Fırat Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi
Fırat University Journal of Social Science
Cilt: 12, Sayı: 2, Sayfa: 139-174, ELAZIĞ-2002
NARRATIVE STRATEGY IN KEMAL TAHIRS DEVLET ANA
Kemal Tahir in Devlet Ana daki Anlatı Stratejisi
Bu çalışmada, Kemal Tahirin ideolojik mesajlarını okuruna kabul ettirmek için eserlerinde
izlediği anlatı stratejisi, onun en çok bilinen tarihî romanı Devlet Ana esas alınarak ve anlatı-bilim
bir üst dil olarak kullanılarak incelenmiştir. Çalışmada, özellikle, Devlet Ananın anlatımının
(üslûbun) nasıl oluşturulduğu irdelendiğinden; ilk olarak romanın olay kurgusu incelenmiş, daha
sonra da bir tür ileti olan anlatının en önemli iletişim unsuru (katılımcısı) olan anlatıcı üzerinde
detaylı bir şekilde durulmuştur.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Kemal Tahir, Devlet Ana, anlatı, anlatı-bilim, kurgu, anlatıcı.
This work studies the narrative strategy of Kemal Tahir based on his the most popular
historical novel Devlet Ana by using narratology as a metalanguage and indicates the way in which
the author moves his readers to accept his ideological messages. Since the present study discusses
particularly the way in which the aspect of narration is organised in Devlet Ana, firstly, the plot of
the novel is analysed; secondly, the most important narrative participant in the narrative
communication, so-called narrator, is examined.
Key Words: Kemal Tahir, Devlet Ana, narrative, narratology, plot, narrator.
Kemal Tahir (Demir) (b.1910 - d.1973) is one of the leading novelists in modem
Turkish literature. He was a socialist,2 and used the medium of the novel to communicate
many ideas about the world and about what it means to be human. His novels are both
entertaining and intellectually stimulating.
I have chosen Devlet Ana (Mother State) (1967) to analyse his narrative strategy.
For this purpose, I will use the second edition of Devlet Ana (Bilgi Yayınevi, 1969). No
doubt authors have certain habitual practices, and what is true of one novel is likely to be
true of other novels by the same author. However, this is not entirely so. An authors
habits may vary at different times of his/her career; s/he may vary his/her procedure
according to the demands of his/her subject. Therefore, in this study, discussions will not
be restricted to Devlet Ana, since it is necessary to utilise information from the other
novels of the author in question in order to understand his narrative strategy. Devlet Ana
is about the foundation of the Ottoman Empire3 and the most widely known and criticised
novel of the author. After being published in 1967, as Uturgauri (1989: 105) points out,
Devlet Ana caused much controversy in the press, and there were many discussions and
many publications on it during the first four years after its publication. I have found more
than thirty articles on Devlet Ana alone. Also, some periodicals such as Dost (Ocak-1968)
published special issues and special sections about the novel and its author, and some
panels, such as the one organised by Mehmet Seyda (1969), were assembled. Whereas
several critics such as Tahir Alangu (1967), Hulûsi Dosdoğru (1974: 388), and İsmet
Bozdağ (1968: 12-13) claim that Devlet Ana is the first real Turkish novel and has a
special importance in the history of the Turkish novel, some critics such as Tahsin Yücel
(1970), Murat Belge (1994: 162-167), Semih Gümüş (1999), Oktay Akbal (1968a,b), and
Ferit Edgü (1968a,b) do not even accept the work as a novel. Halit Refiğ (1971: 78) also
does not see Devlet Ana as a classical novel but as a book of wisdom that can only be
seen in the Oriental literature tradition. However, for him, this is not a question of
deficiency in the novel but rather of superiority. According to Tarık Buğra (24.4.1973),
on the other hand, Devlet Ana is a false interpretation, and has some deficiencies and
historical gaps. However, these do not prevent it from being technically a first-class novel.
Turkish readers in the 1960s, who, whether influenced by Westernisation that was
heavily criticised by Kemal Tahir or not, are to be regarded as the first readers of Devlet
Ana, which praises the Ottoman society above the society of the West. Thus, the
important point to be kept in mind with regard to Devlet Ana is that it originated from and
functioned within such a socio-historic context. In this way, Devlet Ana differs from
many other novels. Its primary aim was not to be a pure artistic text or light reading.
In terms of Jakobsons (1961) communication model4, its primary aim can thus be
described as conative and not poetic. It was written primarily in order to provoke a certain
response from its readers. Kemal Tahir explains his aim in writing this novel as follows:5
You see, there is a huge slackness in society... There is a lack of confidence, anxiety, and
a weltering in despair amongst the people! I will try to expunge this despair and give
confidence to society, and try to blow a new breath into the spirits with my new novel.
That is why I chose the first years of the foundation of the Ottoman State as my subject.
(İsmet Bozdağ, 1980: 103)
We are searching for the precious essence in our history, which will praise our people and
our nation in the future. Devlet Ana which narrates what happened 600 years ago was
written with the hope that it will enlighten the events of today, in one sense, of the future.
(Kemal Tahir, 1990: 39-40)
In sum, this novel is structured in such a way as to show the positive features of the
Ottoman Turkish society so that the confidence of Turkish people themselves against the
West might be strengthened and deepened. This purpose should be kept in mind -even in
a narratological analysis- in order to facilitate a reading of the text that might be termed
adequate in terms of the structure and the (self-)stated purpose of the text.
1. The plot of Devlet Ana6
Rimmon-Kenan (1983: 13-20) prefers not to use the term plot, as she regards it as
too vague for critical usage. Instead, she prefers to speak of surface narrative structure,
singling out time and causality -two of the aspects also mentioned by Culpepper (1983:
79-84)7- as two main principles in the combination of events into sequences, and of
sequences into story. However, three more principles, which may be employed in the
combination of sequences into story, should be added: space, character and internal
relationship(s) between sequences (contrast and similarity).
In the following discussion, the term plot will be used to refer to the dynamic
pattern of the interpretative ordering (Brooks, 1984: 25) of the surface structure of Devlet
Ana. These relationships between the events can usually be described in terms of one or
more of the following principles: time, causality, space, character and internal
Devlet Ana is divided into four sections8: I. Kancık Vuruş (Treacherous Blow), II.
Uyandırılan Işık (The Awakened Light), III. Dost Çelmesi (The Friends Deception), and
IV. Derin Geçit (Deep Passage)9. The plot of Devlet Ana may be summarised as the
superiority of the Ottoman society in all aspects to the Western society; in other words, a
comparison between the good/positive side and the bad/negative side. The plot of Devlet
Ana unfolds in the following way:
In Section I, Notüs Gladyüs, a knight of the St. John order, comes to and settles in
an inn, Issızhan, that belongs to a Greek family, Mavro and his sister Liya, and this is
separated from Söğüt, the capital of the newly-founded Ottoman frontier, by a vast
swamp. There he meets two of his friends (Uranha, the Turcople captain, and Monk
Benito) and the most famous Turkish poet in that era, Yunus Emre, and a slave, Kurt Ali.
In this part, there are long conversations among them, especially between Notüs Gladyüs
and Mavro. These dialogues, namely in the first part of the novel, form the setting
(atmosphere) of the novel. Through these conversations, the social, political, economical,
and geographical settings of the novel are given and an economical, social and moral
comparison is made between the East and the West.
During the night of his stay, around morning time, Notüs Gladyüs tries to rape the
lady of the inn, Liya, but he fails. The next day, with his two friends, the knight goes to
the monks cave. There they prepare themselves for a journey through the swamp while
Kamagan Dervish, a Mongolian priest, spies on them. They cross the swamp with the
monks help, reach Dönmezköy (a village, where the Christian community, who took
refuge in the Ottomans, live on the outskirts of Söğüt) and there they kill the trainer of
Ertuğrul Begs horses, Demircan, the beloved of Liya; and also rape and kill Liya who
happens to be there with her lover. They also steal horses and take Liyas body with them
and escape to Karacahisar -another settlement near Söğüt.
Section II begins with a traditional initiation ceremony of the akhf (or
futuwwatiyya)10 organisation, which played an effective role during the foundation of
the Ottoman Empire with the other three groups -Ghaziyân-ı Rüm, Abdâlân-ı Rüm, and
Bajıyân-ı Rüm- according to some historians.11 However, when it is over we find out -to
our amazement- that this is a childrens game, rather than an actual ceremony. This is an
excellent display of Kemal Tahirs narrative strategy. He employs the same technique in
another of his works, Göl İnsanları (The People of the Lake) (1958: 103-108), a
compilation of four short stories. One critic, Murat Belge (1994: 164), claims that this
scene is totally irrelevant to the development of the novel, for there is no functionalism in
making children play akhiism\ For him, this ceremony has no place in the novel. This
could be debated, because there is one character who later becomes an individual in the
novel, Kerim, whose development could not be understood if this scene were neglected.
Moreover, as Berna Moran (1991: 162) points out, this scene has other important
functions and implications: to give information about akhiism and to show the state of
morality in Söğüt.
When the trainers dog that was wounded by Uranhas arrow arrives at Söğüt,
Kerim, the brother of Demircan, and his friend Orhan Beg, the son of Osman Beg, go to
Dönmezköy in order to find the carcass of a wolf, which they think the dog has killed.
