Printer Friendly

Unsettling the Canon of the Theatre of the Absurd: Halide Edib's Masks or Souls? and Its Other Lives.

A few years prior to Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1959) and concomitant with the Paris premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (January 5, 1953), (1) a famous woman novelist, journalist, and feminist activist from Turkey, Halide Edib Adivar (1884-1964), (2) published an absurdist play in English, entitled Masks or Souls? (1953). (3) As Martin Esslin and other scholars started theorizing on the "Theatre of the Absurd," they explored only a Western European male canon of works, dismissing all other playwrights. Even though Halide Edib had written two versions in Turkish and published the work to be discussed in this article in English, because she was a Turkish woman playwright, her works did not receive much theoretical discussion in Turkey or in the Euro-American context prior to 2013. (4) In this essay, I problematize the Euro-male-centeredness of the early theories of the theatre of the absurd, while proffering new guidelines and trajectories for absurdist drama in the Turkish and European literary and dramatic canons. I argue further that European absurdist plays, with the additional example of Halide Edib's Masks or Souls?, should be analyzed for their political critique, unsettling claims that describe post-World War II absurdist theatre as apolitical. I start with an analysis of Halide Edib's works, which will be followed by an exploration of the various versions of Masks or Souls?, focusing particularly on the political content. In the last section, I provide new trajectories (within the European and Ottoman Turkish contexts) for studying absurdist drama and contextualizing the noncanonical Masks or Souls?

Aesthetics and Politics in Halide Edib's Works

The feminist, nationalist, and bilingual journalist, novelist, and playwright Halide Edib's works have not been studied systematically for their political content. Her works include twenty novels, a few of which were translated into a total of ten languages, a two-volume autobiography in English {Memoirs of Halide Edib and The Turkish Ordeal: The Further Memoirs of Halide Edib, respectively), scholarly works on history, politics, and Turkish culture (Turkey Faces West, Conflict of East and West in Turkey), a travelogue on India (Inside India), and countless articles and essays in journals and newspapers. (5)

Critics have often ignored her works on political history (Turkey Faces West, Inside India) and the history of culture (Conflict of East and West in Turkey) as well as the profound political repercussions of her fiction. As a young Ottoman woman writer, she was among the first women to discuss suffrage and the shortcomings of the Union and Progress Party (i.e. CUP, established in 1908) in a Utopia she wrote in 1912, entitled Yeni Turan (6) (New Turan). Her national romances, including Atesten Gomlek (The Shirt of Flame) and Vurun Kahpeye (Thrash the Whore), propagated the secular values of the Kuva-yi Milliye (National Army). (7) Her novel The Clown and His Daughter (1935) and its Turkish version Sinekli Bakkal (The Fly-infested Grocery Store, 1935) is critical of the rapid secularization processes of the early Republic. (8) Halide Edib was close to Unionist circles before she started criticizing the militant policies of a few of the Unionist (CUP) leaders in 1916. Halide Edib was also close to Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) (1881-1937) and to the Kuva-yi Milliye leaders during the Greco-Turkish War (9) (1919-1922) as she supported the Turkish struggle against the Greeks in Anatolia. After all opposition was silenced in 1925, she went into exile, and criticized the Kemalist regime in her works in English, including The Turkish Ordeal: Being the Further Memoirs of Halide Edib, Turkey Faces West: A Turkish View of Recent Changes and Their Origin, and Conflict of East and West in Turkey.

Between 1950 and 1954, Halide Edib was a member of parliament for the Democratic Party (10) (DP), during which time she published Masks or Souls? In her "Siyasi Vedaname" (Farewell to Politics), she described these years in Turkish politics as a period of utter disillusionment. (11) Hence, within the span of one year (1953-54), she published an absurdist play about her disappointments with politics across the Cold War divide and her farewell to active political life as a member of parliament in Turkey.

The Playwright Halide Edib

Halide Edib's history of playwriting was restricted to one other dramatic piece that she wrote in her early thirties, Kenan Cobanlari (The Shephards of Canaan), (12) which was significant in the history of women's involvement in Ottoman theatre as one of the first plays with a Muslim woman playwright and director and Muslim actresses onstage. (13) The first production was in the Unionist national club "Turk Ocagi" (Turkish Hearth) on March 31, 1916. (14)

After the Lebanese composer Wadih Sabra (1876-1952) wrote a libretto for the play, Kenan Cobanlari was performed thirteen times as an opera in Syria. (15) The play-turned-opera was based on the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers and could be analyzed as a political allegory of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The popularity of the play

as well as its content as political allegory needs further research. (16) If several sources are historically accurate, because she performed in the lead role as the female protagonist in the adaptation of her novel Yeni Turan at the Turk Ocagi (Turkish Hearth), Halide Edib might also be one of the first Muslim actresses in the Ottoman Empire to appear onstage. (17)

Even though Halide Edib conceptualized ideas for Masks or Souls? in the early 1920s, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, (18) the first reference to Masks or Souls? is cited in the introduction (by Mushirul Hasan) to Halide Edib's Inside India. Hasan mentions how Halide Edib and Mahatma Gandhi exchanged ideas on January 9, 1935 during Halide Edib's visit to India. As early as 1935, Halide Edib mentions having written a play in English, entitled Masques and Souls. During their conversation on the relationship between mechanization in India and violence, she exclaims to the Mahatma that she would like to "prepare a nursery of souls." (19) In 1937, it seems that when Halide Edib first published Maskeli Ruhlar: Fantezi, Abdulhak Hdmid'in Ruhuna Ithaf (20) (Souls with Masks: Fantasy Play, Tribute to Abdulhak Hamid's Soul) in serial form, she translated the original work in English into Turkish. Apparently, this English version from 1935 was never published. Halide Edib was not even aware of which genre would best fit her work in Turkish and called Maskeli Ruhlar a "fantasy play," (21) a genre close to surrealism.

The Early Lives of Masks or Souls?: Maskeli Ruhlar and Maske ve Ruh

The early Turkish versions of Masks or Souls? (i.e. Maskeli Ruhlar and Maske ve Ruh) could be categorized under "surrealism" more so than "absurdist drama." (22) The serialized version Maskeli Ruhlar was published with slight modifications as Maske ve Ruh (Mask and Soul) in book form in 1945 and finally the play was rewritten and published in English as Masks or Souls? (23) in 1953. The "fantasy play" dated 1945 rests on a schism between East/West mapped onto the soul/material divide. It is noteworthy that this is not the first instance where Halide Edib reproduces stereotypes that need to be unsettled. In Conflict of East and West in Turkey and Turkey Faces West, she reproduces the same East/West schisms that she problematizes in the texts. In Maske ve Ruh, the protagonists, the thirteenth-century populist philosopher Nasreddin Hoca (24) and William Shakespeare, meet in afterlife and discuss the conditions for returning back to earth. Every society on earth seems to be going through a disease of mechanization, homogenization, eradicating all creativity, subjectivity, individuality, and freedom of thought. The settings change between earth and the afterworld, and the cities on earth include Nasreddin Hoca's hometown Aksehir, London, and Kalopatya, a fictional city of machines and robots.

