards peace.

Celal travels to Marseilles and goes to the printing house that publishes his books. There he meets Sahir, who was raised by Monsieur Pierre. Sahir had been present during Arif Bey and Monsieur Pierre’s discussions about how to create the peace machine and he has all of the records of their experiments and measurements, as well as their sketches. Celal then meets Céline, Monsieur Pierre’s beautiful daughter who happens to be the illustrator for the erotic novels that he writes, and Celal falls in love with her. Sahir tells Celal that a war is about to break out which will shake the entire world to its foundations, and he says that the first step in achieving everlasting peace is for governance to be taken over by the people so that they can decide for themselves about their futures. Sahir and Céline offer Celal a job at a circus as part of a plan to bring about a revolution, and Celal accepts on the condition that they tell him what happened to Jean. The plan involves Celal playing the part of a strongman at a circus in Serbia and also taking on the identity of Petar Jovanovich, a Serbian military officer. By infiltrating the Serbian army, he will help start the revolution. In Serbia, Celal meets up with Dragan, a love-stricken lieutenant, and then he meets Apis and the other revolutionaries who seek to dethrone the king and queen. Apis is aware of Sahir’s plan and knows that Celal isn’t really a Serbian officer. Celal and Céline meet up with the aim of setting their plan into action, and around this time Celal finds out that Jean is still alive. Jean tells Celal that Sahir has been working for him as a gunrunner and that Sahir had planned everything out: the duel that Celal lost and his journey to Marseilles, and the fact that they all ended up coming together. Jean tells them that they are going to activate the peace machine during the first performance put on by the circus. Sahir, however, is not included in the plan. At the circus, the revolutionaries carry out a massacre in which the king and queen are murdered, and then they select their own king. Celal is devastated when he realizes that he’s been tricked.
Just when Celal, Céline and Jean are about to turn on the peace machine, Sahir suddenly appears. He tells them that the machine won’t work but he says that peace can be achieved through the power of human thought and freewill. He also warns them that if they turn the machine on, it will drive everyone insane. However, they don’t heed his warning. When the machine is switched on, all of humanity falls into a deep sleep and when everyone wakes up, they are whistling the same melody—because they all had the same dream. At the end of the book, Céline checks to make sure that the peace machine is running and then she starts making a recording, beginning by saying that she had a dream the night before…