However, they find the corpse of Demircan instead. Thereupon, the Ottomans
immediately gather. While the meeting is still in progress, they learn that Ertuğrul Beg
has just died. At this meeting, in spite of his uncle Dündar Alps opposition, Osman Beg
is chosen as the new leader of Söğüt. After burying his father, Osman Beg and Kerim go
to İtburnu, where Sheikh Edebâli -their religious leader- lives, to take his advices and to
talk matters over with him, and come back to Söğüt for another meeting. In this meeting,
they must decide whether to start a war or not. While the meeting is taking place a
Byzantine prince, Filatyos, (the brother of the ruler of the Karacahisar frontier) comes to
Söğüt. He brings along Mavro and accuses Demircan of forcing Liya to become a
Muslim, and of raping her, and then killing her. He wants to use Mavro as a witness, but
Mavro refuses to do so and takes refuge in the Ottomans in spite of Filatyos. Osman
persuades him by saying that there has been a misunderstanding on their part and further
adds that these are the evil works of enemies, who desire to sow the seeds of enmity
between the two frontiers - one Greek and the other Muslim. Mavro is not given back to
the prince and is adopted by Bacıbey (Devlet Hatun or Devlet Ana), mother of Kerim and
In the beginning of Section III, while Kaplan Çavuş, the father of Aslıhan
(Kerims lover), tries to train Kerim and Mavro as warriors in order to take revenge on
the killers of their brother and sister, his poet friend, Yunus Emre, brings good news to
Osman Beg in Söğüt about Sheikh Edebalis daughter, Balkız: Edebali has accepted
Osmans proposal (his first attempt was not accepted by Edebali) to marry Balkız. Osman
decides to send for a second time his friend, Alışar Beg, the ruler of Eskişehir, to Edebali
to ask for the hand of Balkız. However, Alışar asks her hand for himself, but does not get
a positive reply from her father upon which he decides to kidnap her. He hires Knight
Notüs Gladyüs and Uranha for this purpose, but they fail to kidnap her. Then the enemies
of the Ottomans, Filatyos, Notüs Gladyüs, Uranha, Alışar Beg, and Çudaroğlu -a
Mongolian robber-, lay traps for Osman Beg when he goes to visit a friend of his,
Nurettin Beg, in a neighbouring Muslim settlement. Again the Ottomans are triumphant.
Alışar is killed by Osman Beg. After the incident, Osman Beg firstly goes to Edebali to
inform him about the situation and with her fathers permission he marries Balkız.
In Section IV, it becomes clear to Mavro that these traps and attacks have been
planned and executed by the knight, his two friends, and some other enemies, who are
settled in this region, such as Christian princes (tekfurs). Meanwhile, Orhan Beg saves
the daughter of the prince of Yarhisar, Lotüs, from drowning, and falls in love with her.
Another attempt to attack the Ottoman caravan fails, because Osman Beg receives
information about it from a slave, Kurt Ali, and has taken precautions. After that, Kerim
enters the monks cave and finds out for certain that Monk Benito is one of the enemies
of Ottomans who organised the attacks against them. However, Kerim falls into a trap
that had been prepared by Monk Benito and is wounded. Eventually all chances of
preserving peace are gone forever. The prince of Yarhisar is persuaded by the enemies of
the Ottomans to allow his daughter Lotüs, to marry the prince of Bilecik, and Osman Beg
is invited to the wedding in order to trap him. He learns about this trap from his spies and
takes precautions again and beats all of them and conquers all the surrounding territories,
including Bilecik, and this puts an end to enemy attacks. In the meantime, Kerim and
Mavro chase their foes, the knight and the Turcople captain, all the way to the inn,
Issızhan - and there they kill them. In the end, Kerim goes back to his books and
becomes a mullah (in Turkish molla) not a warrior in spite of the wishes of his mother.
In other words, he becomes an individual.
The next aspect to be discussed is the question of which principles of combination
are used in the structuring and development of the plot of Devlet Ana. As mentioned
above, in the theoretical discussion, the following five basic principles that may be used
in the translation of events into sequences and of sequences into plots, were: time,
causality, space, character and internal relationships (such as contrast and similarity).
In the development of the plot of Devlet Ana all of these principles of combination
are used, but it is clear that not all are used to the same extent. A close analysis of the
development of the plot throughout the parts reveals that internal relationships, causality,
and character are used as the most important principles in the combination of different
sequences of events to form a plot. By means of these three principles smaller narrative
units are integrated to form part of a coherent whole. This happens in the following way:
Internal relationship(s) between sequences is used as the most important principle
in combining different sequences, as a pattern of contrast can be detected in most of the
sequences of events that are narrated. This underlying pattern is the conflict between the
East (the positive side) and the West (the negative side). The author of Devlet Ana, as
mentioned before, tries to prove that Anatolian people are different from and superior to
Western people. He organises events in order to show peoples reactions to the same
event. For instance, he puts a slave, Kurt Ali, in his novel just to compare the perspectives
of the two sides on slaves and the problem of slavery. This pattern is used over and over
again in combining events into sequences. Thus, cohesion is created between all the
individual sequences in which the same pattern is used. The main reason for beginning
the second section of the novel with the initiation ceremony of the akhf organization is
also related to this pattern. In the first section of the novel, the author shows us the
immorality of Western people by using Knight Notüs Gladyüs and Monk Benito. In order
to make a comparison between the morality of Western people and the morality of the
people of Söğüt, he uses this ceremony. In section IV, for the same purpose, the author
also uses the immorality of the people of Bilecik (the Byzantines) (DevletAna: 557-566).
As a result of the frequent use of the principle of contrast, Devlet Ana sometimes
displays a static dimension: the features of the Anatolian people (the East) and the
reaction of Western people, which are especially represented by Knight Notüs Gladyüs,
to them and the opposing values of the two groups are made clear from the outset. As a
matter of fact, for Kemal Tahir, every plot, whether in a novel or in a film, should be
based on a certain and obvious conflict that highlights two opposite sides -good and bad.
Kemal Tahir often emphasises this narrative strategy, which reminds us of folk
literature12, in his notes:
Unless one can assure that there is an open conflict and sides of this conflict are clarified,
unless all events are shared between the two sides in conflict and the story is taken to the
climax, to the finale, one cannot talk about the existence of a subject for the cinema, let
alone its perfection. (Kemal Tahir, 1990: 214).
Only after the main conflict and the two opposing sides involved in this conflict become
obviously apparent, one is able to talk about technique, style, and setting. (Kemal Tahir,
If the topic, namely the conflict, and the sides that take part in this conflict are chosen
correctly, the conflict gains the desired impression and density spontaneously on its own,
towards the end. (Kemal Tahir, 1990: 218).
The reason for the main conflict and the characteristics of the opposite sides, which
will lead to this conflict, are emphasised by the conversations between Mavro, Notus
Gladyus, and Yunus Emre in the first part of Devlet Ana. After this detailed introductory
part, the main conflict that occurs between the Ottomans and their enemies begins.
Meanwhile, the reader encounters an essential element of the adventure novels: a struggle
between those who want to complete a mission in a certain time and those who do not
want to let them reach their target. As a matter of fact, many of his novels, especially
after Devlet Ana, contain elements of the newspaper13, detective story14, and popular
adventure novel. In his novel, he also widely applied the device typical in adventure
literature of joining contrasting elements such as villains and heroes. And, indeed, one
might ask why he used the narrative technique of the adventure novel in his narrative
strategy. There are several reasons. First of all, with its central interest in plot, the
adventure novel was a brilliant solution to a basic problem of Kemal Tahirs creative
poetics. He created models of gripping narrative interest, and by doing so satisfied his
main requirement in the area of novelistic technique. He knew that his concept of the
novel, which was very wide and embraced all spheres of thought -tragedy, philosophy,
sociology, economics, and history- had to be interesting externally because of its great
internal complexity in order to hold the readers interest. He understood that the difficult
path for the reader through the labyrinth of theories, characters, and human relations in
one book had to be made easier by the liveliness and interest of the plot. In order to
impress and attract the reader Kemal Tahir also uses humour in the characters dialogues.
According to Kemal Tahir (1989a: 56; Seyda, 1969: 42), his type of Turkish novel
should reflect the spirit of the Turk (Türk ruhU or Türk dehası,14) and this genic spirit
should also inform the narrative structure of the novel. So, it could be said that one of the
reasons for creating such scenarios in Devlet Ana is that the society it described was semi-
nomadic. The same way, as I will mention later, could also be argued that one of the
reasons for including such long dialogues in the novel is that the people targeted are
dominated by an oral culture.
On the other hand, the principle of causality is also used as a principle in
combining the sequences of events in Devlet Ana into a plot. At the beginning of the
novel, this principle is demonstrated in the attempts to spoil the peace in the region, and
this is seen as a reaction against the Turcomans who constitute a strong community in the
region. In the plot of Devlet Ana, the events are narrated in detail. They are linked to one
another tightly and are set up successively, as in detective novels.
In addition to the aforementioned aspect of Devlet Ana, there is another important
element, which is worth mentioning here: chiasmutic coherence of the events. Briefly,
chiasmus is a rhetorical term to describe a construction involving the repetition of words
or elements in reverse order (ABC: CBA) (K. Wales, 1989: 62). When we look at
Devlet Ana as a whole narration, it will be seen that the story begins with the arrival of
the knight and his friend, Uranha, at Issızhan where they plan to steal Ertuğruls
warhorses and spoil the peaceful atmosphere of the region. The knight, who never turns
his back to anyone for his fear of being killed from behind, is also vehemently afraid of
standing next to the edge of the cliff, and Uranha killed Kerims brother, Demircan, and
Mavros sister, Liya (A). Interestingly enough, at the end of novel, both the knight and
Uranha are killed by Kerim and Mavro in Issızhan. Furthermore, the knight died falling
over the edge of that cliff which he had likened to hell at the beginning of the novel (A).
At the second stage, we come across another important chiasmus structure in
Devlet Ana. Here the sequence of events revolve around their (the knight and Uranha)
plans to steal Ertuğruls horses in order to earn money by selling them and prepare a good
future for themselves in the region. They even dreamed of establishing a princedom in the
region. For this purpose, they cross the swamp following the instructions of Monk Benito
(B). Curiously, the second half of this pair is in stark contrast to their initial plan. Here,
their life is in chaos. This time they pass through the swamp again in order to save their
souls from death. The money (gold) they made is stolen by their guide Pervane Subaşı.
Symbolically speaking, the guide misleads them, and their hope of securing their future in
the region, through the establishment of a princedom fades and disappears below the
muddy surface of swamp (B).