In Masks or Souls?, the East seems to have some degree of "soul" which in the context of the play, might be interpreted as the realm of creativity, the unique mark of the individual, and subjecthood/subjectivity. However the attempts of leaders such as Bay Timur (Mr. Timur) at further "progress" seems to eradicate such differences and ultimately lead to automaton-like societies across the East/West divide.

An important dimension of the plot is metempsychosis. Animals metempsychose into human beings, and many spirits from different centuries change bodies to take their places on the scene of politics in the twentieth century. For instance, the spirit of Timurlenk metamorphoses into the body of Bay Timur (Mr. Timur), representing Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Nasreddin Hoca metempsychoses into the body of the young diplomat Nasir Cebe (Turkish Ambassador in London). (25) The play employs visual images and cinematographic techniques onstage to illustrate metempsychosis from animal to human being and from one character to another. (26) Bay Timur sends Sekispir (i.e., Shakespeare after metempsychosis) and Nasir (i.e., post-metempsychosis Nasreddin Hoca) to the dystopic city Kalopatya, the city of machines and robots. All are alike in Kalopatya, as its culture prevents free thought.

The differences in the various versions of Masks or Souls? illustrate not only the change in the target audience (from a Turkish-speaking reading public in Turkey to an English-speaking reading public in the United States) but also the historical and political context and variations. For instance, in Maske ve Ruh, Kalopatya exists as a city of machines and robots. The Turkish ambassador (sefaret baskant) wants to send Nasir to Kalopatya as a means of getting to know the wonders of this city for their own enlightenment. In the meantime, we learn from Sekispir that Kalopatya has become a model for all countries. (27)

In Masks or Souls? however, Kalopatya has been omitted entirely Whereas Maske ve Ruh has an optimistic ending with Nasreddin Hoca and Sekispir wanting to return to earth, the dystopic last scene in Masks or Souls?, in which all characters have turned into robots, signals that Kalopatya in Maske ve Ruh has taken over the entire world. In Masks or Souls?, if there is a city of robots, machines, and skyscrapers, that city is New York. Broadway is described in nightmarish terms, an Uncle Tom character complains about prevalent racisms, and Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson seem to be the only heroes (Masks or Souls?, 35), but they cannot solve the problems in the United States of the 1950s.

Further, Maske ve Ruh tries to illustrate the absurdity of the human condition and the failure of mechanization and robotization with rational arguments. This early version is similar to Esslin's evaluation of Camus and Sartre as being different from the absurdists because they make coherent arguments about the absurdity of human existence. (28) In the last scene of the play, the dialogue suggests the possibility that Sekispir and Hoca might return to earth to organize a soul revolution. At least, Sekispir's ability to appeal to audiences with a humanitarian mission and Hoca's didactic, satiric, and moralistic anecdotes have not yet become entirely meaningless. The possibility still exists that poet, playwright, and satirist carry the potential to communicate. (29) Published eight years after Maske ve Ruh, Masks or Souls? manifests a radical devaluation of language laden with the ideology of westernization, progress, nationalism, modernization, and mechanization, which have all become "absurd" by the 1950s as the Second World War period is being re-assessed and as post-totalitarian regimes are being established. The ending of Masks or Souls? is dystopic as the human element is entirely eradicated from the stage. As robots take over, language, parole (a la Saussure), and individual utterance become devoid of purpose. All regimes that are criticized in the play, including European fascisms, totalitarianism under Stalin or Hitler, post-totalitarian regimes, and Turkish dictatorships have robbed language of its meaning and have robbed the possibility of individuality (i.e., "parole"). In this version, Shakespeare's works make no sense, and his language becomes extinct and meaningless, as he gets accused by the state of "sedition." Nassir-eddin Hoja, on the other hand, was excommunicated for his political cartoons (124). Neither the playwright nor the satirist have the possibility of aesthetic, visual, or linguistic articulation; communication as well as hope for transformation is lost.


In contradistinction to the early versions in Turkish, Masks or Souls? is a scathing critique of the Fuhrer cult or the "One Man-god" (30) in the latter play (8). Maske ve Ruh refers to Bay Timur as having settled into the body of only one leader in the Turkish context, whereas in Masks or Souls?, Tamarlane metempscyhoses into Timur, a character embodying various twentieth-century European dictators, including Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. (31) These characters appear onstage in the "Introduction" to the main characters of the play. Presented as the modern versions of Tamarlane, "the Scythian shepherd whose armies rolled over the earth and crushed nations and turned hordes and hordes of men into dust," the modern versions shout "One Chief, One Nation, One World, One Man-god!" upon their first entry onto the stage. These versions are followed by Bay Timur, the dictator and Prime Minister of Turkey in the late twentieth century. He seems to be slightly different from his European counterparts in that he wants to "create a united world and a model regime where mankind will find peace. But he wants to do it without bloodshed and without the domination of a single personality" (8). The reader finds out in the following scenes of the play that Timur "dream[s] of bequeathing to poor deluded humanity a soul-less machinery of an absolute state which works for no one's benefit and which will establish peace both in the breasts of men and between nations" (84). Without the soul, there will be no thought, no controversy, no political difference, no conflict--only absolute obedience.

The projection of the fear of God onto the fear of the ruler is already echoed in the early scenes in Tamarlane's court:
Ibn-Khaldun, shocked: King, your fool has never felt the fear of Allah
in his little heart.
The Foot The fear of the king takes all the space that there is in
my little heart.
Tamarlane: That will do, Fool. (With a sinister smile) You think we
allow blasphemous talk in our court . . . that is not the case. We are
deeply of a religious nature. (29-30; suspension points in original)

In order to further elaborate on the Fuhrer cult, it is necessary to discuss the play's use of "spirit," which all Fuhrers are trying to eradicate from their subjects. Spirit in Maske ve Ruh seems to be, on the one hand, a composite of religion, belief, and the realm of the mystical; and, on the other, everything that is individual, such as psychology, rationality, logic, individual attributes, pleasures, etc.--everything that separates the spirit from the human being. In Masks or Souls?, spirit should be at the service of the Fuhrer cult. Each character, representing either white Americans (The White), or Germans (The Black), or the Soviets (The Red) discusses how the Fuhrer cult should be imposed.

