A Woman's Discovery
The Other Side of the Mountain, Erendiz Atasü's first novel published in 1996 and winner of Orhan Kemal literary prize, is a very rich text that can be approached in different ways. To illustrate, it can be called a historical novel which is "a powerful evocation not only of Turkish history through the twentieth century, but also of world history " as Margaret Drabble states on the backcover of the book. Also, as Oya Menteşe points out, the novel depicts both the transition period in which the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Republic was founded, and the first ten years of the Republic (301). On the other hand, the novel can also be analysed as a political novel because as Yıldız Ecevit argues, it has an ideological content. She states that it is the novel of the Kemalist ideology and so a "Roman à thèse"(291). Thus, Atasü not only portrays the history of the Republic, but also adds an ideological dimension to its history. In the novel she attempts to show why the Kemalists who had an endless idealism and love for Kemalism and the Republic "retreat[ed] into themselves " since "'the grand amour' of [their] lives, the Republic, started to slip down the incline "(Atasü 211). The reason why Atasü does this is that she attempts to remind the readers of what the ideals of those people, who dedicated themselves freely to the principles of Kemalism, were and how much Turkey has deviated from these ideals. In other words, she tries to show the gap between the Turkey of the Kemalist ideology and Turkey today. However, defining the novel as a historical or a political novel would be inadequate, for there is another important aspect that cannot be overlooked: the autobiographical aspect of the novel.
The Other Side of the Mountain is not an autobiography in a real sense because the author-narrator does not tell her life story to the reader. On the contrary, the author-narrator, inspired by the author herself, tells her mother's past, so in that sense it seems to be the biography of her mother, Vicdan Hayreddin, who is based on the author's mother as she acknowledges in her "Letter to the Reader"(Atasü 278). Moreover, in a private interview with Atasü, she stated that the novel was born of the pain of loss. She said that the image of her mother rising between the mountains like a sun appeared in her mind the night when her mother died, and she added that this image was the inspiration of the novel. Therefore, both the author-narrator's telling her mother's past and the image which "is the seed of creation of this novel" (Atasü 291) make one think that the novel is a biography.
On the other hand, although the novel seems to be the biography of Vicdan, the reason why the author-narrator makes a journey to her mother's past shows that it has an autobiographical aspect because she makes a journey to her mother's past not only to know her mother and her mother's past, but also to understand herself and the present. In other words, she wants to know her mother because only when she manages to do this, only then can she know herself. Therefore, while on the surface her concern seems to be her mother, her real concern is herself. At the end of her journey she hopes to find out who she is, so it can be said that although the novel is not an autobiography in a real sense, it has an autobiographical aspect because of the attempt for self-discovery.
When the author-narrator's way of self-discovery is examined, it is seen that relationships play the primary role in her self-discovery because she does not try to discover herself by delving into her own past but into her mother's past. On the other hand, when the author-narrator's way of self-discovery is compared with the way of self-discovery in conventional autobiography, it is observed that they are remarkably different because in conventional autobiography
the pursuit of selfhood develops in two directions. The self may move consecutively through stages of growth, expanding the horizons of self and boundries of experience through acceleration, but always carrying forward through new growth that globe of an irreducable, unified care… Or the self may … delve downward into itself to find the irreducale core, stripping away mask after mask of false selves in search of… unique or true self (Smith 18).
Thus, while self-discovery takes place in individualistic spheres in conventional autobiography, the self-discovery of the author-narrator takes place in the spheres of relationships. Then, according to the premise of the conventional autobiography, the author-narrator's way of self discovery would be called a flaw; however, that the premises of the conventional autobiography have been constituted by the patriarchal point of view is an important fact that should be taken into consideration.
