Where Language is Ripped Apart: Absence and Illegibility in Bilge Karasu's The Garden of Departed Cats


  • Kristin Dickinson University of California, Berkeley


Linguistic engineering, Turkish literature, postmodernism, language purism, translation


This essay explores the linguistic and figural repertoire of the postmodern Turkish novelist Bilge Karasu (1930-1995), historicizing Karasu’s textuality amid efforts in the Republic of Turkey to engineer a ‘pure Turkish’ (‘öz Türkçe’) cleansed of the multilingual Perso-Arabic expressions of Ottoman and early post-Ottoman belles-lettres. Dickinson argues that Karasu’s texts embrace and exploit precisely this engineered language, in order to then critique and defamiliarize the ideologies of language that engendered it. More broadly, the essay meditates on linguistic purity and modern monolingualism not only as constraints on meaning and literary craft, but also as a potential reservoir for the poetic and civic imagination.

Author Biography

Kristin Dickinson, University of California, Berkeley

Dickinson is a student in the PhD program in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. After completing her BA in English and German at the University of Rochester, she taught English literature and creative writing as a Robert Bosch Fellow at the University of Potsdam. She has since studied in both Germany and Turkey, and her current research focuses on Turkish–German literary exchange in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on issues of translation and multilingualism.


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