The author highlights another stark contrast between Söğüt (Ottoman principality)
and Bilecik (Byzantium principality) at stage three in our chiasmus structure. Briefly, the
narration begins with a traditional initiation ceremony of the 'akhf organization. This
represents the morality of Turcomans, the people of the East. They place enormous
importance on the preservation of virtue and morality in society (C). On the other hand,
the second half of this part introduces us to the people who live in Bilecik (the West). The
major characteristic of Western people portrayed by the novel is the corruption in their
moral lives. They are depicted as people who chase after money, satisfy their sexual
desires and so forth (C). So the contrast created between the East and the West
symbolises the virtues of the Turcomans and the degenerated life of the Byzantines in
This structural unity can be best shown in the following chiasmus scheme:
The author not only deals with laymen and leaders moral lives, but also examines
the lives of the religious leaders in their communities. In his usual style, the author
presents two different personalities for the East and the West. As a representative of the
East, Sheikh Edebâli is an honest, powerful, pure and religious person. In addition, his
dervish lodge, which is surrounded by the trees and vineyards, is described
metaphorically as paradise (D). However, the cave where Monk Benito lives is dark and
dirty, like his clothes. In contrast to Edebâlis dervish lodge, this is situated in the middle
of a barren hill in front of the swamp. There is no tree, house or planted area around it. It
seems that the author is making a metaphorical connection between hell and the cave of
Whereas Section Three shows the Turks and the Byzantines, the last chiasmutic
structure portrays the contrast between two Turkish principalities (beyliks), Söğüt and
Eskişehir. The main figures of this part are Alışar Beg, Hophop Cadi, Osman Beg, and
Akçakoca. The beg of Eskişehir, Alışar, and his adviser, Hophop Cadi, are shown making
secret plans to harm or deceive their subjects (reaya). Moreover, both Alışar and
Hophop Cadi are corrupt and are portrayed running after women (E). However, the other
Turcomans, Osman Beg and Akçakoca, are presented as honest and self-sacrificing
people who work on behalf of their subjects. In contrast to Alışars corrupt life, Osman
Beg is introduced as a morally perfect man, especially in his sexual life. By the same
token, his adviser Akçakoca, is a very kind person who always helps the people without
expecting anything in return (E). Like the comparison between Söğüt and Bilecik, the
comparison between Söğüt and Eskişehir shows the moral and administrative superiority
of Söğüt (Ottomans). Clearly, by this comparison, the author wants to show why the
Ottomans alone established such a powerful empire rather than other Turcoman beyliks in
This chiasmatic construction describes the several elements in Devlet Ana in
reverse order, which confirms the internal structural unity of the novel. For this reason, it
is not plausible to accept the comment made by Tahsin Yücel regarding the effective
relation among the different factors in the novel. According to Yücel (1983: 101), many
elements in Devlet Ana are brought together randomly and serve to complete part of the
narration rather than the whole text. Therefore, there is no internal coherence or well-
organised structure in Devlet Ana}5 However, Berna Moran (1991: 174-5) claims that
from beginning to end the novel shows internal coherence and, therefore, the novel is
Character is also used as a principle in combining sequences of events in the novel
-yet not to same extent as the two principles discussed above. The author of Devlet Ana
organizes some of the sequences of events in order to present Kerims development as
one of the most important characters of the novel. In order to present this process, as
Moran (1991: 161-166) explains in detail, the author utilises myths and the structure of
romance stories. The story of Kerim, with its three stages [departure - initiation (or
examination) - return] is similar to the structures of romances, epics and myths.15
At the beginning Kerim wants to become a mullah, but his mother Bacıbey does
not want this. With Ertuğrul Begs persuasion, at last, she allows him to become a
mullah. After the death of his brother, Demircan, Kerim is forced by his mother to
become a warrior. His mother burns his books and breaks his musical instrument. Then
she gives him his brothers warrior dress and sword. Thus, Kerim decides to be a warrior
unwillingly. After that, he is known as Kerim Can instead of Kerim Çelebi. This is the
first stage (departure) in the story.
In the second stage (initiation or examination), Kerim has to be tested and has to
die symbolically. For this reason, he enters the monks cave (which is called 'the inn of
the monster) and there he finds valuable books and treasures as well as the monks
secrets. After this event, he proves his bravery and is praised by the people, including his
beloved Aslıhan; and he is given the valuable books as reward for his heroic action. This
shows that he passed the test successfully. In addition to this, having killed his brothers
killer, he proves himself totally.
The final stage (return) represents revival (returning to his individuality) of Kerim.
After returning to Söğüt, he hangs up his sword, and then starts to read his books.
Meanwhile, his mother comes in, and takes the whip, which is a symbol of the power, in
order to force him to throw out the books and take to the sword. However, this time,
Kerim takes the whip from his mothers hand and forces her to calm down and
commands her to go to kitchen in order to prepare food. This indicates that he has become
Although time and space are also used in the combination of sequences, they are
less important for the overall structuring of the novel. In the plot of Devlet Ana, the
sequences of the events are linked by means of chronological relationships. The function
of the chronological framework is to provide a broad outline within which the dynamic
interaction between Ottomans and their enemies is presented. The principle of space is
mainly employed in describing the characters and making a comparison between Eastern
people and Westerners. There is a great difference between the spatial settings, where the
Westerners or the enemies of Ottomans live and those in which the Ottomans live.
Whereas the enemies of the Ottomans (especially Mongols and Westerners) are shown
presented in dirty and dark places, such as caves and swamps, the Ottomans are generally
presented in clean and well-lighted places, such as Bacibeys green, cool, and cheerful
In the novel, the author manipulates his reader in such a way as to nurture
particular opinions. For this purpose, he establishes a close relationship with the reader.
This relationship should be kept in mind during our narratological analysis and also all
future narratological/rhetorical studies about this authors novels. As mentioned before,
for the purpose of this study I shall assume that the relationship between author and
reader in Devlet Ana can be described broadly in terms of a process whereby the author
guides the reader to accept a particular perspective on the Ottomans.
2. The narrator in Devlet Ana
The narrator of Devlet Ana can be classified as follows:
* With regard to the narrative level and extent of participation in the story, the
narrator is to be classified as extra-heterodiegetic narrator. He is, like all the other
narrators of the authors novels, extradiegetic narrators, as he always functions on
superior narrative levels and is heterodiegetic narrator, as he is never presented as being
one of the characters within the narrative. It is the higher narratorial authority in relation
to the stories they narrate that confers on them the quality, which has often been called
omniscience. This narrator tends to be apparent in the narration; and with his
explanations, interpretations, and judgements he wants to say we are here. Omniscience
is perhaps an exaggerated term for him, but his characteristics are relevant:
familiarity, in principle, with the characters innermost thoughts and feelings; knowledge
of past, present and future; presence in locations where characters are supposed to be
unaccompanied; and knowledge of what happens in several places at the same time.
(Rimmon-Kenan, 1983: 95).
In other words, his narrative vision is
both panchronic and ubiquitous. (ONeill, 1994: 62).
So, while narrating he knows everything related with events and characters that
take place in those events. The narrator of Devlet Ana, for example, seems to know
everything about Osman Beg when talking about him:
Osman Beg was never seen to be angry or swearing at anyone since he had become a man.
On the other hand, although the narrator of Devlet Ana rarely speaks of people who
are in different places at the same time (i.e. the scene on page 450, which reflects the
conversation between Orhan and Lotüs, firstly is presented through two characters
(Mavro and Kerim), who are placed at the same stage with Orhan and Lotüs, but
separated from them; limited focalisations; and this is presented through the narrators
eyes), he mostly narrates just an event instead of narrating all events that occur in
different places at the same time, and leaves the other(s) to the character(s) who lived that
event(s). This is the most prominent feature of Kemal Tahirs narrative strategy in his
novels: most of the events are narrated by characters, called character-narrators
(homodiegetic narrators).16 This method is the best way of reducing the narrators
overtness to a minimum: scenic representation is used as the dominant technique and this
brings mimesis to the foreground. By using dialogues between the characters, he is able
to give many summaries, flashbacks (analepsis) and descriptions. For instance, in the first
chapter of the novel, historical, political, social, and economical settings of the region are
given through the dialogues between Mavro and Knight Notüs Gladyüs instead of being
given by the narrator.17 Whenever the events that occurred in the past are to be narrated or
summarised, the author gives this role to the characters rather than to the narrator. These
narrator-characters narrate an incident that happened in the past or give information to the
other characters that listen. In this way, as Berna Moran (1991: 177) points out, the author
sets a theatre stage that gives him both a narrator to present his story and the use of
scenic representation [in Platos (1963: 638) word, mimesis] is more fascinating for the
reader as a mode by which to draw his/her own conclusions from what s/he sees and
hears. Pir Dervish, Ermeni (Armenian) Toros and Kel Dervish narrate at great length to
Kerim and others gathered in Bacıbeys house the raid of Karacahisar (Devlet Ana: 485¬
503) is the best example in Devlet Ana for this. Briefly, as in epics, Kemal Tahir presents
many events through witnesses in his novels. However, when characters are narrating an
event, in order to save it from being monotonous, the author changes these character-
narrators by dialogue and interference. It should be stressed that instead of describing an
event itself, the narration of it by a character is presented, giving it a different scenic
representation. In other words, the narrator does not narrate the story, but rather, he
presents the narration of the story by the ones who lived it. As stated above, this method
has an excessive reliance on direct speech and conversation, and this can be seen
throughout Devlet Ana and is one of the most important techniques that Kemal Tahir uses
in his narrative strategies. Therefore, as will be seen later, this method reduces the
perceptibility of the extra-heterodiegetic narrator in the novel. In this method, the
character-narrator does not narrate his/her story to us but to the other characters that listen
to him/her. In other words, his/her narratee on the stage is not us as readers (called as
heterodiegetic narratees) but homodiegetic narratee(s). We, as the real readers, are just
the audience for the character-narrators. This method reminds us of Turkish traditional
narratives, especially the popular forms of theatrical entertainment such as meddah
(story-teller)18 and ortaoyunu19 (improvised comedy or theatrical representation with a
central stage). For instance, Kel Dervish obviously uses the style of meddah when
narrating Cimris (The Stingy) story by using the language of the Dede Korkut stories
(Moran, 1991: 159; Gülendam, 1999a) in the novel. The stereotyped expressions of the
meddah or minstrel style are often used by him:
Hello, O the servants of God... Hello, O pure-hearted people! Hello, O beautiful sisters!