The Heavenly League, a fictional projection of the "League of Nations" in heaven, cannot accommodate The Black or The Red (52). The Red needs to do away with the individual soul as a starting point.
The Red:. . . First by exterminating religion. Of course, we can always
tolerate a puppet Church which takes its cues from us. Second, by
destroying all the traces of the Past. Third, by exterminating all the
old culture which in its complexity has been responsible for creating
variety and for conditioning individuality in souls. (54)

The Black, on the other hand, speaking much like Adolf Hitler, has different proposals which define the characteristics of various Fuhrercults:
The Black: I can propose something better. We don't need to destroy
religion. Better leave it alone. But we will establish a
Fuhrer-worship, and we will make the youth of the world worship a
single and almighty Fuhrer. Don't worry, we can attribute to him any
credo, any dogma. (54)

Even though his name is not explicitly stated, from other clues in the play (for instance, the "Alphabet Reform," i.e. the transition from the Arabo-Persian script to the Latin alphabet that was instigated in 1928 [85]) the reader can easily surmise that in the Turkish context Tamarlane has metempsychosed into the figure of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) (1881-1938), the founder and first President of the Turkish Republic. However, the play does not suggest that the "one Man-god" in the German, Italian, and Turkish cases are historically or politically the same. The play rather problematizes their position within the "one-party" system and their relationship to their subjects (defined by cult-worship).

None of the analyses of the "one Man-God" in Masks or Souls? exist in the early versions of the play in Turkish. Considering that a law against defaming Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was passed in Turkey in 1951, it should not be surprising that this play was published in English in the United States and was neither translated into Turkish nor performed onstage in Turkey. Throughout the century, the play might have been considered a lese-majeste because of its critique of the Fuhrer cult in the Turkish context.

When Westernization Becomes Absurd: Theses on History and Language

During a time when attempts at westernization were deemed "rational" and "modern" and applauded by intellectuals in Turkey and Europe alike, Halide Edib used the term "absurd" in conjunction with "dictatorships" and a few superficial reforms instigated in Turkey during the 1920s and 1930s. In Turkey Faces West, detailing the reforms and developments that Turkey had gone through in the 1920s, she had defined "dictatorship" as a form of political rule that seemed to be in constant motion. This appearance of constant "doing" has no guarantee, according to Halide Edib, of leaving lasting changes or effects. The particular Kemalist reform she was criticizing in conjunction with the term "absurd" was the Hat Reform of 1925. Halide Edib criticizes the superficiality of imposing a certain dress on Turks with the assumption or promise that they will be civilized overnight immediately after changing their dress. She vehemently criticizes the violent means by which the reform was instigated, with punishments including hanging if Turkish citizens refused to don the hat. According to Halide Edib, this absurd reform received full attention and endorsement from Europeans:
The interesting fact connected with the substitution of the hat for the
Turkish fez is that it attracted the greatest attention in the western
world. Other more fundamental changes taking place in Turkey were
either entirely unnoticed, or criticized, or neglected as unimportant
items of foreign news in the western papers. But the moment the Turks
put hats on their heads the general cry in the West was, "At last the
Turks are civilized; they wear hats." (32)

In Masks or Souls?, a series of other "reforms" constitute the absurd, including script and language reforms of the late 1920s and 1930s that have made Ottoman practically incomprehensible and texts in the Arabo-Persian script illegible. The newspeak or new-write that defines the so-called "pure Turkish" is part and parcel of the absurd. In 1928, Latin phonetic orthography was adopted in lieu of the Arabo-Persian alphabet, and books and publications in the Arabo-Persian script were outlawed. (33) After the script change, the newly founded Turk Dili Tetkik Cemiyeti (Society for Research on the Turkish Language)--established in 1932 under the auspices of Mustafa Kemal and with the efforts of its head Specialist and Secretary General, Agop Dilacar (1895-1979), gradually changing its name to Turk Dil Kurumu (The Turkish Language Association)--led massive campaigns to replace the borrowings from non-Turkish languages: most predominantly Arabic and Persian, but also Greek, French, and Armenian loanwords, replacing them with "pure Turkish" newspeak. Jale Parla describes the linguistic engineering of the Turkish Language Association during the 1930s and 1940s as "constructing a new national identity based on a total embrace of Kemalist principles." (34) The purification campaign reached such heights that the reformers decided to backtrack in 1935 with the proposition of a theory called Gunes-Dil Teorisi (Sun-Language Theory), "a thesis that Turkish was the ur-language of all the other languages of the world." (35) Thus, the alphabet reform was accompanied by the language reform which included the "elimination of Arabic and Persian vocabulary from the Turkish language," making texts in the Ottoman script indecipherable to Turkish readers. As many scholars point out, "texts transcribed into the modern alphabet were altered [in line with the dictates of the new regime], with the consequence that the transcriptions failed to represent the original works."

It is noteworthy that the Alphabet and Language Reforms combined did not exclusively target literature or drama. In fact, the reforms were "meant to encompass all social and cultural practices, from bureaucratic correspondence to the language of education in secondary schools and universities." (36) According to the Turkish History Thesis,
the Turks were a white, Aryan people, originating in Central Asia, the
cradle of all human civilization. Owing to the progressive desiccation
of this area, the Turks had migrated in waves to various parts of Asia
and Africa, carrying the arts of civilization with them. Chinese,
Indian, and Middle Eastern civilizations had all been founded in this
way, the pioneers in the last named being the Sumerians and Hittites,
who were both Turkic peoples. Anatolia had thus been a Turkish land
since antiquity." (37)

Together with the tenets of the History Thesis, the series of reforms related to language went beyond linguistic purification to encompass an attempt to obliterate "a recent past too complicated, complex, and heterogenous to deal with and evoke a distant past whose glorious resurrection would be achieved by the reclamation of a lost tongue." (38) So these theories entailed ahistoricizing history, or a putsch in history studies a la Etienne Copeaux (39) and an invention of a new national history, with "collective memories of heroic deeds, membership in a superior 'race,' possession of an Ursprache or a Grundsprache, and construction of a national linguistics." (40)

Both the Turkish History Thesis and the "Sun Language Theory" were intricately connected not only to each other but to racial anthropology and theories of race that were prominent in Europe in the 1930s (including Arthur Gobineau's "Theory of Races" (41) ). Both theories aimed to claim racial superiority for the "Turk" in the hierarchy of races.
In 1935, the "Sun Language Theory," which asserted that all the
languages in the Eurasian continent were derived from the Turkic, came
as a perfect cap to the edifice of the "Turkish History thesis." The
Sun Language Theory appeared rather late in a debate on the origin of
language that had fascinated Europe in the middle of the 19 (th)
century, but official turkology found in it a new tool, with methods
and discoveries even more disputable than those of the Turkish History
Thesis. (42)

Prior to her allusion to the Alphabet Reform in Masks or Souls?, Halide Edib had critically engaged with the way the Alphabet Reform was instigated in previous works in English. Her early analyses underscore the abruptness of the implementation and the lack of experts to enable the process:
The time allowed for the change [of script] was absurdly short. . . .
The martial way it was rushed into effect, the martial orders given for
the time limit by a mentality which was purely that of a staff officer,
indicated a lack of understanding of the most far-reaching change ever
carried through in modern Turkish history. (suspension points in
original; emphasis added)

Commenting on how young generations will be like strangers to their own culture and to the past, Halide Edib continues in the same chapter:
Without a past, without a memory of the accumulated beauty in the
national consciousness, there will be a certain crudeness, a lowering
of aesthetic standards. If the change had been brought about in fifteen
years instead of five months, with enough experts to work it out, with
enough funds to edit the essential works of Turkish culture in Latin
letters, these drawbacks would have been infinitely reduced.

