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Review of The New Cultural Climate in Turkey: Essays on Repression and Return
Reading Nurdan Gurbilek's prose is like listening to a person you have just met and don't want to let go. She dazzles you with her account of cultural expression during the Turkish military dictatorship of the 1980's. How is it, she asks, that so much culture emerged in a time of political repression? In her answer she takes you to new shopping malls, talks to you about political dissent, describes new musical formations, stops in a cafe, and explains how literature portrays a belated condition. Gurbilek's vision is at once ethnographic and cosmopolitan, as she is able to reflect on the small metaphors of life while also referring to world literature and European philosophy. This is a Turkey alive and unadorned -- beyond the cliches of East and West, the veil and cappuccino, Islam and Pamuk. - Victoria Holbrook's translation sparkles like the morning rays falling on the Bosphorus.' - Prof Gregory Jusdanis, The Ohio State University 'In the The New Cultural Climate in Turkey, the literary and cultural critic Nurdan Gurbilek depicts an all-round picture of Turkey in the post-1980 era characterized by the latest military coup and its aftermath. From the exhibited corpse of a murdered pornography artist to the tamed and agonized picture of an anonymous child that decorates the walls of the Anatolian coffee houses, Gurbilek presents a gallery of portraits that reveal the cultural codes of a society that experienced-and is still experiencing-the impacts of a series of upheavals and radical transformations. Gurbilek's judicious and penetrating analysis illuminates the paradox of the emergence of diverse and multiple discourses in the midst of harsh, totalitarian measures put into effect by the military junta of the 1980 coup and its constitution designed to ensure the lasting surveillance of a militaristic regime. Her account of how, in the decades that followed that coup, Turkey discovered its own third worldA", its own self it had repressed to become modern-that is its Islamic face and its easternnessA" reads like an exemplary tale of the difficult road a nation must travel to attain political maturity. As Gurbilek shows how the voices of minorities, the emergence of an urban political culture, the demands of the politically oppressed, local beliefs, provincial tastes, and communitarian morals and manners surfaced to break apart the monolithic discourses that had prevailed since the founding of the Turkish Republic, she reads the works of the major Turkish novelists with new insights that highlight the hitherto unnnoticed points of subversiveness and resistance. She situates the Turkish novel within its own history and tradition at the same time as she explores its thematic correspondences and formal engagements with the western novel. Her skill in combining minute, analytic textual explication with erudite theoretical framing is sure to captivate a wide audience of scholar and student alike who are interested in Turkish literature.