[...] O, the sons of Adam and the servants of God. About what do we speak to you now?
[.] Let us talk about Cimri. (DevletAna: 427-428).
Bayhoca also uses the same stereotyped expressions when he narrates a story about
the creation of the horse:
About what do we speak to you now? ... Let us talk about our poor father Adam. (Devlet
It is obvious that Kemal Tahir is influenced by and benefits from this tradition very
much in his narrative technique. With the help of this method, Kemal Tahir is able to
show characters individual specialties and to produce humour to curb monotony. As a
result the reader does not get bored while reading this long novel. In addition to the extra-
heterodiegetic narrator (external narrator), who is at primary narrative level, there are
some character-narrators (homodiegetic narrators) who take roles to present the story.
Therefore, it is obvious that Devlet Ana has both a far and a near universe that can be
reached not directly but via the witnesses and humorous interpretation of the characters.
As readers, we learn about events from the characters as they narrate them. In other
words, together with reader, the external narrator witnesses not only the events
themselves but also the events narrated by the characters. The character-narrator
(homodiegetic narrator) just considers the narration. This means that there is more than
one narrator in the same narrative and more than one narration level. The conversations of
the characters that contain the events that happened to them as if they are on a stage is not
the story itself but the narration of it. As a result, the narration of these conversations
(dialogues) is a narration of the narration. This shows that there is a third level. This triple
structure involves the story, the narration and the narrative (text):
1st level >> narrative (text) >> Ottoman society and Kerim
2nd level >> narration >> conversation of the three people who took part in the raid
3rd level >> story >> the capture of Karacahisar
The narrator knows the past and present very well. He mentions a future event just
once. After falling into Monk Benitos trap in his dark cave, the narrator foretells the
future situation of Kerim as follows:
Later, although he forced himself a lot, he was not be able to remember how he put out the
torch and put it in its place. (DevletAna: 462).
The narrator sees into the minds and hearts of their characters. For instance, while
Hophop Cadi, who saved Ali§ar Beg from financial troubles by cheating, was thinking
about his illegal jobs between page 276 and page 281, the author shows these events to us
without any narratorical intervention except just once:
-At this point of his thoughts, Hophop Cadi bent his finger and struck on wood-. (Devlet
The narrator of Devlet Ana even knows the minds and hearts of the characters
better than they themselves. I will give three examples from the novel:
-He (Kerim) was trying to gain time without being aware of that-(Devlet Ana: 622).
He (Kerim) opened KELiLE and DiMNE at random and then, without knowing what he
was doing he slowly sat down on the sofa. (Devlet Ana: 620).
After entering the swamp, neither were aware that they were trying to postpone the fight
as far as possible, in plain Turkish, they were mortally afraid of fighting with sword
against these fellows. (DevletAna: 607).
* In terms of the degree of perceptibility within the narrative, the narrator is
classified as being perceptible.
In Devlet Ana the presence of the narrator is indicated by means of the following
To show that there is a narrator, one can take into consideration an aspect of the
handling of time: rhythm. It has been observed by many narratologists that the story is
presented in a certain rhythm. Thus, some events are told scenically, others at a slow
pace, while others are related at a rapid pace. This rhythm is made clear by the narrator at
the level of the text through his choice of verb-forms and time-indicators like once,
regularly, etc. In short, analysis of rhythm is one reliable way to detect a narrator. In this
sense, one of the most important elements in rhythm is the summary of events.
In Devlet Ana, summary is not common. The summaries in Devlet Ana, which they
are mostly used in order not to repeat above-mentioned events or situations, cover a short
The Black Monk cut short the details about the Knight Notus Gladyus shooting of
Demircan with an arrow when he went to steal the horses, and he launched into a narration
of the Liya incident. He was going into detail and dragging it out as if he were with them.
(Devlet Ana: 550).
He made him say: There is no God but He, and Muhammad is the messenger of God!..
Then, he made him repeat the principles and beliefs of Islam. (DevletAna: 390).
The descriptions of settings and the identification and definition of the characters
are also related to the matter of time. They are pause. This means that the narrator stops
the story while continuing the narration (or, in other words, discourse) by giving
descriptions of settings or of characters, which I will mention below.
Arrangement of story-events (order) is also an important narrative device, one of
the most pressing as the narrator sets out to tell his tale. This rearrangement is a much
more visible sign of manipulation by the narrator than other features, such as summary
and pause, in this novel. Whereas summary and pause (and even indirect speech which I
will examine later) do not seriously disturb the illusion that the story is being played out
before our eyes (though they remind us that it is not being played out of its own accord),
meddling with the chronology is an abrupt reminder that we do not have firsthand access
to the story but depend on the narrator to supply us with reports of the incidents as and
when he will.
Devlet Ana is, like in folklore, faithful to the chronology of story-events; its
discourse tells the events in exactly the order in which they occur in the story. However,
it has been observed that the author is selective in the ordering of the events, which occur
simultaneously. The return of Kaplan Çavuş from Konya is the best illustration of this.
The chronological order of this event can be shown as follows:
A: Aslıhan, the daughter of Kaplan Çavuş, and Kerim are talking about the time of
Kaplan Çavuşs return from Konya in Bacıbeys house.
B: The arrival of Kaplan Çavuş at Osman Begs house.
C: Kaplan Çavuş sends Şirin Kız to Aslıhan in order to inform her of his arrival.
D: The message of Kaplan Çavuş is conveyed by Şirin Kız to Aslıhan.
However, in the novel these events are presented in the following order:
What is (are) the rhetorical purpose(s) behind this selection? At first glance it
seems that the author had no special purpose for this rearrangement. However, if we
examine the text closely, it will be seen that the authors rearrangement is deliberate.
There are several reasons for doing this. First of all, the author achieves continuity of the
narration. This also shows that the narrator of the novel is not intrusive. If he cuts the
conversation between Kerim and Aslıhan in order to present the arrival of Kaplan Çavuş,
the romantic atmosphere created between these two will be damaged. This also shows
that the author pays great attention to the relationship between characters. Apart from this
important reason, there are also others such as to excite the readers curiosity, by creating
a dramatic scene, and to present their inner lives in order to help their characterisation.
In Devlet Ana the present time is dominant. Flashbacks in Devlet Ana are used at
just story level (in characters speeches), either in order to express the identities of the
characters or in order to give historical background information and also to give an
ideological message by mentioning certain historical events [i.e. the incident of Cimri
(The Stingy)] to the reader. In their conversations, however, the characters of Devlet Ana
often talk about the past in small flashbacks and the reader sometimes finds difficulty to
establish a relationship between developing (present) events and those past events that are
mentioned by characters. This situation arises both from not understanding the
relationship being established between the past and the present and from the frequency of
this coming and going between them.
Some of these flashbacks in the story level of Devlet Ana (especially those which
describe people) are done by the narrator. On the other hand, some of them - events that
are not mentioned by the narrator because of their simultaneous nature - are done by the
characters who took part in them and are given from their perspectives. That is, the time
is used to get clear identities of the characters and to create atmosphere.
b. Description of setting
This is a relatively minimal sign of the narrators presence. As known, in a play or
a film, this kind of description would be shown directly. In narrative fiction, on the other
hand, it has to be described in the language of a narrator. In Devlet Ana, as mentioned
before, the settings play important roles. Therefore, the narrator either directly (through
their own eyes) or indirectly (through the eyes of one of the characters) gives descriptions
of the settings in which the characters live:
The terrace (sayvan) was like a balcony. The precipice dropped sharply hundreds of
meters down ending in a water-filled crevice, like a large well, which reflected the clouds
above. The pit below reminded one of an abyss opened up to the skies of Hell, as if it had
been cracked open by an earthquake. (Devlet Ana: 11-12).
Monk Benitos cave, which he boasted to have chosen over wordly gains, was right in the
middle of a barren hill. When seen from a distance, its wide mouth made the hill looks like
the baldhead of a toothless giant yawning with its jaws clattering. (DevletAna: 68).
[...] the swamp was like a clever enemy who liked to terrorize. (DevletAna: 595).
In the first example of extracts from Devlet Ana, the scene is presented through the
knights eyes, but the words belong to the narrator. On the other hand, in the second and
third examples that extract from Devlet Ana, the monks cave and the swamp are both
seen through the narrators eyes and described by his words.
What is interesting to note is that Kemal Tahir (1990: 405) claims that the
following extract (depiction of the environment, Akşehir20) that Küçük Ağa (The Little
Agha), which is Tarık Buğras (b.1918-d.1994) best known novel, starts with is irrelevant
to the story, as it occurs in the novel:
At first, the top of Tekke Brook darkened; then, lightning began to flash and in a short
time, the rain started. Rivers appeared on both sides of the streets of the town leading
towards the east. The sky seemed to drop everything it held. Akşehir was welcoming the
spring of 1919, the spring after the great collapse: A barely-formed expectation was
waiting for the spring against pennilessness, poverty, and hunger. It was difficult to find a
man brave enough even to name this expectation. After all, however, they would not feel
cold anymore; at least they would get rid of the cold weather. And cold weather was as
destructive as hunger for elderly and children. It was unbearable to suffer from cold with
hunger. There were only women, the elderly and children left in the town.
Only they had been working in the shops, vineyards, gardens and fields for four years, and
the output therefore was decreasing.
Every house has become a big eye and was staring at the roads for months: Every house
was expecting someone, a betrothed, a husband, a son, an elder brother (ağa), or an
Some were expected to come from hospital, some from their dispersed platoon, and some
from captivity. How they were going to come? In what form and in what spirit they were
going to come? Nobody was thinking about this or even daring to think about it; knowing
the possibility of their arrival was enough. And besides they had to come, it was
inevitable. Otherwise, glamorous Akşehir would become a tomb closing onto it. It was
very close to happening.