As Smith and Watson state, George Gusdorf, one of the most prominent theorists of autobiography, "configured autobiography as unquestionably white, male, and Western" (8), so those who are not white, male and Western have been excluded from this literary genre. It can be argued, then, that women are among those to whom the rules of the conventional autobiography are inapplicable.Therefore, the way the author-narrator adopts for self-discovery cannot be called a flaw since she is a woman. Thus, in this paper while the author-narrator's way of self-discovery is examined, it will be shown that the reason why she adopts a different way of self-discovery is that she is a woman. However, it is first necessary to distinguish between the concept of self in conventional autobiography and the concept of female selfhood because the reason why the author-narrator takes up such a way of self-discovery is directly related to the difference between the two.
To begin with, in conventional autobiography, the concept of self is based on the idea of individualism.Thus, the model of separate and unique selfhood is pervasive in traditional autobiography and in Smith's terms this individualized "I" is the "phallic 'I'"(98). Friedman quotes from Georges Gusdorf to explain the individualistic concept of self in traditional autobiography. She says that "the cultural precondition for autobiography, Gusdorf argues, is a pervasive concept individualism, a 'concious awareness of the singularity of each individual life'"(72). According to Gusdorf, autobiography is a literary genre that is the literary consequence of the rise of individualism. For him, autobiography does not develop in cultures where "the individual does not oppose himself to all others," so the individual should "feel himself to exist outside of others" because when he feels "very much with others in an independent existence that asserts its rhythms everywhere in the community," it is not possible for him to write autobiography.(Gusdorf quoted in Friedman 73).
However, the individualistc models of the self are inapplicable to women since the self is profoundly different for them as a result of "the differences in socialization in the construction of male and female identity"(Friedman 72). Therefore, from a psychological perpective an individualistic concept of the self overlook "the role of … relational identities in the individuation process of women"(Friedman 72).
As Gardiner points out, recently feminist theorists such as Nancy Chodorow have developed psychoanalytic explanations of gender difference (181), which can be useful for the study of women's autobiographical writings. Thus, the application of Chodorow's theory of female selfhood to women's autobiographical texts has enabled critics to revise the dominant and biased canons of autobiography.
Firstly, Chodorow argues that the mother-child relationships are the determining factors that lead to different sense of self for women and men since the two sexes experience these relationships differently. However, it is important to say that Chodorow's analysis is not biological but social. As Gardiner states, Chodorow "believes that her analysis focuses on 'social structurally induced psychological processes' rather than on biology"(Gardiner 181-182).
According to Chodorow, "a boy defines himself as a male negatively - by differentiation from his first caretaker, the mother"(Gardiner 182). During the Oedipal stage, a boy seperates himself from his mother and identifies himself with his father, so as Chodorow points out, "a boy has engaged, and been required to engage, in a more emphatic individuation and a more defensive firming of experienced ego boundaries"(quoted in Friedman 77). As a result, a boy defines himself as separate and distinct from others since "the basic masculine sense of self is separate"(Chodorow quoted in Friedman 77), so it is a natural consequence for men to see themselves as unique and separate individuals.
On the other hand, the process of female individuation is remarkably different from that of male individuation because "a girl forms her gender identity positively, in becoming like the mother with whom she begins life in a symbiotic merger"(Gardiner 182), so a girl keeps a primary attachment to her mother even in the Oedipal stage. Therefore, there is a continuous influence of the mother-daughter relationship on the process of female individuation. Since girls do not separate themselves from their mothers but identify with them, they "come to define themselves as continuous with others; their experience of self contains more flexible ego boundaries"(Chodorow quoted in Friedman 77). Therefore, unlike "the basic masculine sense of self," "the basic feminine sense of self is connected to the world"(Chodorow quoted in Friedman 77). As a result of this, for a woman the distinction between self and other is not as firm as it is for a man.
When this relational model of female selfhood is applied to women's autobiographical texts, it is observed that in women's texts "the individual does not oppose herself to all others, nor feel herself to exist outside of others, but very much with others in an independent existence"(Friedman 77). Therefore, in women's autobiographical writings there is a deep awareness of others.