She adds that "the introduction of the Latin alphabet was the last reform to be carried through under the dictatorial regime." (43)

In Conflict of East and West in Turkey, a book consisting of a series of lectures she delivered on her tour of India in 1935, Halide Edib is even more critical of linguistic engineering in the Turkish context. Her list of the negative effects of the reform is far longer than her list of the few advantages that she paraphrases from arguments made by leading Kemalists (the new script is easier to teach, one may surpass the domination of Arabic and Persian culture, etc.). In her arguments regarding the negative effects of the script change, she lists that "cultural unity with the West cannot be attained just by a change of script, but rather by a realisation of the common sources of human culture." Further, "the spread of literacy is not an absolute end in itself, for an increase in the number of those who can merely read is not an increase in the number of educated people." Also, "it is not desirable for us to disown the Persian and Arabic influences in our culture; we have neither been Persianised nor Arabicized by them." Lastly, "it is by no means desirable to cut adrift the coming generations from the Ottoman past. Our real roots are in the Ottoman culture. Without them we will be second-hand Europeans." (44)

Introduced to the public as a reform that would secure Turkey's move toward westernization, through the switch to the Latin alphabet from the Arabo-Persian script in 1928 and the purification of the Turkish language with the elimination of Arabic and Persian borrowings, the language and alphabet reform in Masks or Souls? is, in Orwellian fashion, likened to an ideological coup. Through the Language Reform, history is constructed and written anew, and all liberal thoughts are prohibited:
Timur. We have already done it here. No one can read the old things. We
have changed the script and refrained from putting the old into the new
as much as we could. Our past culture lies in dusty collections of
museums. . . . Twenty years of leisure and hard work won't suffice to
decipher it. No mind has useless curiosities on the eve of the
twenty-first century. . . . We control all thought, we even write the
history we want to teach according to our own whims. (84-85)

In the aftermath of the language reform, it becomes rather difficult to express oneself; history as a concept becomes absurd. Subjects are no longer connected to their own history, they lose their sense of belonging or past, their control over the alphabet, writing, and reading is lost, and they lose their ability to think.

Masks or Souls? connects the "catastrophic success" (45) of the Language Reform in its methods of obliterating the past with the Turkish History Thesis, as the latter becomes the subject of satire:
Ahmet Nasir: You talk as if we were nothing but a group of savages
aping modern people. We are the originators of all civilisations!
Fathers of all civilised nations!
Sabire: I know, Adam was a Turk! (76)

Timur Bey analyses the Turkish History Thesis as an anesthetic or a fairytale narrated to children that can easily put masses to sleep:
Timur.... Time to obliterate the past. Old nations with historic pasts
sleep under the dust while the young ones inherit the future. (84)

One of the main characters in the play who distances himself from the reforms is Timur Bey. His attitude falls in line with what Margaret Canovan calls Hannah Arendt's concept of the "hierarchy of cynicism." In her Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt discusses how the cynicism in the ideology of totalitarian regimes is specific to the peak of the pyramid in the hierarchical ladder of organization. In Arendt's description of this particular hierarchy of cynicism, "those further in toward the inner layers of the movement know better than to be taken in by the official line fed to ordinary members." (46) So in the instance of this play, as Timur discusses Kemalist reforms we are reminded of the rhetorical questions that Canovan asks borrowing conceptual frameworks from Arendt: did Stalin purely believe in Marxism, or Hitler in Nazism? In Masks or Souls?, Timur finds neither the Language Reform nor the Turkish History Thesis convincing. Both serve the double mission of doing away with the Ottoman past and writing "national" history anew.

State Excommunication and Political Disillusionment across the Left-Right Divide

In Masks or Souls?, regimes create their own "enemies," dissidents, others, etc., and the techniques of punishment are reinforced through surveillance and terror. These regimes are similar to post-totalitarian Eastern Europe or the Soviet bloc. In Masks or Souls? the ultimate punishment for dissidents is "state excommunication," entailing forced disappearance. As the excommunicated person is alienated from their community, their very existence is forcefully obliterated or forgotten, which amounts to a type of spiritual, intellectual, political, and physical exile until death. Such terror regimes depend upon "Intelligence Systems" to rule and track down dissidents (56).

As opposed to the early Turkish versions of the play, in Masks or Souls? "state excommunication" is explored thoroughly, and the leader of the "Disciples of Nasreddin Hoja Society" is denounced as an enemy of the state. His punishment, broadcast from the loudspeakers of the city center of Aksehir, serves to frighten all opponents of the regime:
THE LOUD-SPEAKER BEGINS. The Extraordinary Court has passed the
sentence of State-Excommunication on Nuzhet Nassir of Akshehir. He is
found guilty of forming the "Disciples of Nassir-eddin Hoja Society."
The said society has been distributing satirical pamphlets and posting
insulting caricatures on public walls with the purpose of undermining
state authority. Further, the said Nuzhet Nassir is found guilty of
pretending to be the spirit of Nassir-eddin Hoja sent to earth to save
souls. As the medical report proves that he is not insane, the Court
finds him guilty of trying to exploit reactionary forces and the old
disintegrating influence of religion to bring about a rising. Therefore
the Court has decided to apply the new law of Excommunication and make
an example of him to those who may harbor such seditious designs. This
is the sentence: No one will buy from or sell to the excommunicated. No
one will give him food or shelter, no one is to hold any intercourse
with him, speak or answer him. Around his neck, the table with the Word
"Excommunicated" in large red letters on white will be hung, so that
the people may see him coming and move away. Anyone found guilty of
intercourse of any sort with the excommunicated will be sentenced to
ten years of hard labor without appeal. The members of his family will
not be exempted. (114)

Although these scenes seem reminiscent of totalitarian regimes and a critique of European fascisms and Stalinist totalitarianism, they are also critical of post-totalitarian regimes of the early 1950s which "do away with the worst aspects [of totalitarianism] but maintain most mechanisms of control." For instance, in the case of the East German Stasi, "while the security services are less bloody, they may become more pervasive." (47)

In Masks or Souls?, readers find out in earlier scenes that state excommunication will be passed in lieu of the death penalty in many regimes across the Balkans. Aristides presents a fictional treaty which closely resembles the postwar economic and security pacts and treaties--i.e., a combination of the OEEC (Organization for European Economic Co-operation) and the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 which signalled the founding of NATO. In the treaty that accompanies this moment of peace in Masks or Souls?, a clause is introduced regarding state excommunication that could be applied to "all individuals who are accused of attempts to change or even weaken the regimes we represent" (92).