The rain was bucketing down, and the streets were flooded with water. The stream had
already overflowed and reached the thresholds of the houses. There was nothing to be
done for anyone. Women were gathering in the houses while the white-bearded men were
in the coffee shops. They were keeping silent for hours in these gatherings. It seemed that
there was a deeper meaning to this collective silence instead the silence of separate
individuals. Maybe, the end of the world would be waited for like this.
However, there was also a part of the town that did not change, in contrast it is even
entirely revived: Non-Muslim Ward. [...] (KüçükAğa: 5-6)
I, however, totally disagree with him, because this depiction of Akşehir, where the
story will take place, is made in order to reflect on the terrible situation of Anatolia in
such an historical circumstance. In other words, this description does not stand apart,
stylistically and contextually, from the rest of the novel; on the contrary, it fully evokes
the memory of an era and displays the entire socio-economic picture of Anatolia after the
First World War (and consequently, before the Turkish War of Independence). It conveys
the esprit du temps. Furthermore, after this description, that also describes the great
expectation of the people of Akşehir, the people, who are expected, come to town such as
Çolak Salih, who is -as indicated in the description- returning to his mother and his
betrothed from his dismissed army as a wounded soldier. Here, unlike the early Turkish
novels such as Namık Kemals İntibah (Evin, 1983: 161, 189), the environment is not just
depicted in terms of the physical surroundings, but in terms of the social and historical
milieu. In other words, he depicts the actual environment in concrete terms rather than
impressionistically. So, contrary to what Kemal Tahir had claimed, it is functional within
the context of the plot. Moreover, this short description is more functional than Kemal
Tahirs long introductory part (58 pages) of Yedi Çınar Yaylası (The Sevenplains Plateau)
(1958) that is presented through Gavur Alis (Infidel Ali) eyes and contains many
elements from traditional narratives such as meddah and tales.
With regard to the setting, the story of Devlet Ana starts in a small place, Issızhan,
but the spatial setting of the novel widens throughout the novel. However, towards the
end of the novel it becomes narrower again, and the story finishes at the house of
Issızhan - the swamp - Söğüt- ... - The Castle of Bilecik - the swamp - Issızhan -
the house of Bacıbey.
As known, there is also social aspect to the setting. This is mostly presented by the
characters speeches in Devlet Ana. In order to give information about the social
atmosphere of the region, where the story of the novel occurs, the author uses the
characters -especially, Mavro (pp. 13-59), Yunus Emre (pp. 51-54), Osman Beg (pp. 179¬
188), Alışar (pp. 264-268), Hophop Cadi (pp. 270-281), and Kaplan Çavuş (pp. 474-481).
c. Definition and identification of character:
Whereas an identification of a character implies only the narrators prior
knowledge about him/her, definition also suggest an abstraction, generalisation or a
summing up on the part of the narrator, as well as a desire to present such labelling as
authoritative characterisation in this novel.
These are how external narrator defines the characters in the novel:
The Knight was short and fat, but stocky. His bushy hair that reached his shoulders
resembled the bristled mane of beasts of prey. (Devlet Ana: 10).
Çudars body was short and chubby. At first glance he looked like a skin full of melted fat
with a head, arms and legs looked haphazardly attached to it. (DevletAna: 251).
With regard to identifying a character, the narrator of Devlet Ana provides some
additional information on the character at the very beginning of his/her appearance in the
text. Regarding characterisation, although the omniscient narrator of Devlet Ana has a
predilection for scene and consequently allows his people to speak and act for
themselves, from time to time he describes and explains them to the reader in his own
Knight Notüs Gladyüs, who since his childhood suffered from the fear of heights and
when he dreamt of cliffs, woke up snarling like an animal being slaughtered, and who
could not get rid of this for days. (Devlet Ana: 11).
Such statements also imply an assumption that reader does not share this
knowledge, an assumption that characterises one of the narrators roles, i.e. to
communicate to others what they do not know.
d. Report of Speech:
Just as the events of the story come to us only through the narrators fashioning of
his discourse out of the material of the story, so an act of speech might pass through the
same filtering process and be conveyed to us in other than its original form. In the novel,
when the narrator informs us of spoken words without availing himself of direct speech,
he is manipulating the story and leaving his marks on the text. When he reports the
occurrence of a speech act, we are apparently seeing the event entirely from his
perspective. However, the representation of speech in the novel, as Rimmon-Kenan
(1983: 106-116) points out, ranges from purely diegetic to purely mimetic: 1. Diegetic
summary (DS), 2. Summary, less purely diegetic (S), 3. Indirect content paraphrase (or:
Indirect discourse) (ID), 4. Indirect discourse, mimetic to some degree (ID), 5. Free
indirect discourse (FID), 6. Direct discourse (DD), 7. Free direct discourse (FDD).
I will illustrate this issue by the following diagram:
Cline of interference in report
control of report
control of report
not in control
of report at all
1. Diegetic summary: The narrator barely reports that a speech act occurred
without giving any specification of what was said or how it was said. The narrator
chooses to regard the speaking as one event among others (Genette, 1980: 170) and
ignores the locution and mentions only the illocution of the speech act. 21
The characters words play a very large role in Devlet Ana, whose subject matter
would suggest a heavy reliance on action, and frequently a speech or a conversation is
integral to the scene as the narrator conceives it, and is sometimes the only reason for
including a scene in the discourse at all. But when the words are irrelevant and a directly
quoted speech would distract from the flow of the scene, the narrator informs us only of
the intended meaning of the speech, that the character swore or commanded or praised.
As Toolan (1988: 122) points out,
such narratorial speech-summarizing is useful in reporting unimportant conversation,
where a verbatim account seems aesthetically undesirable - or for referring a second time
to a conversation that has been previously presented to the reader more fully.
In other words, the narrative report of speech act is one of a battery of summaries that the
narrator has in store to keep the action flowing continuously without going into detail.
Diegetic summaries can be rarely seen in Devlet Ana:
Knight Notus Gladyus [. ] swore gnashing his teeth. (DevletAna: 66).
Knight Notus Gladyus [.] swore through his teeth.22 (DevletAna: 64).
2. Summary, less purely diegetic: The narrator not only mentions but also
summarises a speech event in that he names the topics of conversations.
This kind of summary also can be rarely seen in Devlet Ana:
The travelling poet Yunus [.] recited a few folk poems about life, death, love, destiny,
the hereafter and mysticism. (Devlet Ana: 55).
Mavro, starting with Knight Notus Gladyuss arrival at the inn, summarised what he knew.
(Devlet Ana: 330-331).
3. Indirect content paraphrase (or: Indirect discourse): The narrator
paraphrases the content of a speech event, ignoring the style or form of the supposed
original utterance. This type of speech act also can be rarely seen in Devlet Ana:
Monk Benito said last night that Mavro and Liya were really brother and sister. (Devlet Ana: 65).
4. Indirect discourse, mimetic to some degree: By this type of indirect discourse,
the narrator creates the illusion of preserving or reproducing aspects of the style of an
utterance, above and beyond the mere reporting of its content:
Benito advised his friends, who would be returning riding their horses on their own, that
they should remember the signs, which he put where they passed, and even try to put their
own signs. (DevletAna: 75).
He cheerfully said that he gave the opium, which he travelled a long way for and spent a large
amount of money on, to the local dervishes without charging them a penny. (Devlet Ana: 73).
5. Free indirect discourse: The form which falls grammatically and mimetically
intermediate between direct discourse (DD) and indirect discourse (ID) is called free
indirect discourse (FID), as its name implies, and is normally thought of as a freer version
of an ostensibly indirect form. In McHales words (1978: 252), FID
resembles ID in person and tense, while it resembles DD in not being strictly subordinate
to a higher verb of saying/thinking, and in deictic elements, the word-order of questions,
and the admissibility of various DD features.
This form is used often in the novel. Especially, when the author wants to present
his characters inner thoughts and wishes to make a psychological analysis, this is his
He (Notus Gladyus) understood that Ertugrul, who settled on the frontier of Bithynia
benefiting from the laziness of the Greeks, had no secure base. As it was not very difficult
to remove this ninety-year-old bedridden Turcoman from his place with help of some
Christian princes (tekfurs'), likewise it would be very easy to settle himself in the place
Ertugrul emptied. The first step was the dukedom of Gladyus-Unikus and the second
Bithynia princedom. He had already planned how he would persuade the Christian princes
to vassalage. In order to achieve this goal, a few hundred Catalan and Turcople warriors
would be enough. (Devlet Ana: 12-13).
As can be understood easily from the example given above, one of the attractive
features of free indirect discourse (FID) is that readers are not consciously aware of its
operation. The readers may think of it as a sort of fore-grounded narrative, neither pure
narrative nor pure character-expression.
The author of Devlet Ana is also often fond of running interior monologue and FID
together. For example, he uses it when he wants to give Uranhas opinions about Knight
This poor man was half-mad, but like all mad people he thought of himself as one of the
wisest, cunning and most powerful men in the world. Having known the St. John knights
closely, Uranha believed that all westerners were like this man. Look at this Monk Benito
from Genoa, he is also totally insane... In this dirty cave a pig would not live, let alone a
human being. (DevletAna: 69).
6. Direct discourse: Narrator quotes a monologue or a dialogue. Direct discourse
(DD) consists of the actual words of the character, including verbal and non-verbal
markers of emotion, indicators of the interactive features of exchange, indications of
accent, dialect and personal style; the proposition involved in what the character said; and
usually a reporting clause which tells the reader who spoke the words and (sometimes)
how they were spoken. This reporting clause indicates the presence of the narrator. In
other words, direct discourse has two features, which show evidence of the narrators
presence, namely the quotation marks and the introductory reporting clause:
Looking at the animals, Orhan Beg spoke as if he were whispering:
- The saddle of my Karaduman (The Black smoke) ... Be quick ... I said the saddle Mavro; come
on Kerim Can, you go get its cap and its bit and bring them here. (Devlet Ana: 352).
