Turkey Culture and Literature


The last decades of the twentieth century marked a curious parable for Turkey, in which both the extraordinary adventure in modernity and secularism started by Muṣṭafâ Kemâl Atatürk and a sort of reconversion to the values ​​of more traditional Islam were accomplished. Turkish culture lives on two often indistinguishable souls, one more spiritually akin to the shared values ​​of the Western tradition, one more rooted in the history of a people who for the great majority still live in isolated rural districts and who have discovered that they can get out of oral traditions. only when the spelling reform of the 1920s also endowed the Turkish language with an alphabet of Latin origin. In fact, until the reform of Atatürk, Turkish culture, and with it literature, legends, theater and traditional songs, either they were transmitted using the Arabic alphabet, known by a small minority, or they were spread only orally and were therefore closely linked to the identity of agricultural or pastoral communities. According to Dentistrymyth, Turkish literature discovered that it had a readership of a certain consistency only in the twentieth century, with the spread of literacy, and was also often linked either to reformist and social themes, or to traditional epic and legendary themes. Nor has the relative censorship imposed by the Kemalist regime helped theater, poetry and fiction to address themes and sensibilities in tune with similar manifestations of European and Western culture. Turkish culture therefore emerged from a certain international isolation towards the eighties of the twentieth century, the moment in which both the cinema and the literature of a “new” Turkey have imposed themselves on the European scene; in recent years, however, many prestigious Turkish intellectuals, little inclined to share the religious imprint of the government, have confirmed their choice to live in other European countries, such as France, England or Italy itself. For this reason, many of the leading figures of Turkish culture, from art to literature, from cinema to dance, are permanently transplanted into other national realities, while maintaining a constant relationship with the homeland of their origins. The international attention that Turkey began to enjoy towards the end of the twentieth century also translated into the work of UNESCO to safeguard some of the major archaeological sites in Turkey – 13 -, nominated as a World Heritage Site, among which at least the entire historical area of ​​İstanbul (since 1985), the majestic sculptures in the living rock of Nemrut Dağmust be mentioned(1987) the archaeological site of ancient Troy (1998) and the severe medieval mosque of Divriği, in Anatolia (1985).), the cultural landscape of Diyarbakir fortress and Hevsel gardens (2015) and the ruins of Ephesus (2015). Turkey in recent years, between the end of Kemalism and the advent of a pro-Islamic government, has seen the birth of a certain ideological opposition within cultural processing centers such as universities: even in centers with a European vocation such as universities from Ankara (Bilkent University) and İstanbul (Bogazici University), groups of students have been created that are more linked to Islamic values ​​or open to connection with the Turkic-speaking populations of Central Asia. The most prestigious universities are those of İstanbul (15th century), of the Bosphorus in İstanbul (1863), of the Aegean in Izmir (1955), of Ankara (1946), Adana (1973), Konya (1975), Bursa (1975), Kayseri (1978). The Middle East Technical Universities of Ankara (1956) and İstanbul (1773) are also highly rated.


The literary landscape of Turkey is dominated by writers of different political and literary tendencies: Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889-1974), a master of the environmental novel, the writer Khalide Edip Adïvar (1883-1964), who addressed in his works psychological and social problems, in particular that of women’s emancipation, the social poet Mehmed Akif (1873-1936), the neoclassical Kemāl Beyatli (1884-1958), the symbolist Ahmet Haṣim (1885-1933) and the essayist Refik Halid Karay (1888-1965), a master of humor and political satire. The powerful personality of Ziyā Gök Alp stands out above all(1875-1924), theorist of Turkish nationalism. Together with the storyteller Ömer Seyfeddin (1884-1920), Gök Alp promoted the emancipation of the Turkish language from foreign influence and encouraged the use of spoken Turkish in fiction works and a return to ancient Turkish forms and meters in poetry. This address was followed by many writers including the romantic poet Nafiz Camlibel (1898-1975), the novelist Rešād Nūrī Güntekin (1889-1956), the great Marxist poet Nazım Hikmet (1902-1963), author of a poetic work avant-garde in form (he was the first to adopt the free verse) and in decidedly revolutionary content. Turkish literature of the fifties and sixties of the century. XX testifies to an unprecedented awareness of the political and social reality. First of all, the end of İstanbul’s absolute hegemony in cultural life; hence the awareness of the very serious problems to be faced and solved urgently. The so-called “village literature” is born, which sees numerous writers devote their energies to denouncing the problems connected with internal migration, with the phenomenon of urbanization, industrialization, land reform. Among the authors we remember: Ilhan Tarus (1907-1967), Kemal Tahir (1910-1973), Kemal Bilbasar (1910-1983), Orhan Kemal (1914-1970), Talip Apaydïn (b.1926), Fakir Baykurt (1929-1999) and, above all, Yasar Kemal (b.1922), whose novels, translated into numerous languages, reconstruct a fascinating fresco of the tales and legends of Turkey of the past. Among the most committed writers are Füruzan (b.1935) and Latife Tekin (b.1957), author of a touching novel dedicated to the position of women in Turkish, rural and traditionalist society, Cara shameless death, a debut work that opened a passionate debate in Turkey when it first appeared (1983). The recent international success has highlighted above all authors such as the refined Orhan Pamuk (b.1952), a writer never loved by either the military heirs of Kemal or by the current Islamic rulers, tried for having alluded to the massacre of Armenians in the novel. Neve(2004), or like the visionary Nedim Gürsel (b.1951), author of Return to the Balkans, who for decades moved to Paris, who continue the research already started by the older Yasar Kemal, underlining the contradictions and limits of Turkish society suspended between Islam and decades of military authoritarianism.

Turkey Culture