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The South Atlantic Quarterly 102.2/3 (2003) 551-566
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The Public and the Private in the Modern Turkish Novel
In Lying Down to Die [Ölmeye Yatmak], Adalet Agaoglu's first novel, published in 1973, the protagonist Aysel, a university professor who has slept with her student and experienced a second bleeding of the hymen after many years of marriage, makes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek attempt at willing herself to die. In the anonymity of a hotel room and the nakedness of her body, Aysel tries to withdraw not only from the socially scripted roles and imposed identities she has so far assumed, but also from the discourses that have infected and inhibited her voice. It is in the course of this experiment that she has a dream worth quoting at length. Here it is:
I have found the most definitive formula to develop and save Turkey. I am in a place that resembles a wax museum. Two guards from Victorian England stand before a high gate. They don't move. Confidently, I walk through this gate. I seem to know that the guards will not stop me because they are made of wax. Having walked through the door, I find myself in a long and narrow hall. A long, narrow table is placed across the hall. And beyond the table [End Page 551] are a series of cloaked men with green faces. They, too, are motionless. But I am certain that right after I present my dissertation they will come to life. . . . Their green faces will go from pink to white as they cheer "Viva! Viva!" Atatürk will then kiss me on the forehead, I tell myself. He will point with the index finger of his right hand and just as he had said "Armies! Your first destination is the Mediterranean. Advance!" he will say: "Turkish nation! Your destination is to follow the road that this woman shows, advance!" . . . But, just as I am standing there before Atatürk and the other old professors, I find myself at ten years of age. . . . I worry about my outfit for they might think of me as a little coquette. . . . Lame, I try to run here and there. Dragging my lameness, I try to find something. At that moment, the head of the fox fur collar hanging around my neck comes to life. The mouth of the fox keeps biting my chin. I cannot talk. The fox's mouth prevents me from expressing myself. I try to shove it off, but it won't go. Then, as I struggle on the broken high heel of my shoe with the fox's head, Atatürk suddenly moves. He waves the leather glove he is holding in his left hand to my face. . . . His face looks as if he is blowing on the ashes of a furnace. As he blows, he keeps asking, "Where is your dissertation? Let us see your dissertaion. Show it." As I hold the fox's head with one hand, I search the pockets of my school uniform with the other. Then the huge volumes in the hands of the six green-eyed professors on my right and the six green-faced professors on my left turn out to be forks and knives. They all sit around the table. They beat with their knives and forks. "Bring your thesis! Bring your thesis!" And I am not aware that I have placed a whole pot of dolma [stuffed grape leaves] in front of them instead of my thesis. I suddenly realize that what I have put before them is not my thesis but a whole pot of dolma. I am very embarrassed, especially because I am in Atatürk's presence. But I cannot see Atatürk. The person I thought was Atatürk turns out to be a hunter. He is trying to shoot the fox around my neck. He is aiming at it with a hunter's gun. I try to say, "It is not a real...