World Literature's Outsides
Transnational Turkish(es) in Murat Uyurkulak's Tol
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.
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