After distinguishing between the male sense of selfhood and the female sense of selfhood, it can be understood now why the author-narrator in The Other Side of the Mountain prefers to make a journey into her mother's past instead of her own past. Then, when Chodorow's relational model of selfhood is applied to The Other Side of the Mountain, the way the author-narrator takes up for self-discovery becomes meaningful. She searches for herself in her mother's past because there is an ongoing identification of the author-narrator as a daughter with her mother. That is why the author-narrator tries to find out who she is and understand the present by means of her mother's past. It is observed that in the first chapter entitled "The Wave" there is a great urge of the author-narrator to know her mother. She is in a Mediterranian town for the ceremony held as a tribute to her mother because of her invaluable contribution to the foundation of an institute whose name she does not reveal. After the ceremony, she realizes that she does not know her mother at all, which gives her pain: "Oh mother, why do you hide yourself from me? Why? Isn't it unfair to me? I want to get to know you, the mother I have never known…Where are you, mother?" (Atasü 23). Before the ceremony, she thought that she was a whole "like a drop ready to fall"(Atasü 23); however, after she realizes that she does not know her mother, she feels that she is not a whole, for a part of her self, which is her mother, is missing, so "now a curiosity that almost hurts is puncturing the perfect surface of that drop"(Atasü 23). Thus, only when she knows her mother and satisfies her curiosity, only then will she feel a whole. What does she know about her mother?
She was the daughter of a well-to-do family which was impoverished during the Balkan and First World Wars. Her life began in Salonica. The early stages were spent in schools for orphans in foreign lands. She was one the first university students the young Turkish Republic sent to Europe on scholarships. She studied Western literature, returned home, helped to found the _____ institution; and then moved to Ankara where her husband lived. She thought English for years. She had a daughter. She lost her husband… and died. (Atasü 22-23).
However, this information is not enough for her to be able to know her mother and satisfy her curiosity. She needs to know more so that she will be able to understand what made her mother lose her joy of living:
Why did you change so much, mother? Did you? Was it because of my father, whose remembered image has been kept incorruptible by the uncritical memories associated with early deaths? … Or was it the steppe that withered you? Why was your strong, healthy, beautiful body left quivering for the lost joy of living? Why did you destroy yourself? What wrecked you, was it me? Did I frustrate you? Am I the one who is guilty? (Atasü 23-24).
It is also observed that the author-narrator is very hopeless at the beginning and she reflects her hopelessness by writing about suicide:
I was in a north European city, when I thought of commiting suicide.The winds of the freedom of the late sixties were blowing round me without touching me. Twenty years have passed. I said, ' Let me jump into the cold grey water and let everything be over'. The river attracted me like a magnet. I changed my mind, and walked away, the instinct for life had prevailed.Now, once again, I am on the same shore (Atasü 19).
So, the reader understands that she is again on the shore of hopelessness and suicide. The reason for her hopelessness is revealed in the last chapter entitled "Journal to My Daughter". In this chapter, the author-narrator gives a panaroma of the present situation of Turkey. After many years of travelling abroad, she returns to her country and is terrified with what she sees. Everything has changed so dramatically and in such a terrible way that she feels like a stranger in her own country. For instance, when she sees Antalya, she cannot recognize it at first:
Is this place Antalya? The huge excrescence by the sea, moulded out of white cement. Where has the little harbour gone, round the corner from the modest little mosque? … What had become of the wooden houses, whose kitchens were filled with the smell of red cabbage, where tobacco leaves would be left to dry in semi-darkness? (Atasü 256).
She cannot recognize Istanbul either, for it has changed a lot, which horrifies her: "Is this Istanbul, the imperial throne of Byzantium and of the Ottoman? Her blue enamelling has become suspicion's colour, the grey shade of lead, the colour of air pollution and dirty banknotes"(Atasü 256). The Aegean towns have also had their share from all this degeneration:
The Aegean towns spread from the shore towards the interior. Whitewashed houses with colorful shutters. The sea towns where the cobbled streets used to smell of olive oil and jujube, where songs in Greek hung in air - and those sullen, conservative towns further away from the sea (Atasü 256).
