World Literature's Outsides

Transnational Turkish(es) in Murat Uyurkulak's Tol


  • Başak Çandar Appalachian State University


world literature, translation, Turkish, Turkish literature, transnationalism, literary circulation


Through an analysis of Turkish novelist Murat Uyurkulak’s first novel Tol: Bir Intikam Romanı (Tol: A Revenge Novel), this article proposes that some texts fail to achieve “world-literariness” because of their multiplicity and transnationalism. Transnational and polyvocal texts push translation to its limits, which restricts such texts’ ability to enter World Literature’s modes of circulation. Given that transnationalism and multiplicity are qualities cherished and advocated by World Literature, this particularly transnational resistance to translation raises questions about the inadvertent politics of World Literature as a field of study and as a mode of circulation. As this article argues, Uyurkulak’s Tol remains aware of these tensions of literary circulation. Tol details the collapse of the Turkish left in the aftermath of the three military coups in the twentieth century. To narrate this nationally specific story, however, the novel uses a cacophonous language that reveals the multiplicities within Turkish culture and language, which make it impossible to see Turkish language and literature as purely Turkish. This article provides a brief history of what creates these multiplicities within Turkish language and culture, and argues that Tol uses a transnational framework to purposefully challenge both the Turkish nationalist myths of homogeneity and the tokenizing dynamics of world-literary circulation. Following  Emily Apter’s argument in Against World Literature, the article suggests untranslatability as an opportunity to think meaningfully about texts that depict a “transnational local” and uses Tol’s example to interrogate the place and role of Turkish Literature within World Literature.

Author Biography

Başak Çandar, Appalachian State University

Çandar joined the faculty of Appalachian State University in 2014, but started teaching full-time at the university in 2015, after the completion of her post-doctoral fellowship in Berlin, Germany. In Berlin, she was part of a program titled Europe in the Middle East, the Middle East in Europe (EUME), an interdisciplinary research program within Forum Transregionale Studien. Her research and teaching interests include literary and cinematic representations of violence in the 20th and 21st centuries, with a focus on state-sponsored violence, ethics of reading and writing about violence and theories and pedagogies of Comparative and World Literature. She has published and presented on 20th century Turkish and peninsular Spanish literature, questions of linguistic and cultural translation, and the tensions between the violence of globalization and pedagogical practices in World Literature. Her current book project addresses these tensions and articulates practices of World Literature that emphasize dialogue through difference, rather than through an emphasis on universality. At ASU, Dr. Çandar teaches courses on World Literature, Comparative Literature, and Global Cinema.