Turkish novelists have often contested the authoritarian tendencies of the republican state. Orhan Pamuk was charged with insulting Turkishness in 2005, emphasizing a long-standing opposition between author and state as well as between literature and secularism. Though Pamuk's trial gave him the status of dissident, it simultaneously ignored the formal innovations and political transgressions of his novels. This essay traces confrontations between Turkish literary modernity and secular modern state power in Pamuk's work and the Turkish novel. Such an analysis reveals that narratives of the nation-state (devlet), bound to the secularization thesis, have often been contested by Ottoman, Islamic, and Sufi contexts (signifying din). I argue that the unresolved opposition between the secular, material narratives of devlet and the sacred, redemptive narratives of din is productive of the modern Turkish novel and defines its literary modernity. Thus, Pamuk's dissidence also resides in modes of writing that contest the nation form and revise the secularization thesis through new representations of Turkish historiography, Istanbul cosmopolitanism, the Ottoman archive, political parody, and secular Sufism. Such literature that confronts representations of devlet with those of din constitutes the “secular blasphemies” that define the politics of the Turkish novel.
Erdağ Göknar; Secular Blasphemies: Orhan Pamuk and the Turkish Novel. Novel 1 August 2012; 45 (2): 301–326. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1573985
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