The author-narrator also mentions Sivas, where a bloody and shameful event took place in which people were burned by fanatic religious groups in 1993. She is so much full of disgust and anger that she says:
Look at her, tearing her troubadour sons from her shrivelled breasts empty of milk, hurling them to the ground, and torching them with her own hands, reducing them to ashes along with her sense of justice. No, I shall not utter her name, let it scorch my tongue. I reject this treacherous, cruel, and stupid town! I want nothing of the steppe, I repudiate it! (Atasü 257)
This is the present situation of the country. Then, how can she keep her hope and joy of living in a country which "degenerate[d] into a bloodsoaked fire festival"(Atasü 257). In a country where everything has degenerated, she feels alienated and does not know who she is and where she belongs to.
At the beginning, she does not know that first she should understand the past in order to find out who she is and where she belongs to, but then she begins to read a letter written by her mother to her father and feels that she can find the answers she is in search of in her mother's past, so she feels perfectly happy, for she knows where she should go: She should make a journey to her mother's past, for she might "enter [her] innermost self, into a domain of [her] own being of which [she has] not been aware." (Atasü 277). In such a state she writes:
Now I am on another shore. Am I a waterdrop in this universe, that ends up on the spot where it started to form? Do I have to fall and mingle with the earth?…
Am I a spiral moving unceasingly away from its starting point? If so, completion means…what? Or am I perhaps the interplay of countless spirals, moving unceasingly away from their starting points? But then circle, sphere, water-drop...They are all nothing more than illusions…'Perfection' does not exist…If that is so, the fourth dimension which is curiosity is always there to turn the water-drop we imagine is ready to fall, into a wave…This evening, right now, I am leaving the shore I am on. My destination? I do not know, but I am curious to learn (Atasü 28).
However, before she sets off, she makes her final preparation. She wears her mother's blue satin evening gown, arranges her hair the way her mother did in the photograph and looks in the mirror. What she sees in the mirror is her mother: "She looked in the mirror: my mother holding her pen and the notebook she kept secretly was looking back at me, with a sad smile on her lips and a playful gleam flickering in her eyes" (Atasü 28). Now, she is identical with her mother, which is the key to her self-discovery because as Chodorow argues, women "tend to remain part of the dyadic primary mother-child relation itself" since "the mother-daughter relationship remains central to the ongoing process of female individuation"(quoted in Friedman 77). Therefore, she gives her hand to her mother and they set off together.
In "the Kemalists" section, which consists of the stories of the characters in the novel, the author-narrator tells her mother's past. Now, she is a narrator and her mother is a character, so there should be a narrator and character relationship between them because this is what conventional narration requires. However, it is seen that there is an ongoing influence of the mother-daughter relationship on the narrator, which is also a sign of its influence on her self. Although the author-narrator tries to objectify her mother as a character, there are instances when she cannot do this. In conventional narration this would be called a technical flaw; however, this is not a flaw for there is an actual mother-daughter relationship between the author-narrator and the character, which cannot be overlooked. She is a woman trying to find out who she is and she can reach her goal by means of her mother. Moreover, as told before, because of the continuous influence of the mother-daughter relationship on the female sense of the selfhood, the distinction between self and other is not clear but flexible for women. In conventional narration the character should be the other for the narrator, but the line between the author-narrator and Vicdan is not clear since she sometimes exists on the same plane with the character, which shows that the line between self and other is blurred since the author-narrator is a woman.
