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In a society enshrouded by a type of melancholy found only in Turkey, there is no feeling more pervasive than alienation. Like a low flying cloud, hüzun hangs over Turkey and fills even the brightest hopes of the Republic with a measure of gloom. Caused principally by a crisis of identity, alienation renders much of the population of Turkey detached from the political and social processes. Though Turkey was once a part of a great empire that spanned much of Europe and Asia, it is now a dwarf of its former self. It was once home to a great Islamic civilization whose culture flourished and spread to the ends of the earth, yet it is now an officially secular society devoid of religious inspiration. While these changes occurred many years ago, most Turks have not yet recovered. Just as the prisoner is separated from society, many modern Turks are separated from the very essence of historical and cultural Turkish identity.
As the voice of the people, art and literature can provide us with insight into the Turkish mind. They can help us understand the peculiarities of Turkishness and the effects of alienation on Turkish identity. According to Marxist philosopher Alan Wood, alienation “is to be forced to lead a life in which [one’s] nature has no opportunity to be fulfilled or actualized” (Wood 22). In his “Autobiography,” Turkish poet, Nazιm Hikmet laments upon lost opportunities in his life: “After the age of twenty-one I stopped going places most people go to: / Mosque, church, worship, synagogue, shrine” (Hikmet 325). Like many Turks of his era, Hikmet could not fully embrace his identity as a Turk. His own actions, from speaking out against injustice to inciting rebellion gave Turkish officials cause to imprison him a n...

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...any Turks hold the same regard for Turkey as Orhan Pamuk does for Istanbul: “For me it has always been a city of ruins and end-of-empire melancholy” (Pamuk 6).

Works Cited

Bilefsky, Dan and James Kanter. “Turks’ Bid To Join Europe Stalls on Cyprus and Rights, Officials Warn.” New York Times 8 Nov. 2006.

Hikmet, Nazιm, “Autobiography.” An Anthology of Turkish Literature. Ed. Kemal Silay. Bloomington, IN: Cem Publishing. 2006. 325-6.

Kinzer, Stephen. Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. 2001.

Pamuk, Orhan. Istanbul: Memories and the City. New York: Vintage Books. 2006.
Silay, Kemal, “Nazιm Hikmet Ran.” An Anthology of Turkish Literature. Ed. Kemal Silay. Bloomington, IN: Cem Publishing. 2006. 325-6.

Wood, Allen, “Alienation.” The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1995.

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