In Masks or Souls?, after being vilified/demonized, Nuzhet Nassir is entirely isolated and lonely; starving and thirsty, he dies after a decade of state excommunication. Even identifying the dead body is tantamount to betrayal: the body must remain anonymous and forgotten. This is the way the state disposes, through enforced disappearance.

The Birth of the State-Mill-Stone at the Expense of the Human Element

Masks or Souls? is not a play criticizing European fascisms only. The scathing critique of totalitarianism and post-totalitarian states includes Communist regimes, encompassing Stalinist totalitarianism and post-totalitarian states in Eastern Europe. In the Prologue, the machine-men and women with masks recite Nazim Hikmet (Ran)'s (1902-1963) (48) poem "To be a machine I want" (49) :
Tirrim, tirrim, tirrim trak,
To be a machine I want,
To be a machine I want.
Happy shall I be to find a way,
When I can only say--
Behold a turbine on my navel,
And two propellers on my tail! (11)

In 1923, when Nazim Hikmet wrote the poem, it most probably served as a futurist manifesto, to signal Nazim Hikmet's awe of the Communist industrial revolution taking place in the post-war Soviet Union (USSR). The narrator of the poem fantasizes in erotic terms about a metamorphosis into a "machine." In her earlier work Conflict of East and West in Turkey, Halide Edibs reading of the poem was more positive; she translated and quoted the poem to illustrate Nazim's talent as poet. In that book she claims that the poem "expresses the almost mystic passion of the young Communist world for a mechanised, materialised, soulless order." In Halide Edib's words, the Communist Russian peasant "carries an ikon with the picture of a machine on it with the same fervour as he used to carry an ikon with the picture of a saint." (50) However, within the span of twenty years, in Masks or Souls?, the passage from the poem is employed to criticize this naive adherence to Soviet style industrialization. Communism is brought under a critical lens in the play. "To be a machine I want" moves from a critique of rapid industrialization in the post-USSR phase to industrialization in Europe, the USA, and Turkey. The poem frames and is repeated like a leitmotif in the dystopic last scene of the play, as the machine-robots recite the famous refrain, mechanically turning the State-Mill-Stone (126).

The ending of the play signals utter disillusionment, not only with the totalitarianism of the Right but also that of the Left. According to Margaret Canovan, this disillusionment is particular to Hannah Arendts (and, I may add, Halide Edib's) generation, as "the ultimate nightmare came after the war when the truth about Stalin's crimes became incontrovertible, and those who had withstood the shock of trying to comprehend totalitarianism of the Right had to try to come to terms with the ultimate betrayal, totalitarianism of the Left." (51) Hence, Nazim Hikmet's futurist poem about becoming a machine frames the entire play but is emptied of the inspiration it once gave Halide Edib, bespeaking Nazim's greatness. By 1953, with the publication of Masks or Souls?, the poem also goes through a metempsychosis of sorts, transforming into a cacophony, as the recurrent lines "Tirrimm tirrimm trak" become the leitmotif of the dystopic ending of the play.

The play enigmatically begins with a "huge mill-stone" (11), as voices are heard from the indistinct robots onstage, exclaiming "our gods of MONEY and POWER" (13). In the Epilogue, we find out that this is the "State-Mill-Stone" (126). The only "souls" left on earth before making the final plunge for the Golden Gate (afterlife), Will and Hoja, disappear amidst the dimming lights. With no human beings left, robots take over.

In Masks or Souls?, the post-totalitarian regimes are a bit different but not much has changed besides the personal cult of the Fuhrer. The shift is underscored in a conversation between Nuzhet and Shake, where Nuzhet cautions Shake about forms of dictatorship prior to World War II:
Nuzhet: Don't you remember how up to 1950 most countries were under the
nightmare of single-party rules and dictatorships?
Nuzhet:... Timur Bey abolished it and other countries in the Balkans
have followed suit. . . . Now they have all established
state-dictatorships, That is, impersonal ones! (61)

In the Epilogue, as the robots, extensions of the state, turn the State-Mill-Stone, the human, the personal, the individual, and all agency disappear entirely. Timur's fantasy of the "soul-less machinery of the absolute state," reigning over the "thought-proof" masses, has been achieved (82). Hence, with no "human element" left, the State-Mill-Stone becomes a mechanically self-operating system.

Theoretical Models, Early Definitions, and Historical Trajectories

Searching for new definitions and discussing Masks or Souls? in relation to a European and Ottoman Turkish literary and dramatic canon could offer methods of incorporating other works that have been kept out of literary and theatre histories.

Roughly five decades elapsed before critics started problematizing the Euro-male-centeredness of the early analyses of absurdist drama. According to Esslin, the genre emanated from Paris. (52) The canon of European playwrights producing absurdist plays included not only Arthur Adamov and Eugene Ionesco but also Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, and Edward Albee. The writers who inspired the playwrights of this genre consisted of an exclusive canon of male novelists, including Antonin Artaud, Bertold Brecht, Gustav Flaubert, and James Joyce. Only with the advent of the 1990s (i.e., after the publication of works such as Enoch Brater and Ruby Cohn's Around the Absurd: Essays on Modernist and Postmodernist Drama or Serena Anderlini D'Onofrios The "Weak" Subject: On Modernity, Eros, and Women's Playwriting) would playwrights like Marguerite Duras and Natalie Ginzburg be brought into histories of absurdist drama as their theatrical works were explored through the critique of gender. (53)

Halide Edib's Masks or Souls? jibes with an early definition provided by Esslin: "the Theatre of the Absurd represents trends that have been apparent in the more esoteric kinds of literature since the 1920s (Joyce, Surrealism, Kafka) or in painting since the first decade of this century (Cubism, abstract painting)." Further, the characteristic distinguishing the playwrights of the 1950s from their predecessors (such as Albert Camus or Jean Paul Sartre) who also philosophized about the absurd was the following: "the Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought." As opposed to the approach employed by Camus, Sartre, or Jean Anouilh, the techniques used by Ionesco, Beckett, Adamov, and Halide Edib entailed marrying form to the content of absurdist theatre (i.e., "trying to achieve unity between its basic assumptions and the form in which these are expressed"). This genre is termed "the theatre of the absurd" because its practitioners have given up on making rational arguments onstage; they employ visual images to convey the situation. (54)

In Masks or Souls?, scenes of robots in prison uniforms turning the State-Mill-Stone (11) underscore the mechanization of the state and the disappearance of human and individual agency from politics; scenes from a united Heaven for all serve to criticize racisms and colonialisms and make meaningless the segregation of heaven into black, yellow, or white heaven(s) (32); reading books in the Arabic script in the Turkish Embassy in London serves to illustrate the continuity of intellectuals' attachment to the Arabo-Persian script despite the Alphabet Reform (59); and the immured tomb of Hoja and its surrounding walls plastered with advertisements for toothpaste and other commodities illustrates the terms with which capitalism makes the sacred profane (64).