That the line between the self (the author-narrator) and the other (Vicdan) is blurred can be observed in the shifts in narrative perspective. In order to distance herself from her mother and objectify her as a character, the author-narrator adopts third-person narrative perspective and talks about Vicdan in terms of third person pronoun. However, sometimes she exists on the same plane with Vicdan. For instance, when she reports a dialogue between Nefise, Vicdan's best friend, and Vicdan to show Vicdan's great idealism and love for the Republic, suddenly she addresses Vicdan in terms of "you": "Is this you, Vicdan, calm, considerate, always courteous? You can't recognize yourself, can you? How did you manage to conceal your rage until now? Who is the real target for your indignation - the British army or Hugh? Who is it?" (Atasü 60). Also, when she reports one of the biggest catastrophes in Vicdan's life, which is Nefise's death, again she begins to talk to her to remind her that Nefise's death is not the first catastrophe in her life:
(It is not your first experience of this, Vicdan. Ever since you were a child, the world has ended, again and again…Remember your father's death, Vicdan, remember the invasion, remember the men hanging from the rope, remember the treachery of your fellow Muslims,remember your uncle's mansion, brilliant with jewels and dark with hidden intrigue, remember the day Mustafa Kemal died, remember September the first, 1939) (Atasü 80).
Here, she not only exists on the same plane with Vicdan but also symphatizes with her, so she is emotionally involved in the process of narration, which is something unusual in traditional narration. Sometimes, the author-narrator also criticises Vicdan. To illustrate, she criticises Vicdan because of her being too much self-controlled. Even when she dances with Raik, her husband, she does not give up controlling herself: "(Vicdan, you are in the arms of the man you love, wipe from your mind all perverse thoughts, forget about your surroundings, just enjoy the present moment!)" (Atasü 179). However, as usual Vicdan goes on controlling herself and repressing her body, but at night she wakes up suddenly and at this point the author-narrator criticises her once more: "What woke you, Vicdan? Was it something to do with your body? The sexual energy your body didn't use up in the swift movements of the dance?" (Atasü 182). Moreover, sometimes she is so emotionally involved in what she is doing that she talks to Vicdan as if they are actually having a dialogue: "This is not dancing, it is devoid of grace or skill, just a game for naughty adults (So what's wrong with that, Vicdan?) I don't know…"(Atasü 172). Then, she adopts third person narrative perspective, but again she cannot prevent herself from interacting with Vicdan: "Everything the body does is serious and significant to her (Perhaps you have never been a true child, Vicdan)."(Atasü 172). Then, Vicdan's answer, which reflects her disappointment with and her anger against Burhan, her brother, who is the symbol of the betrayal of Kemalism and the degeneration, follows:
Does any individual have the right to behave irresponsibly, regressing as it were to childhood? My brother is an irresponsible father and husband!…He goes in for free enterprise, blinded by his greed and ambition. Where is Burhan the idealist, with his shining eyes? Now a dangerous fire, stoked by a single-minded pursuit of material wealth and power, blazes fiercely in those eyes. He burns, destroys, oppresses, and succeeds! A new type of person for Turkey!…Years of short commons have given birth to his ruthless ambition. Or there may be other reasons (Atasü 172).
Those examples illustrating the shifts in narrative perspective also show the attempts of the author-narrator for self-discovery. The author-narrator does not avoid breaking the rules of traditional narration and interacting with her mother because what is really important for her is not to record her mother's past but to understand herself and to find out who she is by means of her mother's past, which makes the novel autobiographical.
The chapter entitled "A Happy Marriage" clarifies that point further because it is seen that while the author-narrator seems to attempt to understand her mother, in fact she attempts to understand herself in relation to her mother. This chapter is full of comparisons that the author-narrator makes between herself and her mother. It is observed that after each comparison, a contrast between herself and her mother emerges. Therefore, she finds out that she is different from her mother in many ways. However, this does not mean that she defines herself in terms of denial of relation and connection like a man does according to Chodorow. On the contrary, she defines herself in relation to her mother. In other words, although what she finds is the difference of herself from her mother, her mother is the reference point.
