This article contains, first, an analysis of some of the work done to date on the Ottoman legacy in republican Turkey, and, second, a consideration of the moment of transition from Ottoman to Turkish history. It argues that while a range of approaches and issues have been raised regarding the memory of the Ottoman past in the Turkish national present, little attention has been paid in this discussion to the moment the Turkish national present came into being—the 1920s. A short story, “Bir guguklu satin azizliği” (“A Cuckoo Clock's Prank”), published in 1922, and a satirical play, titled, Deli (Mad), written in 1930, both by by Refik Halit Karay, an intellectual and journalist living in exile in Aleppo, serve as two points of entry into this decade. The plot of the play, in which a man falls into a coma two days before the restoration of the constitution in 1908 and wakes up in the republican Turkey of 1929, serves as an excellent opportunity, both for the play's author and for readers today, to consider the experience of transition from Ottoman past to Turkish national present from a new vantage point. The short story, about a tea party in 1922 Istanbul, betrays a similarly critical distance on a very different set of circumstances and serves as a foil to “Deli.” Karay's position was not only geographically outside the Turkish nation-state but it was also an elite view that was intellectually removed from the Kemalist project, both as it took shape in 1922 and at its apex in 1930.

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