As can be seen from the example, the conversational interaction between the
characters is frequently supplemented by the narrators comments. In Devlet Ana the
indications of the narrators presence fade away. Except for a few introductory words
before or after quoting the direct words of the characters, in many parts of the novel there
are no textual signs that indicate the narrators presence that I will mention it when I deal
with FDS below.
As known, the great advantage of using direct speech presentation in a novel is that
it reduces the readers awareness of the narrator and so allows apparently direct contact
with the characters. Devlet Ana is a good example of this. DD does make the whole event
seem closer to the reader than a report of it would have done. In every section of Devlet
Ana, physical events are mixed with long verbal speech acts to develop a plot with a
highly dramatic quality. As in dramatic pieces (theatre), the events and the characters are
revived by the dialogue in Devlet Ana. Thus, the author is able to present life to the reader
without the intervention of the narrator. The reader finds himself where the events take
place rather than putting himself in the place of the narrator. Here the reader has a chance
to come into contact with events and characters. It is as if he were following the
directions on the theatre stage. Then the existence of the narrator, who provides
explanations, disappears during the dialogue section. The events and opinions and
emotions of the characters reach the reader from the mouths of the characters directly.
The conversation carried on by the characters, the lexicon they select, and the life
style they adopt give some clues about their characters and the conditions where they live.
This type of conversation not only gives information about the event itself but also further
information about what kind of events will occur. The first-hand information provided by
the characters gives us a better opportunity to understand the plot. The author kills two
birds with one stone: having used these dialogues he establishes reality in the fiction, and
at the same time he achieves tension in the work. The tension created by the dialogue in
the narrative gives an opportunity to the reader to attach himself to heroes and observe
them closely, and enables him (the reader) to enter their world and associate himself with
them, so that he understands the problem.
Having made much use of dialogue, Kemal Tahir creates the plot of the narration.
What is going on in the novel, how the events develop, the emotional world of the
characters, the relationship among them come to the reader directly through these
conversations. Sometimes there are descriptions, which are generally short and free from
interpretations, and bear some features of the scenarios used in drama.
Conversation (dialogue) is of central importance, both stylistically and thematically
in Tahirs novels. As a result of that, the characters have long conversations and
sometimes beat about the bush and babble. They also sometimes tell stories like a
meddah or a qissakhwan (kıssahan). 369 pages of 618 pages of the novel, in other
words 52% of it, contain dialogues between two or more characters. Needless to say, this
style is also very common in his other novels.23 In his novels, description takes up a very
small part of the text, but dialogues and actions make up the larger part of the text.
Moreover, it could easily be said that the main narrators of his novels are the characters in
them. It should be noted that the obvious and dominant feature of his narrative strategy is
theatricality. His characters live as long as they speak. In other words, one of the
important reasons for the great stress he placed on dialogue (DD and FDD, which I will
deal with it later in this section) is to bring the reader closer together with the characters
and the events in the novel. Furthermore, his presentation of the events from the different
points of view of the characters, instead of using the narrators focalisation is the most
important technique, which Kemal Tahir mostly prefers (Kemal Tahir den Fatma İrfana
Mektuplar, 1979: 174, 340). Like Ahmet Mithat and Gogol, Kemal Tahir says that he
wants to speak to the reader. Although Kemal Tahir believes that this is the most
attractive thing in the novel, he is fully aware of the danger of intervention, which affects
the novel negatively (Kemal Tahirden Fatma İrfana Mektuplar, 1979: 242, 245, 272).
7. Free direct discourse: Either or both direct discourses conventional
orthographic cues (namely, the quotation marks and introductory reporting clause) can be
removed. This is the typical form of first-person interior monologue and the narrator is
totally non-perceptible in this form. The characters apparently speak to us more
immediately without the narrator as an intermediary. Kemal Tahir is fond of omitting just
the reporting clause. For example, he uses this choice to portray the quick to and fro of
the conversation between the slave Kurt Ali and Knight Notüs Gladyüs:
- Where are you from?
- From Menteşe Principality.
- What do you do?
- I am a warrior captain in Begs ship...
- Who captured you?
- The Rhodians.
- Were you attacked?
- No! [...]
- Were you taken unaware, then?
- No! [...]
- When did it happen?
- Two years ago...
- Have you been an oarsman all that time?
- No! [...]
- Are you going to take three thousands florins in cash?
-No! One silk carpet. one war-horse, and for his wife two rolls of silk cloth ...
- How much of this have you collected? When does your leave finish?
- With the exception of the horse I collected all of them with your prayer, Sir. The
money for the horse is ready, but unfortunately I was not be able to find an appropriate
horse... (DevletAna: 43-45)
In fact, this is only a portion of some seventy-three lines of free direct speech
between the initial narrative sentence and the next one.
In some FDS in Devlet Ana, without the introductory clauses specifying which
character says what, it becomes difficult to remember which character is which -and in
some cases there is even a third character who joins the conversation-, so that confusion
is gradually produced in the readers mind and even in the mind of some critics who have
misunderstood the authors intentions. Kemal Tahir, as mentioned above, devotes many
pages to dialogue and that is one of the influences of oral literature on his works, which
can be seen in his many novels -with the exception of Sağırdere, Esir Şehrin İnsanları
(People of the Enslaved City) (1956), Esir Şehrin Mahpusu (The Prisoner of the Enslaved
City) (1961), and Yorgun Savaşçı. Therefore, the reader sometimes has difficulty in
following the speakers in the novel, even some critics have. For instance, Taner Timur,
who has mostly criticised Kemal Tahirs novels in terms of their contents, confused the
order of speakers in a dialogue scene once. As a result of it, he attributes Osman Begs
words to Sheik Edebâli (Timur, 1991: 203). In addition to him, the Russian researcher,
Svetlana Uturgauri, attributes Yunus Emres words to another character of the novel,
Kaplan Çavuş (Uturgauri, 1989: 111). One of the leading literary critics in Turkey, Gürsel
Aytaç, also makes a mistake in this issue. When she mentions the conversation scene that
occurs between Bayhoca and Mavro, she wrongly thought that this dialogue occurred
between Kerim and Mavro (Aytaç, 1990: 178). 24
e. Translation of words used by a character:
The first step was the Dukedom of Gladyüs-Üniküs*, and the second Bithynia princedom.
(Devlet Ana: 13).
In this example, a footnote is used for giving information on this word and to
translate this word into Turkish:
*In Latin: a Unique Sword 25
The same situation can be seen on page 59:
He roared Gratias Deo*
In this example, the meaning of the word that is underlined is again given by a footnote:
*Thank God - in Latin.
These automatically draw attention to the presence of the narrator reflecting on his
own narration. Using a footnote is a common feature in Kemal Tahirs narratives. Apart
from his novels,26 he also uses this narrative strategy in his short stories in Göl İnsanları.
He uses footnote in his narratives for two reasons:
a) To translate foreign or local words or expressions: This type is the more common
one and can be seen in nearly all of his works.27
b) To explain his opinions: This type only can be seen in his uncompleted novels,
such as Bir Mülkiyet Kalesi (A Castle of Proprietorship) (1977), (i.e. pp. 20, 127,
129, 198, 358, 359). However, in his completed works, he injects his ideas into
the text by using a narrator or characters conversations. Therefore, these works
do not contain this type of footnote. As can easily be seen in the following
example, however, this technique does not reduce his intrusiveness:
c) Kamil Beg was somewhat confused because he did not know that the word
slander was used for theft. (Esir Şehrin Mahpusu, 1961: 17).
f. Reports of what characters did not think or say
In the novel, the narrator relates things of which the characters are either
unconscious or which they deliberately conceal. So, the narrator is clearly seen as an
independent source of information. The following examples, which are extracted from
Devlet Ana, report what characters did not say:
Before he said May you remain blind you miserable Turcoman, his mind was completely
mixed up by hearing the sound of the drum. (DevletAna: 378).
He thought of saying The girl is ready... What if we go and take her... (Devlet Ana: 516-517).
g. Commentary on the story
A statement that explains or evaluates often does more than highlight the narrator,
it reminds us explicitly that narrative is an act of communication between the narrator and
One form of commentary in the novels in question is interpretation. In an
interpretation, the narrator takes stock of a situation and infers the reason for an action
from what he knows about the characters, the world of the story, or human nature.
In Devlet Ana, the interpretations are generally done by the characters. For
instance, Notüs Gladyüs makes an interpretation about Monk Benito that gives us
information about both the monk and the knight himself when they are in the swamp:
Unless he were really an enemy of the whole of humanity -in other words, being an
enemy of himself-, nobody could mix this much with a part of nature that has totally lost
its meaning. (DevletAna: 73).
However, the omniscient narrator himself also makes interpretation about the
characters behaviour in the novel:
Orhan was deep in thought. Since he heard that Monk Benito and two foreigners were
involved in the situation, an unexplainable anxiety had gripped his heart. This was the
kind of anxiety, which creatures that eat each other feel when they met. (DevletAna: 507).
As seen from the above examples, these kinds of interpretations provide
information not only about their direct object but also about the interpreters. On the other
hand, the comments, which the narrator of Devlet Ana makes on cases, persons and
situations, are certainly not so ideological.
Judgments are perhaps more revealing of the narrators moral stand. In Devlet Ana,
the narrator constantly explains motives, describes interior states, and makes judgments:
Like bravery and kindness, cowardice and wickedness, according to some, are relatives.
(Devlet Ana: 74).
From time to time, the characters also make judgments and these judgments show
the narrators ideological stand as well. Here, he intends to emphasise Orhans (in a
sense, the Turcomans) ability for leadership:
Mavro very much appreciated Orhan Begs bravery. Taking the lead, and ruling over
people was not easy. (Devlet Ana: 544).
The third type of commentary is generalisation. It is not restricted to a specific
character, event, or situation but extends the significance of the particular case in a way
that supposedly applies to a group, a society or humanity at large. The narrator of Devlet
Ana often uses it -especially for the characters and to describe human nature:
Ali§ar Beg, like the most of the sons of Adam, loved praise, in addition he thought of
himself as the cleverest and the bravest in the world. (DevletAna: 277-8).
