The project, “Sea Elephant Travel Agency” is based on one of the novels of Jules Verne. The title is “Kéraban-le-Têtu” in French, the English title is “Keraban the Inflexible”. The novel starts from Istanbul and goes all around the Black Sea and ends in Istanbul. It’s a less known novel of Jules Verne but it’s quiet interesting.
The story is about Keraban, a Turkish tobacco merchant living in Istanbul. When Van Mitten, one of his agents from Rotterdam, arrives for a visit Kéraban invites him for a dinner in Üsküdar – a district on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus. When they go to the European shore they find that the fee for crossing the Bosphorus by boat has just changed. Despite the nominal charge Kéraban feels it unfair and decides to take his guest to dinner by traveling all along the Black Sea shore, until they reach Üsküdar.
The rest of the novel tells us the story of the journey of our two protagonists, Kéraban and Van Mitten, from Istanbul to Istanbul via Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia following the Black Sea belt, meeting many peoples and facing many adventures.
Hüseyin Alptekin: “The notion of distance is very important in the novel. The hero has no notion of distance. He just promised dinner to his guest and they just went all around the Black Sea and this distance is a extremely paradoxical notion when we look at the sense now. For me Bulgaria, Sofia is very far and Bucharest is very far for some reasons but going to Switzerland or coming to London is not far in terms of paper, in terms of visa, in terms of links, in terms of operation of the plane schedule. This is also the same for people who are in that constant migration and for who there are lots of borders and difficulties but they move and for them there is no notion of time. They just take a minibus from Istanbul and they are in Moldavia in 2 days 3 days. And if there’s somebody sick they take the person to Siberia to cure and there’s no notion of this distance and time. This is very very important in the novel- very important. That nomadism in relationship with time and space is strange and impossible to concieve when we try to understand the structure. Within the change of locality and the map of the movement, the mod of space becomes a fugitive reality between hospitality and hostility. The notion of guest, visitor, outsider, stranger changes within and through out the hospis. The notion of the mod of space is always omni-present in my works.”
This 2000 NTV interview with Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin describes Jules Verne’s “Kéraban the Inflexible”.