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The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City
Asked what he liked most about Ankara, the poet Yahya Kemal replied, ‘Returning to Istanbul.’ However unfair to Ankara, the reply conjures up Istanbul’s special place in the minds of Turks and non-Turks alike. Located in both Europe and Asia, with a current population estimated at 17 million (‘Istanbul, the Queen of Cities’ 2016), divided by the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, Istanbul’s geographical situation suggests the brassage de peuples which has characterized the city for much of its existence. For Western travellers from at least the sixteenth century onwards, the city has symbolized, variously, aesthetics, exoticism and/or sensuality, Oriental despotism, and the seclusion of women, functioning as Europe’s ‘Other’ (Said 1995) in terms of culture, government, and religion. The European Capital of Culture in 2010, today, with Turkey’s candidature for membership of the European Union seemingly eternally deferred, and Istanbul struggling to cope with the influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the city once again symbolizes the complex relationship between East and West. Moreover, the heavy-handed government reaction to the summer 2014 Gezi Park protest against the destruction of an Istanbul city park spiralled into countrywide demonstrations against the AKP (the ruling Justice and Development Party of Turkey [conservative]) government of Recep Tayyib Erdoğan, revealing Istanbul’s position on Turkey’s political fault line, just as the 1999 Izmit earthquake reminded us of Istanbul’s geological vulnerability. (Such heavy-handedness was more than repeated in the summer of 2016.) Nowhere is the complex relationship between Istanbul and literature or Istanbul as the meeting place of East and West more clearly dramatized than in the works of Orhan Pamuk, a writer who is controversial at home while being seen as the Turkish author abroad, although there are many other significant Turkish writers.
Published Version (Please cite this version)https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54911-2_36