WRITING ABOUT THE LOCKED UP FEMALE BODY
A Cry-like Novel From A Turkish Woman Writer
If you hush up the body, you censor words even breaths.
Erendiz Atasü is a Turkish woman writer who does not reject in her writings,
speeches and naturally in her literary work, the important impact of sex on
creativity; on the contrary she emphasises sex and sexuality as major components
of her identitiy and of her work's quality. In a country like hers where
women are under social restriction, it is crucial that women's literature
is a powerful tool for the development of womanhood consciousness.
Atasü, who places woman's identity and her place in society as central
themes in her books, writes about the dectructive results of being estranged
from one's body, and questions language in general on the expression
of emotions and senses.
She is not simply satisfied by recording women's experiences; and says
in a speech of hers that all languages contain words and terms scornful of
woman's body and of her sexual experience, thus underlining the challenging
agression of language which she tries to limit. She considers it to be her
mission to eliminate te usual negative meaning of words as she is picturing
feminine sexuality hushed up for centuries.
For Atasü, the body is prominent as a channel for perceiving the world;
it is the carrier of ideas and history, and therefore major in her work. She
also undertakes the difficult mission of retelling history from the standpoint
of women and depicting sexuality with the discourse of a woman.
She makes clear what she understands from the term women's literature
in a speech, "I sympatise with the concept of women's literature
which for me relates to such work that have assimilated the questioning of
patriarchal culture no matter what the texts narrate, rather than those texts
witnessing women's lives or recording their sufferings.
The siege arond the body
The heroine of Atasü's first novel, The Other Side of the Mountain
, which when translated into English met with acclaim in Britain, is a woman
who considers body and soul as two separete entities, almost oppposite poles,
and who is estranged from her physical being upto the point of living through
the consequences of the voluntary siege she puts her body under.
In Mid-life Dream, where the narrative covers a period of thirty years, from
1970's to early 21 st. Century with flash backs to previous years and
periods of political struggles that have affected the lives of characters,
Atasü tries to touch the flesh of her country through the painful development
of the protagonist's personal story.
She takes the legandery character , namely Feride of Reşat Nuri Güntekin's
(1889-1956) celebrated novel Feride, The Wren who enchanted the readers of
the years of Atatürk's revolution and puts her in the surroundings
of half a century later. Feride of Güntekin's novel,as a woman giving
up her claims of love after a romantic dissappointment, and struggling for
taking control of her life, symbolises thre stepping out of the muslim woman
of the period to the realm of personal freedom from the shelter of the family
home. Atasü starts her Feride on an inner voyage that consists of getting
to know her own body as well as those of the men she loved, during which she
has to confront the bodies of men relating to her life, those of the dead female
members of her family, and that of her adopted daughter şirin who is
in perfect harmony with her physical self. Feride's emotional and spiritualvoyage
also presents the mosaic of the present day Turkey through the body scripts
of the people she knows, touching the socio-political problems and the inputs
and outputs of the fetishising of personal freedom.
The Mosaic of Turkey
The novel consists of three sections, each narrating a different period of
the protagonist's life. In the first section titled "Youth
and the Past'', Feride's childhood and young days, her affair
with Ferhat, a married colleague ,are depicted up to the time she works as
a high school literature teacher. She would eventually marry Ferhat who would
be widowed and adopt his child, assimilating the mother's role, when
the leftist Ferhat would be killed during political turmoil.
The referred section draws the portrait of a woman of "970's who
has directed all the sexual potential of her locked up body to a single man.
It slowly downs upon her as she lives on that how much she has actually been
delayed for real life experience. Her daughter on the contrary will have different
beginnings and taste emotions Feride has never experienced.
The Inability of the Body
Feride, though she thinks that she is suffering from pains of love, after her
loss and witnessing the life experiences of other women, would define the position
she finds herself trapped in as "the inability of the body and
the insufficiency of the senses''. For her, sexual passion has
been an enigma not even satisfied in marriage.
In the following two sections, her mature years, and second marriage with Sedat
of Kurdish origin are told. The illness she goes through is narrated as well
as the rupture of her marriage to Sedat who is a political activist aiming
at securing the consent of Kurdish opposition resorting to violence to abondon
armed struggle and to reunite with the leftist wing of Turkey.
During 1990's , a period shaped by resistance against political
religonist fundementalism, Feride is struggling against her illness on the
one hand, while on the other, she strives to change her standpoint of considering
life, and to attain the independence she longs for.
When she reaches her fifties, she believes that "No one can be
considered to have lived fully, until one has explored one's body'',
and when she really suffers from the pains of a long delayed passion she feels
for a young gay man, she fully realises, when it is too late for her, that
to life and to sexuality, there exists more than one approach.
The novel has a flexible structure, and the story proceeds in a type of narration
often interrupted with letters Feride writes that enable her to confront her
Though it looks like that the texture of the novel will not be able to construct
a balance among the never ending secrets of various characters; the description
of passion, pain, and of dreams with stark naked ingenuinness, and strong passages
expressing meaning, happennings, and emotions empower how the narrative works.
None of the things the characters do is aimless; the touch of a hand, a gesture
of the head, the expression of the eyes that reflect the emotions or misunderstandings
in the inner self, all have some function in the narration.
Atasü's book is the cry-novel of a woman who wants to heal her injured
womanhood. According to the writer, femininity lies in feelings. The body is
like a plant with which you have to communicate in its terms. It has a mind
of its own.It can suffer only three minutes the lack of oxygen, only five days
that of water, and lovelessness for a life time, diminisihing from day to day,