The main difference between her mother and herself is their relationships with their bodies.Throughout the chapter, the author-narrator emphasizes the fact that her mother "belonged to the generation which divided human existence decisively into 'body' and 'soul'"(Atasü 208) and that the difference between her mother and herself emerges from this main difference.
First of all, they are different in terms of their attitudes toward their marriages. The author-narrator ironically says that the marriage of her parents was a happy one because they always compromised with each other and never quarelled: "Certainly, theirs was a happy marriage…An egalitarian marriage…No one ever saw them quarrel, no one ever heard them complain, until death did them part. Theirs was a happy marriage, for sure"(Atasü 201). Then, the author-narrator reports a dialogue between herself and her mother about her marriage. During the dialogue the author-narrator observes that her mother is anxious when she talks about the sexual issues:
What was your sex life like?
What a thing to ask!
I remember you two as always sharing a brotherly sisterly kind of love
You're too young and inexprienced to realise that what you call 'brotherly-sisterly love' is the most important bond in life, and the most difficult kind of relationship to achieve and keep between two people (Atasü 202).
Thus, it is seen that Vicdan does not consider sex a natural part of love and marriage. For her, "brotherly-sisterly love" is much more valuable than passionate love, and she seems to be proud of achieving and keeping such kind of relationship with her husband. However, the author-narrator does not think so. She says "it wouldn't be enough for me - I was referring, not to something which is shaped and preserved, but to something which exists and develops spontaneously, those sensations that take you over, obliterate your will, your ability to make any independent move"(Atasü 202). However, when she remembers the photographs of her parents, she sees that her mother is too far from experiencing such sensations because as the author-narrator states, "Vicdan had sealed up the fiery essence of her being in a crystal jar. The flame was reflected in the crystal, a fine sight, but cool to the touch"(Atasü 79). During their conversation the answer that her mother gives to her question justifies her in that her mother has always repressed her desires:
I remember you two, always ailing.What were the first years like?
You mean the desire or fulfilment?
The desire was wonderful and burning hot. The fulfilment…I was afraid to let myself go…As if some inner obstacle got in my way (Atasü 203).
On the other hand, the marriage of the author-narrator is about to end. However, as she implies, she prefers such a marriage to that of her parents. She admits that it was an unhappy marriage, "but," she says, "it had its interesting aspect, a peculiar integrity. My marriage did not harbour secrets or hidden longings"(Atasü 206). Thus, this was a marriage of a woman who has not repressed her body. She says "it was peculiar in this, as people do not usually live so nakedly, and I was the perpetrator…I was no longer unhappy, and was slowly reaching the satiation point of solving all the riddles of the labyrinth, of living entirely through a process, a relationship" (Atasü 206).
Moreover, the author-narrator also discovers the reason why her mother has become ill. She says "the satisfaction she abstained from were not as essential to her as I took them to be. She was perfectly sincere on the concious level when she declared., 'I have no regrets'"(Atasü 208). Not the satisfaction of her body but the satisfaction of the soul is important to Vicdan and what satisfies her soul is the great love that she feels for the Republic: "She had lived through the years of constructing the republic as if through a blissful 'grand amour'! It was this all-absorbing love which was the high point of her emotional life"(Atasü 208). However, according to the author-narrator, she was mistaken to have thought that the satisfaction of her soul was much more important than the satisfaction of her body. She always denied the need and even the existence of her body, but as a result, "her body felt estranged from her, and became ill!"(Atasü 208). The author-narrator is also "experiencing deep love"(Atasü 208), but her "grand amour" is a man, not the Republic because "for [her] generation enthusiasm for the masses lay outside the individual world of feelings… whereas mother drew whole lungfuls of the political wind blowing her way, assimilating it to her very existence"(Atasü 207).
