ABSTRACT

The coup is a dominant trope in Turkish literature. Not only is it a literary representation of recent Turkish history which witnessed military interventions into civilian politics in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997, the coup casts a shadow across all of Pamuk’s novels. It is variously treated as being revolutionary, apocalyptic, or both. Fed by conspiracy and ideological discourse, it is described and parodied in the plot by characters who must deal with it as a latent and manifest force of Turkish politics. As protagonists react to this exercise of state power, the coup leads to an unexpected outcome: acts of literary production. In Pamuk’s world, protagonists write against the coup to escape the confines that it imposes on self and society. Thus, writing becomes an act of redemption in the face of authoritarian rule. Parody is a dominant mode in which Pamuk treats the coup. Writing political parody allows Pamuk to transcend the existentialist nihilism wrought by the coup as it manifests as a symptom of secular modernity. The nihilist impasse is represented by suicide in the works of Yusuf Atılgan and Og˘uz Atay. Homo secularis is the term I have been articulating to describe the subject produced by regimes of secular nationalism and confined by its discourses. Homo secularis, continually faced with nihilism, must decide between the fate of a broken life, suicide, adopting

secularism as a faith, converting, or finding redemption through creative acts such as writing. For Pamuk, the fate of the writer manqué, a condition of homo secularis, is repeatedly overcome through the agency of the writing-subject. This chapter returns to the context of devlet and the conflicted relationship

between state and author with which this study began, focusing on a third mode of Pamuk’s dissident writing after the “historiographic” and the “archival”: political parody.3 By the time his first novel was published, Pamuk had experienced three military coups that purported to maintain a modern secular Turkey. Just as the excesses of Turkism and the Kemalist cultural revolution pushed early novelists to reassess the Ottoman past, so the political dysfunction of Republican coups forced Pamuk to seek literary alternatives that redefined “Turkishness.” Tropes of coup and conspiracy shape all of his novels. Pamuk’s first three novels are punctuated by military coups that are nevertheless excluded from explicit description in the plot. Cevdet Bey and Sons is set over a period marked by the Young Turk constitutional revolution (1908/9), the Bab-ı Âli Coup (1913), the abolishment of the Ottoman sultanate and establishment of the Republic (1922/3), and the first two Republican Cold War coups (1960 and 1971). The Silent House is set during polarization between right and left in the 1970s and ends just before the 1980 coup; likewise, The Black Book unfolds under the conspiracies of this impending coup. The White Castle begins in its wake. The New Life develops through the logic of Turkish conspiracy and counter-conspiracy. My Name is Red pits the Ottoman sultan against a conservative Islamic resurgence, and Snow, inspired by the 1997 coup, treats the Turkish “coup” as a melodrama all of its own. A total of seven times between 1908 and 1997, an average of once every

15 years, the military (whether late Ottoman or Turkish) intervened in the political process. Often, the rationale for intervention was construed as a leftist or an Islamic conspiracy against the political order.4 As a literary trope evoking devlet, the “coup” came to represent a paranoid re-enactment of the establishment of the nation-state and a metonym for cultural revolution.5

Pamuk repeatedly incorporates this trope in his fiction. In Pamuk’s world, the coup marks changes not only in political history, but also in literary modernity. For example, the 1980 military coup occurs between The Silent House and The White Castle. The faux “Preface” of The White Castle reveals that Darvınog˘lu has lost his job at the state university after leftist purges in the wake of the coup. It is due to the explicit effects of this coup that he returns to the Ottoman archive. The imposition of devlet authority through the coup causes Darvınog˘lu lose interest in history as a discipline (in both senses) and focus instead on the parable of an archival story he has unexpectedly discovered. He is able to respond to the reassertion of national secular authority through the coup textually, by translating and publishing a manuscript of hybrid and cosmopolitan authority: a narrative perspective shared mutually by an Ottoman Muslim and a Venetian Christian (see Chapter 3). Whereas Pamuk’s first three novels reference coups in order to stress the social alienation they produce, his fourth and fifth novels –The Black Book and The New

Life – turn coups into subjects of parody, recasting the logic of nationalism into forms of collective paranoia. This trope is further developed in Snow, where the coup becomes a farcical, second-rate performance with dire consequences. The New Life and Snow in particular are novels that develop the themes of political conspiracy and military coup, respectively. Pamuk’s novels describe conditions of intense alienation, much as Yusuf

Atılgan’s An Idle Man and Motherland Hotel do. These are novels that stress the alienation effect of modern secularism. Atılgan’s Motherland Hotel is one of existentialism and suicide. Og˘uz Atay’s Misfits sees the same situation parodically, offering the possibility of redemption through writing. Atılgan’s Motherland Hotel is a bleak, minimalist portrayal of pathological alienation that traces the routine of an anti-hero, Zebercet, who represents homo secularis. Zebercet is a hotel clerk in an Anatolian town. A night’s visit to the hotel by a mysterious woman fills him with obsessive fantasies. This leads to his act of murder and suicide. In contrast, Atay’s Misfits parodies the attempts of Republican intellectuals to belong to a socially engineered society fraught with coups and the ideological confinements of Turkism. Influenced by the generation of 1968 and the worldwide social protests that occurred in that year, Atay and his novel are testimonies to the need for social change, protest movements, and humanism in the face of state power. Though Atay could be associated with the anti-establishment New Left, Misfits was among the first Turkish novels to display features we now associate with metafiction. The plot focuses on Turgut Özben, a character who researches the suicide of his friend Selim Is¸ık. As he does so, he begins to distance himself from his customary routine and associations, accepting that he, too, is a “misfit” to the ironic degree that his marginalized voice provides an indictment of Turkish modernity. Pamuk situates himself in relation to these authors by using Atay’s parodic mode to update Yusuf Atılgan’s fiction of existentialism. Pamuk’s development of two main tropes of devlet – coup and conspiracy – demonstrates that they can be transformative vehicles of literary innovation.