Peyami Safa'nın romanlarında modernleşme ve mekân
Aksoy, Süreyya Elif
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Peyami Safa (1899-1961), via his literary œuvre, also through his newspaper essays and research, had been a major contributor to the main arguments of Turkish conservative thought. His focus was on the tension between modernity and tradition. This study analyzes 11 novels of Peyami Safa, representative of each period in his novel writing, with a wiew to finding out the relations between the fictional places and the line of thought centering around modernization and the East-West question. The novels that are subject to scrutiny are as follows: Sözde Kızlar (The So-Called Girls, 1923), Şimşek (Lightning, 1923), Mahşer (Doomsday, 1924), Bir Akşamdı (It was a Night, 1924), Cânân (Cânan, 1925), Dokuzuncu Hariciye Koğuşu (Ninth Ward of Exterior Diseases, 1930), Fatih-Harbiye (Fatih-Harbiye, 1931), Bir Tereddüdün Romanı (The Novel of a Hesitation, 1933), Biz Đnsanlar (We Human Beings, 1959), Matmazel Noraliya’nın Koltuğu (The Armchair of Mademoiselle Noraliya, 1949) ve Yalnızız (We are Alone, 1951). In these novels, Safa views materialism, ardent pursuit of material gain and the satisfaction of sensual desires as the consequences of modernity and strongly condemns them. The study, carried on with the help of two research tools, namely “social space”, and “everyday life”, revealed that, urban places are depicted as the battle-ground for modern and traditional spaces. Modern urban spaces are presented as a threat to local culture and morality, whereas traditional spaces are subject to a Romantic idealization mechanism. However, in this binary opposition, Safa does not target the West as a totality, but aims at pointing to the specific ill consequences of modernity instead. To draw the line between the two, he insists on resting his arguments upon the anti-modernity arguments produced in the West itself, and he proposes a spiritual cooperation between Christianity and Islam against the materialistic inclinations of modernity. Hence, Safa questions the rhetoric of the “East-West opposition” and argues that the main conflict is between modernity and tradition, matter and spirit. Another insight is that, Safa’s transition from being an ardent supporter of modernization in the 1930s, towards functioning as the spokesman for tradition and religion in the 1950s, as well as the underlying conservative trait of his ideas, can be traced in his novels as well his essays and research. Despite his serious criticism against the consequences of modernity as experienced in the city and against the misconception and misinterpretation of modernity in certain circles, Peyami Safa does not totally exclude modernity from his universe. He rather displays an awareness about the features of modern city life, which enables modernity to pervade existence and to bring modernity and tradition into contact. The connection and communication between these two spaces are made possible mainly by modern transportation vehicles, such as cars and trams, as well as key characters who move in both modern and traditional spaces with equal effectiveness. So, in Safa’s fictional environment, modernity and tradition interact. Modernity transforms people’s perception and becomes an essential component of existence. Thus, the study suggests that Safa’s attention is not only on the opposition between East and West, or tradition and modernity, but on the relations between the two. This result is also supported by his conservative line of thought, found in his essays and non-fictional books, which clearly reveals his search for an ideal composition of preferable parts of the old and new, a position which makes him comparable to British conservative thought, as well as linking him to the postTanzimat (Reformation) Ottoman sentiments against rapid modernization, in the 19th century.