As mentioned before, the author-narrator does not want to emphasize her difference from her mother. On the contrary, she thinks that all these differences are inevitable, for they belong to different generations. She says "when she was alive, I judged her according to the values of my generation, although she was someone of an entirely different era. Our fates were different despite our similarities"(Atasü 207). She is also aware of the fact that their differences do not separate them because she discovers that in spite of those differences, she is not an isolated being, but a part and a continuation of her mother since nothing exists on its own. When she was young, she was not aware of this fact, so she struggled hard to assert her separateness from her mother, but now she thinks in a different way: "As I drew closer to middle-age and losing her, the awareness of continuity as the most essential ingredient in life was dawning on me"(Atasü 212). Thus, she can understand now why her mother "was, on her sick bed, living that 'present' that once she had continually postponed, together with that 'future' which had become impossible for her, by identifying with [her]"(Atasü 211-212). Her mother lives the present together with the future by identifiying with her daughter because as Chodorow argues, "mothers tend to experience their daughters as more like and continuous with themselves"(quoted in Friedman 77). Thus, when she discovers the continuity between her mother and herself, she also understands that "one generation was born from the previous generation and blended into the following one. 'Separate identity' was nothing but a process of transition, like a wave, ebbing and flowing between two coalescing points" (Atasü 212) and this recognition will enable her to find out who she is and understand the present at the end of her journey.
In the chapter entitled "Journal to My Daughter" the author-narrator returns to the present moment after the journey to her mother's past. Now she is in the graveyard to visit her parents. This chapter is important in that the author-narrator finally arrives in her destination where she finds the answers for her questions. At the end of the journey she has found out who she is after she has discovered that "one generation [is] born from the previous generationand blended into the following one"(Atasü 213) because by means of this recognition, she understands that the idealist Kemalist generation, one of the members of which is her mother, has not dissapeared. As Neruda says "'the flesh of the earth is made up of people'"(Atasü 258) and she recognizes that "it is not a metaphor. The soil filling in my hand, the physical texture of the very matter I feel on my palm, is made up of generations of people, living and dying…"(Atasü 258). Then, death is not the end but the beginning of something new. Her mother and her generation have died, but they have not dissapeared because "the material essence of their physical selves" "have been sucked into the texture of the earth" (Atasü 270, 253) and they have given life to the plants by "nourishing… [their] slender roots"(Atasü 271). That is why the author-narrator says "If the leaves I am careful not to tread on crackle, I know it is the sound of a thin fissure being torn open in my heart. I know the leaves are 'them'"(Atasü 253). Then, if the idealist Kemalists have not dissapeared, the history that was written by them has not vanished, either, so she thinks "just as the history of the universe has been carved on a trunk of a tree, the history created by men has been carved into the texture of rocks and earth, into their molecules and electrons!"(Atasü 258).Thus, the history of her country is also in the flesh of the earth along with the Kemalists, so "the flesh of the earth, which finds fresh life in decaying human corpses to breed the plants which are my sisters and brothers, bears the name of 'homeland'!" (Atasü 258).
The author-narrator calls plants her sisters and brothers because they are all made up of the same things. In other words, those which gave life to these plants also gave life to her, too. Therefore, she understands that in order to find out who she is, she should "keep in touch with the flesh of this homeland as intimately as [she does] with [her] own"(Atasü 259). However, first she should thrust her way through all that ugliness and degenaration that have covered this flesh and reach
the living organism right there in the depths, which merged Ionian vases with Phoenician amphorae, and porcelain decanters; the powers which refused to surrender to personal, material gain, and so refused complicity with those who invaded in the first two decades of this country; the powers that post-modernity thinks weird and eccentric because they put the survival of their homeland above individual gain (Atasü 259).