Through Halide Edib's Masks or Souls?, our theoretical discussions of the early moment of absurdist drama could have multifarious consequences. Initially, the work allows us to question the Eurocentrism of the absurdist canon; hence, we can assert that a time lag between European absurdist plays and their Turkish counterparts does not exist and Turkish playwrights were not late bloomers in a developmental paradigm that presumes Third World literatures and drama lag behind European "others in the adoption of genres and artistic movements." (55) Second, women playwrights need to be written back into an exclusively male canon of absurdists. A transnational comparative approach would contextualize the play with other contemporaries and other absurdist plays as well as novels of the 1950s. A long list of predecessors of the novel in English would include works by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell and the "new novel" in France, while Masks or Souls? could also be studied together with its own contemporary European absurdists, including Adamov, Ionesco, and Beckett.

Third, Halide Edib's Masks or Souls? illustrates how, within the Ottoman and later Turkish context, a new history of the theatre of the absurd needs to be written. The play and its early versions in Turkish belong to an entire trajectory of avant-gardist experimentation in the Ottoman and later Turkish contexts, spanning various genres and linguistic repertoires. A currently under-researched history could be written so that Masks or Souls? is historicized among early examples of the avant-garde, including works by the Ottoman-Armenian avant-gardist Mehian (Pagan Temple) writers such as Gosdan Zarian (1885-1969), Kegam Parsagyan (1883-1915), and Hagop Oshagan (1883-1948). (56) Together with Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar's Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitusu (The Time Regulation Institute), (57) the historical trajectory of novels and drama with absurdist elements would include fiction by Sevgi Soysal (1936-1976) and Sevim Burak (1931-1983) as well as a long list of dramatists, such as Melih Cevdet Anday (1915-2002), Haldun Taner (1915-1986), Adalet Agaoglu (b. 1929), Gungor Dilmen (1930-2012), Aziz Nesin (1915-1995), and Oktay Rifat (1914-1988). Further, the canon of the absurd could include playwrights who have contributed with explicitly absurdist works, such as the Genc Oyuncular collective (The Young Actors), (58) Memet Baydur (1951-2001), Berkun Oya (b. 1977), and Yesim Ozsoy (b. 1972), among many others. The history of the theatre of the absurd in Turkey could further be complicated by various adaptations of European absurdists onto the Turkish stage. Already in the 1950s, Ankara Sanat Tiyatrosu, Kenterler Tiyatrosu, and Genc Oyuncular had staged plays by Ionesco and Beckett. Contemporary adaptations of plays by European absurdists include the productions of playwright, director, and actor Sahika Tekand (b. 1959) with her company Studio Oyunculan (Studio Players). (59)

Lastly, we can challenge early theories of the theatre of the absurd by illustrating, through Halide Edib's work in conjunction with many other European absurdist plays of the 1950s, the significance of absurdist theatre as a mode of political critique, debunking claims that the post-war absurdist plays were apolitical. (60) A new reading of various Ionesco plays from this period, including The Lesson (1951), The Chairs (1952), The Leader (1953), The Future Is in Eggs, or It Takes All Sorts to Make a World (1957), and Rhinoceros (1959) as well as Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1953) and Halide Edib's Masks or Souls? could be done by underscoring the political critique of the plays. While most of the works listed emphasize the political fiascos of European fascisms and the totalitarian regimes of the 1940s, Masks or Souls? carries the disillusionment further to the immediate aftermath of the war and the early years of the Cold War. Halide Edib's Masks or Souls? transgresses East-West, Europe-Turkey, U.S.-Soviet boundaries because its specific political critique targets European dictatorships as well as Turkish ones and its post-war disillusionment cuts across the Left-Right divide. In this respect, it is a unique example of absurdist drama which attempts to confront the situation of utter political disillusionment: even though World War II has ended and totalitarianism has come to an end, redemption is not possible. (61) Published roughly eight years after the Second World War, Masks or Souls? presents the post-World War II treaties in such a negative light that the aftermath of the war does not seem to foreshadow a positive political future. "Post-war peace" translates to more mechanization, conformity ensured through terror regimes, an automaton-like existence, political sameness, and lack of individuality and autonomy.

From Page to the Stage

What does it mean that, to date, Masks or Souls? has not metamorphosed from the page to the stage in Turkey or abroad? (62) The first assumption in response to this question could be related to the authoritarian environment in Turkey. Masks or Souls? was published in 1953 after a law against defaming Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had passed (1951). The publication in English enabled the critique of Kemalism to be voiced freely, which might otherwise have not been possible.

The theatre in Turkey has traditionally been regarded as a vehicle for social reform. The question of how theatre practitioners reacted to the demands of the Turkish Language Association has yet to be researched. (63) In this respect, because Halide Edib was an intellectual critical of the activities of the Turkish Language Association, one wonders whether her decision to write the play in English was also motivated by not revealing the "absurd reform," absurd a la Halide Edib, through the language that she would have used to illustrate the absurdity of the reform.

In the European context, until the end of the Second World War "the decline of religious faith was masked ... by the substitute religions of faith in progress, nationalism, and various totalitarian fallacies." (64) Such fallacies were entirely unsettled by the war. In contexts like contemporary Turkey, however, the ideas of progress, westernization, and modernization still hold. In a genre particularly instrumental for disseminating reforms and the teleology of modernization of the young Republic (i.e., theatre) would the language of the absurd, emptying progress and modernization of meaning, be understood? Would "Adam was a Turk" make the same absurd impact in Turkish or would certain spectators in Turkey opt for the literal sense of the term?

As the play closes, language is reduced to refrains from Nazim Hikmet's poem and the utterance of "I" (in "To be a machine I want") becomes entirely devoid of meaning, since no individual "I" can be singled out among the robots (exemplifying sameness). The State-Mill-Stone turns and turns and the only language that remains is the utterance of a machine: "Tirrim, tirrim, tirrim trak...."


Sabanci University and Freie Universitat Berlin


(1) En attendant Godot premiered in the Theatre de Babylone in Paris in 1953, and the English translation premiered in London in 1955.

(2) Halide Edib (Adivar) was a bilingual novelist, feminist, playwright, and activist. She was a prolific writer and had tried many different genres, including autobiography, travelogue, and short stories as well as works of drama. She was a member of parliament when she published Masks or Souls? in 1953. Her last name was imposed after the Surname Law of 1934, which demanded that all Turks have last names. Her name will be written "Halide Edib" throughout the article.

