Faces of Republican Turkey: Beyond the Modernization Hypothesis
Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu and The Republican Imagination: the Novels Yaban and AnkaraMehmet Arısan
The paper deals with a particular literary representation of the republican transformation in Turkey that mainly focuses on its first decades. Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu can be defined as one of the most ardent supporters of Turkish Republicanism, however his literary narrative is by no means in clear support for it. For the most part, it gives away the contradictory and self-negating aspects of Turkish (Kemalist) Republican discourse that claims to be a thoroughly modernist one. In the novels that he wrote about the war of independence and the foundation of the new republic, he surprisingly reflects a sense of radical disappointment rather than a sense of glory. It is a narrative of “complaint, frustration and discontent” rather than a celebration of Turkish republicanism and nationalism. As it can be discerned from a careful analysis of his novels, what marks this frustration and discontent is a strong desire for a somewhat transcendental and all-encompassing power, which he could never define or name properly.
Being accepted as an intellectual and political forerunner of the Turkish Republican transformation as well as being a leading figure of the secular western oriented modernizing elite, his elusiveness in articulating a proper and well-defined modern nationalist identity and a clear republican-revolutionary ideology marks Yakup Kadri Karaosmaoğlu as one of the most significant examples in detecting the internal paradoxes and vague points in the making of a modern nationalist identity. Furthermore his narrative constitutes a very good example of how the western oriented intelligentsia at the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the early republican era was haunted by the fantasy of an imperial glory. This may well be related to a transcendental and all-encompassing perception of political power, which can be defined as the most enduring and effective remains of the Imperial imagination that still continues to haunt the Turkish “Republic” in various ways.