Thus, neither the idealist soul of the Kemalists nor history has vanished. They are there, beneath all that ugliness and degeneration which can only cover them but cannot destroy them. Moreover, not only are they in the texture of the earth, but they are also in the flesh of the author-narrator, so she says "they are within me, the Kemalists" and "I am their child." (Atasü 271, 272). Thus, finally she finds out who she is:
Born of Vicdan and Nefise, suckled at the breasts of Cybele, begotten by Raik and Turkey, I dip my hands into time, the past laps against my skin. Bygone days, rising from the tombs of Kemalists who gave me life, start circulating through my body, touching the memories stored in the protein spirals within honeycombs of my organisms, making them thrum, those memory-laden threads that lay coiled in my cells without the decoding recognition of my awareness, probably even before my awareness was born; time past, circulating through my body, renders these previously unknown recollections of my own (Atasü 272).
During her journey to her mother's past not only has she found out who she is, but she has also discovered hope which is born from the past. Then, the journey to the past has reminded her who she is and given hope to her. In spite of all this chaos and degeneration going on in the country, there is still hope because she believes that since nothing in the universe dissapears, something new will born from all this chaos:
At the century's end, the savage alloy of the civilization is a deadly slurry in which millions of atoms, billions of electrons bubblein the rhythms of dissolution, but which is still pregnant with vitality. The light will fall upon this hellish brew…And a miracle! The atoms absorbing light energy are mobilized, they crash into each other by an irresistable attraction, new molecules are born; the energy concentrates and see, how the fire threads of protein appear; living matter! Billions of years ago, when our earth was just a young planet, was not life born in this way? (Atasü 273).
That is how her mother's generation has given life to her and therefore she can answer the question that she has asked previously: "Has nothing changed?"(Atasü 273). Her answer is " I am that change!"(Atasü 274). She is "the offspring of the wounded children of a people felled in the short, spiralling interval between the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, of those children who became the creator of their people's miraculous ressurection, I am the change"(Atasü 274-275). The new generation is born from the previous generation, but it is also different from the previous one and that is why she says:
They are within me, the Kemalists. At the same time, I am different from them. Because I do not believe in molten individuals subsumed in ideals and in relationships; but believe in what ideals and relationships contribute to the individual (Atasü 271).
Then, she believes in continuity, but not in repetition. She is the change because "time never closes the circle; time flows in spirals"(Atasü 274), so time flowing in spirals brings about change and progress but not repetition.
During her journey, the author-narrator becomes a whole first with her mother and then with the past. However, becoming a whole does not end here because at the end she also becomes a whole with her daughter, so the novel ends with the image of continuity of three generations, her mother, herself and her daughter. As a daughter, the author-narrator is both identical with and different from her mother and so as a mother she recognizes her daughter as "identical with her mother and yet so different"(Atasü 275). Her daughter is different from her since the new generation cannot be the same as the old one even if it is born from the previous ones. So, her daughter is the beginning of a new change and new hope for the future. However, in her daughter's essence there are
the calcium forming the slender structure of her stem-like body, the iron circulating through her veins, [which] are rooted in the bone-dust and fragments of marrow dispersed throughout a landscape which has been torn apart from Macedonia to Crete, from Aegean to the Caucassus (Atasü 275).
So, her mother, herself, and her daughter are made up of the same essence and Vicdan passed this essence to the author-narrator who has passed the same essence to her daughter. Then, these three generations are identical with each other. Therefore, when her daughter asks "Mother, it is getting dark, where have you been?", she replies "I am beside you, my daughter, I am within you" and gives her hand "drenched in light" to her daughter (Atasü 275). Thus, the book ends with hope emerging from the past which has made those three generations connected.
In conclusion, The Other Side of the Mountain is the story of a woman who has dipped her hand to her mother's past to find out who she is and to understand the present. There she has found her mother that she has never known and her mother's generation. Also, there she has become a whole with them and found out who she is. When she has taken her hand back and turned back to the present, she has seen that her hand is drenched in light. Then, she gives her hand to her daughter and becomes a whole with her, too, so she has found her self first in relation to her mother and then in relation to others. Thus, The Other Side of the Mountain is the story of a woman who attempts to know herself and who achieves this at the end, which is succesfully depicted in a way that is peculiar to a woman writer.