(3) Halide Edib, Masks or Souls? A Play in Five Acts (London: George Allen, 1953). References are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text.

(4) Starting with the ICLA 2013 conference at the Sorbonne in Paris, I brought this work into public discussion. In 2016, I published Halide Edib ve Siyasal Siddet: Ermeni Kirimi, Diktatorluk ve Siddetsizlik [Halide Edib and Political Violence: Armenian Genocide, Dictatorship and Nonviolence] (Istanbul: Istanbul Bilgi University Press, 2016). The book addresses Masks or Souls? and will be published in German by Duncker und Humblot in 2019 with the title "Halide Edib und Politische Gewalt." In 2016, director Nedim Saban wrote an MA thesis on "Halide Edib Tiyatrosu" [Theatre of Halide Edib] (TC Halic Universitesi, Sosyal Bilimler, 2016) based on his staged reading of Maske ve Ruh [Mask and Spirit] in 2016 as part of the Istanbul International Theatre Festival.

(5) Halide Edib (Adivar), Memoirs of Halide Edib, introduction by Hulya Adak (New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2004); Halide Edib (Adivar), The Turkish Ordeal: Being the Further Memoirs of Halide Edib (New York: Century, 1928); Halide Edib, Turkey Faces West: A Turkish View of Recent Changes and Their Origin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930); Halide Edib, Conflict of East and West in Turkey (Lahore: Ashraf, 1963); Halide Edib, Inside India, ed. Mushirul Hasan (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002).

(6) Halide Edib, Yeni Turan (Istanbul: Atlas Kitabevi, 1973).

(7) Halide Edib, Atesten Gomlek (1922; Istanbul: Atlas Kitabevi, 1968); Halide Edib, Vurun Kahpeye, (1923; Istanbul: Ozgur Yayinlan, 2002). Halide Edib joined the Kuva-yi Miliye forces in 1920 after she escaped from Istanbul. She thus joined the Turkish struggle against the Greeks in Western Anatolia. The National Army against the Greeks and Allied Forces was led by Mustafa Kemal in the West.

(8) Halide Edib, The Clown and His Daughter (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1935); Halide Edib, Sinekli Bakkal (1935; Istanbul: Atlas Kitabei, 1968). The novel was originally written in English. Halide Edib rewrote it in Turkish and published it in Turkish in serialized form in Haber newspaper.

(9) The Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) was fought between the Greek Army and Ottoman Greeks who joined the war and Kuva-yi Milliye (Turkish National Army) in Western Anatolia immediately after the end of World War I.

(10) DP was founded in 1946 and came to power in 1950. This year marked a change in the political situation because it was an end to the single-party regime (of the Republican People's Party). Halide Edib was a Member of Parliament from Izmir between 1950 and 1954.

" Halide Edib, "Siyasi Vedaname, " Cumhuriyet [Republic] newspaper, January 5, 1954.

(12) Halide Edib, Kenan Cobanlari (Istanbul: Orhaniye Matbaasi, 1918).

(13) The history of firsts, including the first Ottoman woman playwright, is highly contestable. This is why I want to underscore that the 1910s were still an early moment for Ottoman Muslim women's involvement in theatre, even if Halide Edib's own involvement might not qualify her to be the first woman playwright. According to several sources, the first play to be written by a Muslim woman was Tesir-i Ask [The Love Effect] (1883) by Sair Nigar (1862-1918). This manuscript in Arabo-Persian script was transliterated into Latin script decades later and published by Doc. Dr. Olcay Onertoy. See Olcay Onertoy, "Nigar Hanim ve Tesir-i Ask," in Tiyatro Arastirmalari Dergisi [Journal of Theatre Research] 6 (1976): 233-73. A contemporary of Halide Edib, Mes'adet Bedirhan (dates unknown) published her comedy Hasbihal (Chat) on June 6, 1914 in Kadinlar Dunyast (Women's World magazine).

(14) Turk Ocagi referred to the national clubs founded by the Unionists in the 1910s. Most of the activities of the national club were in the sphere of the arts, music, literature, and culture. Intellectuals researched and debated and defined the canon of Turkish culture, literature, music, and the arts.

(15) See Adak, Halide Edib ve Siyasal Siddet, 125, citing Deniz Ardah Buyukarman's paper "Halide Edib ve Tiyatro" (Halide Edib and Theatre) presented at the Halide Edib Symposium, Mimar Sinan Universitesi, January 23, 2014.

(16) Endorsed by the Unionist leader Cemal Pasa, Kenan Cobanlari was rehearsed at Robert College in 1918 immediately after Halide Edib returned from Syria but, according to a few sources, never performed. See Adak, Halide ve Siyasal Siddet, 126 and Inci Enginun, Halide Edib Adivar'in Eserlerinde Dogu ve Bati Meselesi [East and West in the Works of Halide Edib Adivar] (Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakultesi Matbaasi, 1978), 386.

(17) Many sources refer to Halide Edib's adaptation of her novel Yeni Turan to the stage as one of the first instances of her acting onstage. The text of the adaptation cannot be found. This makes Halide Edib one of the first Turkish-Muslim women to appear onstage. Saban, "Halide Edip Adivar Tiyatrosu," 32-33; Hamdullah Suphi Tanriover, Dag Yolu [Mountain Road] (Ankara: TC Kultur Bakanligi Yayinlan, 2000), 32.

(18) Halide Edib, Maske ve Ruh [Mask and Soul] (Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1945), 7-8. This was the first version published in book form.

(19) Halide Edib, quoted by Mushirul Hasan, Introduction to Inside India, xix. The passage is quoted from Mahadev Desai's "Weekly Notes" and reprinted in Mahatma Gandhi, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 60 (Ahmedabad: Publications Division, 1974), 69-70.

(20) Halide Edib, Maskeli Ruhlar [Souls with Masks], Yedigun, no. 240-66, 1937-1938. This was the first version published in Turkish in serial form.

(21) A few other playwrights were renowned for producing works called "Fantezi." Orhan Seyfi's Gonulden Sesler [Sounds from the Heart] (1934) includes a one-act "Fantezi."

(22) This was suggested by Saban in 2016 (Saban, "Halide Edip Adivar Tiyatrosu," 86-87). I would like to revise the position that I took in my book Halide Edib ve Siyasal Siddet in 2016 and not categorize the Turkish versions of the play under the theatre of the absurd.

(23) Masks or Souls? is fundamentally different from the earlier versions in Turkish and I explore this play as an autonomous work in this article.

(24) Nasreddin Hoca was born in Hortu Village in Sivrihisan (in modern-day Eskisehir) and died in Aksehir (Konya) in the thirteenth century. The Hoca is still remembered for his witty anecdotes and stories which are laden with dark humor and didactic messages.

(25) Adak, Halide Edib ve Siyasal Siddet, 131.

