ABSTRACT

This chapter re-examines the Republican literary field as a cultural space defined by intersections of secularism and Sufism. Various iterations of “secular Sufism” occur in the modern Turkish novel.3 Rather than arguing, along with the secularization thesis, that society moves from religion to secularism and modernity, the texts under consideration in this study reveal that tropes of religion, mysticism, redemption, and grace are not only present in ostensibly secular Turkish literature, but are also formative forces of political critique. The Black Book establishes that mystical thought occurs even about

material things and even in existential contexts. The hüzün Pamuk describes in all his work, but specifically in his memoir on Istanbul, might be termed a mystical melancholy that emerges from existential angst. Hüzün is a symptom of being between din and devlet, in a state of yearning (for the beloved, authorship or both). The Museum of Innocence, what Tanpınar would call “a novel of objects,” demonstrates that the assembly of material things in a collection is a result of unrequited (Sufi) love that can serve to re-establish that same mysticism. Pamuk’s novels argue that there is a hidden symmetry or center to his work (and to Turkish literature writ large) (Pamuk 2010). This

symmetry can be traced in the manifestations of a spectrum of relations between din and devlet, including: (1) the political and cultural authority of temporal (secular) and spiritual (sacred) power; (2) redemptive secularism (as in certain narratives of Turkish modernity); (3) mystical materiality (what Tanpınar calls the “Exaltation of Es¸ya”); or (4) secularized religiosity (as in understandings of Muslim “Turkishness” recast as a civic site of identity). Discrepant iterations such as these are present in Pamuk’s work, where they exist in a state of paradox without closure or resolution. This chapter describes the last major mode of Pamuk’s dissident writing,

which establishes the antimony of the secular-sacred through combined tropes of din and devlet. Intertextual allusions to the literature and history of mystical Islam enable the re-enchantment of secularized texts through what I have been calling “secular Sufism.” As one literary articulation of Islam and state, secular Sufism is a theme that appears early in the Turkish novel and can be traced through close readings in almost every period of its development. It is found in the works of Halide Edib, Tanpınar, Nâzım Hikmet, Yas¸ar Kemal – and is a palpable absence in the existentialism of Atılgan and Atay. Pamuk, in addition to adapting the form of the Sufi quest that equates the “seeker” with the “sought,” makes specific, extended reference to important historical Sufi figures from Rumi and Ibn Arabi, to S¸eyh Galip and Fazlallah Astarabadi. The emergence of these themes out of the dilemmas of everyday Istanbul life begins in The White Castle and reappears as a structural and thematic element in all of his later novels.4