Like all elderly person, he was afraid that wrongdoings and inexperience would be done
after him. (Devlet Ana: 125).
I add explanation as a forth type here. An explanation requires the knowledge of a
certain fact of which the narrator is only now apprising us; on occasion the fact might
already be known to some (a name, a piece of traditional lore, etc.), but more often the
narrator is supplying us with new information, whether out of the past or from the present
In Devlet Ana, apart from explaining the meaning of some Latin words as
footnotes, which I dealt with above, the narrator, who in fact in many cases chooses to let
the actions and the characters speak for themselves, also makes explanations either in
order to give information about some historical cases or to explain the cause of or
purpose of some actions. For example, the characters first appearances in Devlet Ana are
accompanied by an introduction that is a kind of explanation. In the first of the following
examples, the narrator of Devlet Ana makes an explanation that is, in fact, not so much to
inform as to promote a richer and clearer understanding of the immediate context. As for
second example, the narrator explains the cause of the action:
Evening had fallen upon Söğüt, the winter quarters of Ertuğrul, the beg of Bithynian
frontier, which was described by Arab authors travelling in the region as the land of
willows, or, as the Byzantines called it, Tebizon\ (DevletAna: 116).
Lotüs could not understand the question since she was lost in Balkızs beauty. (DevletAna: 428).
h. Commentary on the narration:
There is no commentary on the narration in Devlet Ana. However, this kind of
commentary can be found in Kemal Tahirs uncompleted novels that were published after
his death. Although these do not show his narrative strategy, because of being
concentrated on showing the process of writing, I shall give some examples from Bir
After that, there happened a few events, which are not directly related to this story, and
these will be recorded briefly. (Bir Mülkiyet Kalesi: 116).
(An important character who would help the story greatly was almost forgotten...) (Bir
Mülkiyet Kalesi: 118).
[...] as mentioned above [...] (Bir Mülkiyet Kalesi: 358).
Such commentary has historically been attacked as being intrusive, digressive, or
didactic, as telling rather than showing, or as destroying the illusion of reality by
reminding us that we are reading a novel.
To sum up, in comparison many novels, such as Tarık Buğras Osmancık (Little
Osman) (1983) that is also about the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, the presence of
the narrator of Devlet Ana is less perceptible. As mentioned above, the use of scenic
representation (mimesis or showing) provides this feature. I suggest that rather than
considering mimesis and diegesis as two mutually exclusive categories, it is productive to
think of them as representing a continuum with minimal narrator colouring at one end and
maximal narrator colouring at the other.
I give two examples from these novels. Whereas the first one, which belongs to
Osmancık, includes maximal narrator colouring, the second one, which is taken from
Devlet Ana, is a good example for minimal narrator colouring:
i. Al-ışık knew very well what Osman wanted and where he wanted to go: It reached
Söğüt as quickly as possible without being spurred. The ezan was being recited for the
yatsı (time about two hours after sunset) prayer. The rain was heavy. The temperature had
dropped, which indicated that there would be snow very soon. Osman went to his fathers
house directly, took his horse in tow, knocked at the door like a courier. He told his
mother, who called from inside Who is it?, what had happened to him without giving her
any chance to speak. He finished,
- Speak to my father and ask for Malhatuns hand.
After Osman, Ede Balı was unable to smile. He loved his children, but his love for
Malhatun was extreme. [.] He was ready to sacrifice his life for her. He thought of
Osman all the night. (Osmancık: 64).
ii. - She is my elder sister, what can I do for you?
- Is your older sister deaf? -He waited a while- I asked her name but she pretended not to
hear. Can the borders of Ertuğrul be seen from here? I asked, but she disappeared
- Please forgive her, she does not like to talk, her name is Liya.
- What does it mean?
- Lilly, -he grinned showing his teeth- she has not been named suitably. She should be
named properly. Why did your father not say clotted cream? (Devlet Ana: 10).
* With regard to the reliability of the narrator of Devlet Ana, as the extra-
heterodiegetic narrator, he is reliable.
It should be stressed that, the narrator of Devlet Ana stresses the reliability of that
which has been narrated by using his own commentary to express the feeling, which an
episode awakens in him:
.because, in the world of the 1290s, death was more common than being alive. (Devlet Ana: 198)
In fact, this feature of narrator is not common in Kemal Tahirs novels, which were
published when he was alive. However, in some of his uncompleted novels, which were
published after his death, one can easily see this feature of the narrator. The narrators of
Damağası (The Agha of the Prison) (1977), Namusçular (For the Sake of Honour)
(1974), Bir Mülkiyet Kalesi (1977) and Karılar Koğuşu (The Womens Ward) (1974) try
to stress the reliability of that which has been narrated. I will just give two examples from
It is difficult to believe that in Çorum prison, one day, a watch which was intentionally
dropped on the floor and was broken was the cause of all these events that you will read
below. Yet, we, as a realistic writer, will record the truth as we saw it and leave the
sceptics with their suspicions. (Damağası: 9).
The first feeling, which a stranger who is taken down to the prisons dungeon feels, is -
there is no lie about this feeling, because the writer of this story was imprisoned here for
exactly fifteen days- being lost without returning to the earths surface ever again.
Thus, these narrators are fulfilling what Genette (1980: 256) calls the function of
attestation-also called the testimonial function28, as they indicate the source of their
information. Genette (1980: 256) describes this function as follows:
This is the one accounting for the part the narrator as such takes in the story he tells, the
relationship he maintains with it -an affective relationship, of course, but equally a moral
or intellectual one. It may take the form of a simple attestation serves, as when the narrator
indicates the source of his information, or the degree of precision of his memories, or the
feeling which one or another episode awakens in him.
It is intended to be a powerful way of convincing the reader to believe in the
reliability of what has been narrated. 29
However, it also finally should be noted that in Devlet Ana, when the author uses some
of the characters as narrator and focaliser, the reliability of the novel is sometimes damaged. For
example, the opinion of Kerim, who is chosen by the author as one of his spokesmen through
him to communicate the authors ideas, about the wedding of Osman and Balkız is beyond the
actual capacity of a 16 year-old young man.34 It is very obvious that, in this situation, the author
of the novel stresses that what made this principality a state was not just Osman Beg as a leader,
but the whole society, even its young members, contributed to this because of their broad¬
On the other hand, it should be also noted that the humorous styles of some character-
narrators speeches also affected negatively the reliability of Devlet Ana. Their language and
their attitudes caused this effect on the reader. The speeches of Kel Dervish, Ermeni Toros, and
Bayhoca can be given as examples of this issue. However, although they never talk about
serious matters in the novel, their conversations and speeches make a contribution to the
humorous atmosphere of the novel. The important messages, which also reflect the ideology of
the author, are given through the speeches of the more serious and reliable characters, such as
Kerim, Osman Beg, and Mavro. Therefore, the reliability of the novel is not damaged
From what I have discussed in this paper, it is clear that the main purposes of Kemal
Tahir is to convey an ideological perspective to reader. In Devlet Ana, the most important
observation with regard to the interaction between the author and the reader is that this process
is dominated by an emphasis on the ideological perspective, namely that Eastern people be
considered as different and better (superior) than Western people from every aspect. This due to
the moral superiority of the East as opposed to the depravity of the West30. Kemal Tahirs
novels -especially those that belong to his second period (after Devlet Ana)- can be categorised
in the didacticist-realist movement that can be exemplified by the work of Ahmet Mithat
between 1875 and 1893.
The interaction between the author and the reader in the novel is not only aimed at
guiding the readers deeper into faith themselves against the West, but also at guiding the reader
into understanding how Ottoman people acted in accordance with the values that they had had.
In order to achieve this purpose, the textual strategies are dominated by various attempts
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According to Kemal Tahir, socialism is the best model for the Turkish society. For more detail see Kemal
Tahir (1992: 364); Kemal Tahir (1989b: 231, 238, 241); Selahattin Hilav (1995: 75-102), Hilmi Yavuz
(1996a: 65-79); Mustafa Miyasoglu (1998: 32-33). However, it should be noted that he cannot be
classified along the stereotypical intellectual lines of the left or the right.
It is worth noting that after Devlet Ana, Kemal Tahir has been popularly nicknamed the writer of the
His scheme for the functional classification of language is based on a systematic theory of language, and
distinguishes six functions (referential, emotive, conative, phatic, poetic, metalinguistic), each
corresponding to one essential aspect of the discourse situation.
See also Kemal Tahire 5 Soru, Kemal Tahirden 5 Cevap, Kitaplar Arasında 1:1 (1968), 5.
For a detailed discussion of various approaches to the plot of Devlet Ana, see Gülendam (1999a).
This is easily demonstrated by comparing Culpeppers theoretical discussion of plot with that of R. L.
Caserio (1979: 3-26).
However, this number increased in its later editions. For instance, the 9th edition, which was published by
Tekin Yayınevi in 1989, is divided into six parts. It is a common convention in many novels of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to divide the novel into virtually self-contained sections. According
to A. A. Mendilow (1952: 269), this practice derived from the structure of the epic and was further
supported by publication in instalments in journals and magazines.
In Devlet Ana, every section has sub-sections. During this process, it seems that a certain purpose was
followed, because the novel, interestingly, is divided into 6 sections and every section has 3 sub-sections.
This structure reminds us of the influences of Turkish folk literature on the novel. This also shows how
carefully he planned his novel.
At first, Kemal Tahir intended to give this name (Derin Geçit) as a title to the novel. However, after the
opposition of some of his friends, such as Metin Erksan, Halit Refiğ and Ali Dilber, he changed his mind
and decided to call it as Devlet Ana\ For this long and exhausting process see Refiğ (2000: 109-112).
There are many publications about this organisation. For example, see Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı (1949-1950);
Şinasi İlhan (1928); İlhan Tarus (1947); Franz Taeschner (1964); Neşet Çağatay (1974); Sabahattin
See, for instance, Sencer Divitçioğlu (1981: 55-57); M. Fuad Köprülü (1992: 87-108). Paul Witteks book,
The Rise of The Ottoman Empire (London, 1965), gives an account of the frontier structure of Western
Anatolia (especially on ghazis) at the time of frontier warfare. For a different point of view on the
meaning of ghazi see Colin Imber (2000).
See Gülendam (1999a: 20-21).
This feature is very obvious in Yol Ayrımı (Cross-Roads) (1977) in which some of the main characters are
journalists. It also should not be forgotten that, like the majority of important writers, he himself worked
many years as a journalist.
He, especially, uses the structure of the detective story, which is divided into three types -whodunit,
thriller, and suspense- by Todorov (1977), in his Kurt Kanunu (The Wolfs Law) (1969). Berna Moran
(1991: 141-157) successfully analyses the structure of this novel in accordance with Todorovs
classification. It should not also be forgotten that after his release from the prison in 1950, under a dozen
pseudonyms such as Bedri Eser, Nurettin Demir, İsmail Kemalettin (this is his real first name), Kör
Duman, Samim Aşkın, Ali Gıcırlı, F. M. İkinci, and Celâl Dağlar, Kemal Tahir busily produced or
translated a great number of detective stories and adventure novels, which were serialised in various
popular dailies. For more detail, see İz (1978), Çelik (1974), and Dosdoğru (1974: 443-450).
For detailed information about these stages, see J. Campbell (1971). Furthermore, the author of Devlet Ana
also uses another theme of romance: Barren Country or Shortage (J. L. Weston, 1957: 56). At the
beginning of Devlet Ana, the situation in Söğüt is not cheerful; then comes the action part that creates a
situation in contrast to the beginning of the story. Briefly, the situation in Söğüt at the beginning of story
is one of shortage, but later on the situation becomes one of abundance. Change from shortage to
abundance is provided by the actions in the mid-part of the story. The reason for using this trope of
change is again to introduce specific forms used for epic, legend, and folktale. As is known, these forms
derived from the myths, which narrate what happens during rites of abundance, which are held to fend off
the danger of shortages before spring. People believed that if they defeated the dark powers represented
by the shortages, then abundance would return. These forms of myths are used in Western literature in the
narration of some charming stories, though the forms are disguised in modern literature. Nonetheless,
Yaşar Kemal, Orhan Kemal, Kemal Bilbaşar and Kemal Tahir used these forms very clearly. And, in
these novels, there is a clear effort to try to use the oral type of the narration to revive these styles (Moran,
1991: 36-56, 78-93, 158-180).
Besides, the device of shortage-abundance, we also come across another form used by myths that the rescue
of the beloved or wife of the hero. Since woman represents productivity and fecundity, she is the symbol
of abundance. In some myths, her kidnapping in the winter represents the weakness or dying of the earth,
the rescue of her in the spring represents the richness and vitality of the earth. In Devlet Ana, the beloved
of Osman Beg, Balkız, is also loved by Alışar Beg. Alışar Beg tries to kidnap her, but the men of Osman
Beg arrive in time to save her. By the same token, Hiristanos, the Yarhisar prince, forces his daughter,
Lotüs, to marry Rumanos, the prince of Bilecik. However, Lotüs loves Orhan, therefore she is locked in a
room of the top of the castle. When the Turks defeat them, she is rescued from the castle and then she
marries Orhan. Even Mavros effort to rescue his (beloved) horse from Karacahisar can be considered in
the same context.
See, for example, Devlet Ana, pp. 256-264; Yorgun Savaşçı (The Weary Warrior) (1968), pp. 112-117;
Rahmet Yolları Kesti (Rain Block the Roads) (1975), pp. 165-180, 183-190; Yediçınar Yaylası (The
Sevenplains Plateau) (1958), pp. 179-189; Sağırdere (The Deafcreek) (1974), pp. 78-81.
As a matter of fact, as is emphasised by critics such as Fethi Naci (1994: 144-147), Hilmi Yavuz (1996a:
74-75), Orhan Pamuk (1997: 173-183), and Atilla İlhan (1997: 64), in Kemal Tahirs novels many
commentaries that he wishes to make on social habits and customs and information are presented through
the speeches of the characters.
According to Kemal Tahir, Turkish novelists should use Turkish traditional narratives as main sources in
The style of the meddah stories and folk story tradition, which are the most important sources of our
storytelling tradition, must be analysed in detail. (Kemal Tahir, 1990: 102).
First of all, where did the novel come from in the West? From fairy tales and folk tales? Okay! I have fairy
tales and folk tales as well. This means that I have the base on which I can place my novel. (Bozdağ,
He proposed his own version of the realist novel as being based on the values and realities of Turkish society.
For him, therefore, every nations novels have to be written according to its own national artistic taste.
Kemal Tahir, while saying that he is searching for a narrative style appropriate for Turkish people instead
of imitating Western novel showing Western people, recognised this as a methodological problem. Is it,
however, only the necessity of finding a model to suit his human material that forces him towards this
search? I think as a result of his Marxist understanding, the categorical imperative for uprising cannot be
compromised. Believing that the classical Western novel was developed by bourgeois society and the
structure of Turkish society and historical development is different, Kemal Tahir searched for ways of
using the methods of the bourgeois novel to form narratives for and about his own people. For this reason,
he based his novels on traditional narratives. For detailed analysis of the meddah tradition and its
influences on the first Turkish novels, see Ahmet Ö. Evin (1983: 29-38); Fuad Köprülü (1966: 361-412);
Pertev Naili Boratav (1946: 90-92).
Interestingly, apart from the names of some traditional narratives that have had a great influence on the
novel, such as the Dede Korkut stories (pp. 207, 452, etc.), Kelile and Dimne (p. 605), Kabusname (p.
605), Felekname (p. 605), Siyasetname (pp. 605, 610), and the story of Kerem and Aslı (p. 465), the
narrator of Devlet Ana uses this term -although this term was not known at that time- when he describes
Mavros position in a scene:
Mavro was comfortable as if he was at a wedding party and watching ortaoyunu. (DevletAna: 363).
Interestingly, in the notes, in which Kemal Tahir analyses Küçük Ağa, he makes some major mistakes
about the novel. For example, he several times writes Kırşehir instead of Akşehir, and also writes Kör
Salih (Blind Salih) instead of Çolak Salih (One-armed Salih) who is one of the main characters in the
For a summary of speech act theory and an explanation of the terms illocution, locution, and perlocution,
see Chatman (1978: 161-166), and Iser (1978: 54-62).
Kemal Tahir often uses this feature of the knight as a leitmotif in Devlet Ana (i.e., p. 13, 60, etc.). Actually,
Kemal Tahir uses certain features as a leitmotif for his characters in the novel. For instance, apart from
the leitmotif of the knight, Orhan scratches a mole that is located behind his right ear as a leitmotif for
thinking in Devlet Ana (i.e., pp. 108, 505).
For example, Fethi Naci (1981: 280) gives an account of one of his novels, Büyük Mal (The Great
Merchandise), in terms of dialogues. According to his account, 420 pages of 560 pages, namely 75% of
the novel, are dialogues. Almost every critic points out this feature in his novels; even one of them,
Ceyhun Atuf Kansu (1973), describes his novels as a long conversation.
In his novels, the characters mostly speak with the accent of middle Anatolia, especially Çorum and Çankırı.
It should be kept in mind that he spent many years in prison in Çorum and Çankırı. This is a reflection of
his inclination to make the Turkish novel native. His emphasis on the regional spoken language in the
novel brings vitality to the construction of the novel. The novelist uses this style in order to impress the
reader with the realism of his narration. He adopts the method of showing rather than the descriptive
narrative. He is anxious to present life in its natural course. Thus, he is consistent in delivering his
characters speeches in their local language from 1939 onwards when he wrote his first novel, Sagirdere,
unaware that his American contemporaries, Steinbeck and Hemingway were doing a similar thing. It is
also worth noting that Nazim Hikmet (1975: 391) praised this style (using dialogues in order to present
the story) of Kemal Tahir.
On the other hand, the narrator of Devlet Ana also makes mistake about the names of the characters. During
the conquest of Bilecik, he mentions Ermeni Toros (p. 566). However, this character should be Kerim,
instead of Ermeni Toros. Because, as Kerim says (p. 577), Ermeni Toros is not there at that time; he is at
Kozpinar. This might be a printing error, but it continues following editions of the novel.
Tahsin Yücel (1983: 98-99) criticises his translations from Latin into Turkish and his way of writing them.
See, for instance, Bir Mülkiyet Kalesi (A Castle of Proprietorship) (1977), pp. 9, 21, 33, 72, 98, 127, 306,
358, 359, 415, 599, 518, etc.; Sağırdere (1974), pp. 12, 131; Rahmet Yolları Kesti (1975), pp. 92, 449;
Yedi Çınar Yaylası (1958), pp. 11, 38, 43, 153.
He does not use footnotes in his Esir Şehrin Mahpusu and Esir Şehrin İnsanları (1956).
Genette (1980: 255-259) distinguishes the following five functions that a narrator may fulfil: narrative
function, directing function, communication function, testimonial function (function of attestation), and
Here I do not want to discuss the controversial issues such as what is the reality in the novel? or does a
novelist has to follow the historical facts?, because they are irrelevant with a narratological analysis.
However, I just want to indicate that a novelist can change historical facts in his/her novel. So, trying to
convince the implied reader the truthfulness of what is narrated in the novel- does not fit the mentality of
the fictional narratives, because it is very obvious that the realities of the novel are absolutely different
from historical facts. As a matter of fact, Kemal Tahir was a novelist, not an historian.
Kemal Tahir is not totally anti-Western. He, as Köksal (1996: 41) points out, tends
to perceive two Wests: the imperialist West and the rational West (which reached the peak of
Thus he does not monolithically adopt or reject things western as do the republican and Islamist ideologies
For detailed information on his perspective of the West and Westernisation, see, for instance, Bozdağ
(1980: 139-140); Kemal Tahir (1989a: 100-101, 1989b: 238), Gülendam (1999b), Gevgilili (1971).