(26) Saban, "Halide Edip Adivar Tiyatrosu," 50.

(27) Halide Edib, Maske ve Ruh, 79.

(28) Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd (New York: Vintage, 2001), 24.

(29) Halide Edib, Maske ve Ruh, 96.

(30) Halide Edib's conception of "one man-god" is very similar to Hannah Arendt's account of the "omnipotence" of totalitarian leaders. Even though Halide Edib might not have read Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, her unique portrayals of European and Turkish dictatorships echo Arendt's definition of totalitarianism: "an attempt to exercise total domination and demonstrate that 'everything is possible' by destroying human plurality and spontaneity at all levels, and ironing out all that is human and contingent to make it fit a determinist ideology." Margaret Canovan, Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 27.

(31) For an analysis of metamorphosis and metempsychosis in Turkish literature, see Jale Park's Turk Romamnda Yazar ve Baskalasim [Writer and Metamorphosis in the Turkish Novel] (Istanbul: iletisim, 2011).

(32) Halide Edib, Turkey Faces West, 222-25.

(33) Hulya Adak, "Introduction: Exiles at Home--Questions for Turkish and Global Literary Studies," PMLA 123 (2008): 20-26 (22).

(34) Jale Parla, "The Wounded Tongue: Turkey's Language Reform and the Canonicity of the Novel," PMLA 123 (2008): 27-40 (28).

(35) Adak, "Exiles at Home," 24.

(36) Parla, "The Wounded Tongue," 28.

(37) Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 2002), 359.

(38) Parla, "The Wounded Tongue," 30.

(39) Etienne Copeaux, "Turkish Nationalism and the Invention of History--Part 2," Repair, October 19, 2016,

(40) Parla, "The Wounded Tongue," 30.

(41) Arthur de Gobineau's (1816-1882) The Inequality of Human Races was a nineteenth-century attempt to hierarchize races and present the Aryan race as superior. Gobineau's theories became prominent during the 1930s, particularly in Nazi Germany. Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality of the Human Races, New York: Howard Fertig, 1999.

(42) Copeaux, "Turkish Nationalism."

(43) Halide Edib, Turkey Faces West, 234-36.

(44) Halide Edib, Conflict of East and West, 163-64.

(45) Geoffrey Lewis, The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

(46) Canovan, Hannah Arendt, 26. Canovan cites the first British edition of Arendt's 'The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Burden of Our Time (London: Secker and Warburg, 1951).

(47) Mike Dennis and Norman LaPorte, State and Minorities in Communist East Germany (New York: Berghahn, 2011), 18.

(48) Nazim Hikmet Ran, more commonly known as Nazim Hikmet, was a Turkish poet, novelist, playwright, stage director, screenwriter, and film director. He was arrested many times in Turkey for his leftist works.

(49) Nazim Hikmet (Ran), "Makinalasmak" [To be a machine I want], in 835 Satir [835 Lines] (1923; Istanbul: Adam, 1987), 22-23.

(50) Halide Edib, Conflict of East and West, 166.

(51) Canovan, Hannah Arendt, 157.

(52) Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd.

(53) Enoch Brater and Ruby Cohn, Around the Absurd: Essays on Modernist and Postmodernist Drama (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990); Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, The "Weak" Subject: On Modernity, Eros, and Women's Playwriting (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997).

(54) Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, 16, 24, 25.

(55) For a discussion of global literary analysis and how it has prioritized European literature as temporally ahead of Third World literatures in aesthetic innovation and literary movements, see Adak, "Exiles at Home," 24.

(56) Written in Western Armenian, Mehyan was the leading journal for modernist experimentation in Ottoman-Armenian literature. See Kevork B. Bardakjian, Modern Ermeni Edebiyati (Modern Armenian Literature), trans. Fatma Unal and Maral Aktokmakyan (Istanbul: Aras, 2013).

(57) Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitusu was serialized in 1954 and published in book form in 1961. The novel parodies the institutions and culture of a modernizing Turkey.

(58) Founded in 1957, the Genc; Oyuncular collective consisted of roughly thirteen important theatre practitioners, including Genco Erkal, Arif Erkin, Ergun Koknar, Aram Gumusyan, and Atila Alpoge. As a collective, they authored the absurdist play Tavtati Kutupati, which was performed in 1958 and published the following year. The group dissolved in 1962. See Genc Oyuncular, Tavtati Kutupati (Istanbul: Oyun Yayinlari, 1959), and Kerem Karaboga, "Absurd'den Geleneksel'e Genc Oyuncular Deneyimi: Tavtati Kutupati ve Vatandas Oyunu." (Genc Oyuncular from the Absurd to the Traditonal: Tavtati Kutupati and A Citizen Play).

(59) Sahika Tekand founded Studio Oyunculan in 1990. The theatre group, under Tekand's leadership, produces absurdist plays, as well as adaptations of ancient Greek tragedies. Their repertoire also includes adaptations of epic theatre, particularly the works of Bertold Brecht. Sahika Tekand has also organized a school for acting and playwriting as part of the activities of Studio Oyunculan. See the group's website at

(60) One of the first instances of a detailed study associating the Theatre of the Absurd with politics was Rosette C. Lamount's Ionesco's Imperatives: The Politics of Culture (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

(61) Adak, Halide Edib ve Siyasal Siddet, 130.

(62) There were two exceptions: With the efforts of Elia Kazan and Frances Kazan, and a new adaptation by Hilary Blecher, Masks or Souls? was rehearsed to be put onstage in New York during the 1997-98 season. Ultimately it was not staged. (Information on the adaptation was previously recorded but can no longer be found on the website of "Women's Project and Productions." See In 2016, Nedim Saban organized a staged reading of Maske ve Ruh at the twentieth International Istanbul Theatre Festival.

(63) In 50 Yilm Turk Tiyatrosu (50 Years of Turkish Theatre), Metin And discusses the language debates related to Turkish theatre in the 1950s and 1960s rather briefly. It does not seem as though there was agreement in this period between theatre practitioners, and Metin And does not mention repressive measures against those who chose to use Arabic and Persian expressions onstage. Metin And, 50 Yilin Turk Tiyatrosu (50 Years of Turkish Theatre) (Istanbul: is Bankasi Kultur Yayinlan, 1973), 487-88. Besides And's work, this field remains unexplored.

(64) Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, 23.
COPYRIGHT 2018 Comparative Drama
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Adak, Hulya
Publication:Comparative Drama
Geographic Code:4E0EE
Date:Sep 22, 2018
Previous Article:Staging Queer Marxism in the Age of State Feminism: Gender, Sexuality, and the Nation in Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar's Kadin Erkeklesince (When Woman...
Next Article:Integration, Turkish Theatre, and Cultural-Political Interventions in West Berlin: Vasif Ongoren's Kollektiv Theater (1980-82).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters