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For the Media Release:

Light Millennium Proudly Present
On the Changes of 1970-80 in the
Turkish NOVEL

The Postmodern and Pre-Postmodern Connections between the Study* "Is the Novel Summer's End  Pre-Postmodern?" and  The Narrow Times** Trilogy

Presentation by

The lecture series with Adalet AGAOGLU will mark the 5th Anniversary of the Light MIllennium...

Dear Light Millennium Members and Dear Guests,

Thank you for inviting me to take part, as a Turkish author, in the 5th anniversary celebrations of Light Millennium. I accepted this invitation under difficult conditions. However, I had been informed about the previous activities of Light Millennium. I learned that the organization was based on the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution about the freedom of speech and ideas. As a direct consequence of this (principle), there was a need for scientists, writers, artists who would produce ideas through arts, philosophy, history, geography all over the world, who would express the meanings of their works and their views,  for the millenniums after the two thousands; and an environment had to be provided for them to know and understand each other. The path of cooperating against terror and war could pass through knowing different cultures. In fact, it had to pass through knowing other cultures. The organization's mission is spreading the light, providing peace for the purpose of expressing ideas freely.

But, as someone writing in Turkish, on what familiarity with my works could I count on, in talking about my works, their structure and contents (in a forum such as this)? As long as my works didn't have the chance of being read, would they have the opportunity of being translated? Spurred on by contemporary politics one or two of my works have had this opportunity: I have been translated into Slovak, Bulgarian, German, but I have been translated into English, which is a lot more widely spoken, only once and by an Englishman who was close to, who had an affinity for "universal culture": My novel, Uc Bes Kisi  in Turkish, was published under the title Curfew  in the U.S. Of course, its English was adapted to  "American English."

Let me not drag this on any longer: Since my English is not completely adequate, from where could I start to talk about and make some references to the spirit of narrowness, constriction, tightness that is the main impetus (provocation)  for my books to be created in the way they are? (Right here, I'd like to explain this: I am a  member of a generation who has lived through three military coups, has struggled with various obstacles and censorships, and has written only in its mother tongue. As Rollo May had said in his book The Courage to Create: "The best problem for the creative person is constriction, it is to be confined on a narrow threshold." The constriction I faced is not just caused by military coups; the narrow limits of traditional narration, its self-enclosure upon itself has goaded me to flee and escape from a classical narrative structure , to throw off its shrunken shirt, to search for multi-dimensional narration forms) It is, to an extent,  possible to establish a dialogue with those who have read what I have been writing in the course of these searches of mine. But, in a different cultural milieu where I am not known, and that I almost don't know myself, a milieu which is especially not familiar with the 80- year old transformation of the Turkish Republic from east to west , was it possible to say: "I exist, I'm here""?

Apparently, it is possible to say this. In fact, I'm told, meeting and getting to know each other is done this way the best!  A meeting that takes place outside of politics, but is as current as the market and marketing: A meeting that is enabled by research and academic questioning.

A little after I got an invitation from Light Millennium , I went to Holland for the introductory campaign of my novel Summer's End which was being planned to be translated into and published in Dutch. The day I arrived, I found another invitation awaiting me at my hotel. "Could I  attend a workshop on my novel Summer's End  to be held by Leiden University's Eastern and Turkish Language-Literature Department at such and such a date, during the time I was there?" Amsterdam was close to Leiden, the date was suitable, and my publisher was willing to take me there; why not?

And here is the study that Dr. Petra de Bruijn* presented in which she discussed the results she reached after evaluating page by page the findings of her students's research in determining  the "postmodern elements" in Summer's End. . The people who attended that workshop were students, the Dean of the Faculty, a Sociology Professor, and even more interestingly, the Turkish Ambassador to Holland. It is a study which is the answer to this interesting question: "Is Adalet Agaoglu's novel, Summer's End, a pre-postmodern novel?"

I am full of excitement. Because, at a time when postmodern narration has become widespread, while I was  feeling sad for being "unnoticed"  in this sense, I had become "known" at an unknown place, furthermore, at a home of literary science. I had been recognized as a novelist who had "taken on the mantle" of an avant-garde postmodern style, at a time when this kind of narrative had not  yet taken taken hold of literature. (I think the paper's abstract has been distributed to the audience.)

If this novel is published in English with a translation by Figen Bingul who has previously translated my short story "Rabia's Return"  --successfully in my opinion, and furthermore, by evaluating its relationship to Halide Edip Adivar's novel The Clown and His Daughter (Sinekli Bakkal) from which this story originates--, I don't know if those who will read this translation will share in the surprise "discovery" in Leiden. Summer's End,  which was published in 1980, is, in fact, the point where my trilogy Narrow Times  had brought me. The narrative style I created there had nothing to do with my being influenced by postmodernism or a craving on my part to be attuned to the narrative fashions of the time. My trilogy's first novel Lying Down to Die,  is the first result of my search to liberate the Turkish novel from its constrictions. In this novel, making use of a variety of verb conjugations as different echoes of time, I used all types of narrations such as the "the first person" narration, "third person" narration, letter, poem, dream, play, memoir and inner talk; I instinctively  established such an entirety of "carnivalesque" fiction by myself. This novel which was published in 1973 was followed by the other books of the trilogy, as well as by my other novels. In each one, I dealt with the deficiencies that I saw in the previous one. I made what I learned from each book into a guide for the following one. The Leiden University study states that "the postmodern elements exist in her other novels. too." It is possible that such a result may have been caused by my dissatisfaction with what I have already done, by my desire to create new narrative excitements and by my delight of the journey of the search . The truth is that, it was my desire to pull the Turkish novel toward a place different from before, both in terms of fiction and in terms of the representation of the 'individual" which was defined by social, historical, economic conditions . My dream of finding a place outside of and beyond what's given, what's been accustomed to...

How strange it is! This search of mine was supported first by my readers, then by academics of literature.  Before "March 12"   (the military coup in 1971) novels, the dominant genre was the village novel, popular in Turkey between the 1950's and 1970's. I have never accepted "March 12" to be a "novel genre", but novels and stories dealing with the coup replaced the village novel. Both are traditional  representations: One of the fallout from the coup, the other of the problems in the rural areas. (Meanwhile) Turkey is changing rapidly; the peasants are migrating either to Germany or France in worker status, or to big cities of the country. Those who have been deprived of their personal rights because of the military coup are in  prison and they are writing their experiences; those who could go abroad have been carrying the load of the coup on their shoulders; and this is becoming the personal history of these individuals. Just because they were published after March 12th , some literary critics have had the tendency of situating my novels in this category. This is wrong.

Following the September 12th coup (military coup in 1980), a "new generation" literature,  is born out of forced silence and silencing (caused by the coup). The works in this  literary trend are divorced from political and social realities, but are very much under the influence of the American novel of the time, which is both directed to the consumers and works toward conditioning them. This is a literary trend of becoming independent of  social and political problems, that is, a literary trend of irresponsibility. Works of this kind enacted a leap to an artificial "postmodern"  narrative without passing through the experience of "modern" literature. It is an escape by the author from a confrontation with himself/herself. This is the laziness (fostered by)  computers and the Internet.

These fluctuations and an everpresent inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West have caused issues of literary search and coming to terms with literature as well as the questions of enriching the mother tongue, and to opening  it up to wider ideas and narrative concepts out of consideration. I have learned that there was a greater inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West  than I could have known, both  through writing and living. If you have written a different and highly literary book surpassing popular taste, it must mean that you have been influenced- not by a native, but by a foreign author, that is, if you have not stolen from him. It is not the provenance of especially a native "woman author" to deal with the contribution of intertextuality  to literature, with the ways of getting rid of the God-like"omniscient author" who knows everything, to question and remedy the deficiencies in what had been done before, etc.

If you allow me, I would like to finish my speech on a fun note by giving a few examples of these. But before that, let me explain right away: I do not recognize an author category such as  a "woman author" and I think  that to accept this, is to already accept from the beginning  a "second class" status even for the consciousness and magic of the act of  writing.  I believe that we can better claim our human rights by giving back to male authors  "the women" they created in their works .

And I wish that the examples that I will be giving on the "Western syndrome" of my country will be evaluated from this perspective (of claiming rights). When Lying Down to Die  was published and it was liked by readers, I started hearing of whispers of  " Oh, that novel, it's Faulkner's, don't you know!" It turns out that he had a novel called As I Lay Dying. I looked for and found the book right away; I couldn't find a single similarity except for the experience of reading a good novel. Summer's End  was published; clearly to compliment my writing, they said: "Aaah, how lovely, exactly like Virginia Woolf!"  "Like The Waves . " This gave me the opportunity of getting acquainted with Woolf. I challenged myself to find a blood relation between two novels; I couldn't..

A Wedding Night  was published in 1979. It got the reaction:" What daring novel both in terms of narrative and content!" It was announced to be plagiarized from Huxley;  then, at the time,  it was understood that I had broken the taboos that could never be broken; because a previously published novel of mine had been banned and collected at the time of the 1980 coup, and this newest one had been referred to the public prosecutor.

And now I don't know to which lower class I will be thrown, for sharing these kinds of things with foreigners. But the most recent real praise that I have received is that, in my trilogy, I have been extremely influenced by Samuel Beckett's trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable. (These are works that were not translated into my language at those times.) In this last discovery, there is a technical mistake, but the study is well-intentioned. A comparative study of a valued professor at the literature department of one of our universities: The positive contribution of intertexuality to literature; the view point that the narratives would become enriched by these interactions. Let me say, with embarrassment, that I still have not been able to read Malone Dies  which was the alleged inspiration for my Lying Down to Die  in the Narrow Times,  as is the case with the other two plays of S. Beckett,  whom I know by his play Waiting for Godot  and love to the level adoration. However, with this comparison, I am sure that they want to praise me and declare my value. I still ask: When will I be only myself as a writer from Turkey?

A nice answer came to this questioning I was going through on my own. As I have learned from a study completed in the Comparative Literature Department at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, my novel A Wedding Night  has been compared to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; and they have found out that I have introduced some narrative dimensions missing in Woolf's narrative. So, under the influence of the sacred magic of narration, I have gotten even not only with Faulkner, Huxley and Samuel Beckett, but also with the inferiority complex of my country vis-a-vis the West

In any case, Ottoman culture and literature are somewhat known in the Western world, but Turkish Republican literature is almost unknown. As for me, I think that the societies whose people are not known would not be understood at all. Because all metamorphoses first condition and change the human being, and because  the main responsibility of literature and arts is the human being.

Translated by: Figen BINGÜL
Special Thanks to
: Prof. Sibel EROL

--For the Media Release of the lecture series>

"On the Changes of 1970- 80 in the Turkish Novel" by Adalet AGAOGLU was written originally in Turkish for her lectures which organized by Light Millennium, Inc. - A Charitable Public Benefit organization & incollaboration with the Division of Humanitites and the Program in Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies Imperatore School of Sciences and Arts at Stevens Institute of Technology; and also TSA (Turkish Student Association), Turkish Initiative, Turkish Center @ MEALAC (Middle Eastern Asian Languages and Cultures); MEI (Middle East Institute) at Columbia University on May 4 in Hoboken and May 5, 2005 in New York City.

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