Out of a hundred printing houses publishing Turkish literary works in the 19th century, seventy-four were located in Istanbul. Out of the first ten authors producing the highest number of fiction in the same period, eight were born in Istanbul.1 Even these two statistics are sufficient to show the central role Istanbul played in the production of modern Ottoman literature. Istanbul, as a site where printing houses met, authors gained their life experiences and penned their works, naturally emerges as a theme literature explores as well as a city it represents. In this article as I discuss the ways in which Istanbul was addressed in modern Ottoman literature I will focus on the texts written in Arabic letters to understand different Istanbul representations expressed in the literature in the period from the 1870s up to the Republic.2

There are strong parallels between the formation of modern Ottoman literature and the evolution of modern Istanbul. The new relations and locations emerging in the public domains of the city also formed the ground for Ottoman novels, poems, and stories. Modern Ottoman literary texts that in a substantial amount of them include love as their main or sub theme emerge concurrently with the increased chances of encounters between men and women in the public sphere and the growing number of locations that provided the base for such encounters. Gardens and parks where encounters between women and men are experienced most, appear frequently in the modern literary texts. The park experience that as of 1870s became widespread especially in the Çamlıca Garden and the Taksim Garden also turns into a crucial component of the modern Istanbul experience. As a new literary genre, novel obtains its social and spatial basis respectively from the male and female encounters and the parks.


Çamlıca: The Metaphor of Istanbul and Passion

One of the most beautiful examples of the strong connection between the novel and new locations of modern Istanbul is Namık Kemal’s (b. 1840- d. 1888) İntibah which was published in 1876. The novel is a concentration novel in all respects. The central theme of the novel is the gathering and concentration of what is normally otherwise spread out on one single point. The most important feature of Ali Bey is his incapacity to direct his inner passion to the world moderately. He rather concentrates his passion onto a worldly object and then gets excessively attached to it. This feature of him, noticed and controlled by his father, loses its moderation, following his father’s death. It goes from one extreme to the other; he first loses his joy of life, but then dedicates all his passion to Mehpeyker, whom he met in the Çamlıca Garden. The exploration of Istanbul and Çamlıca3 in the basic structure of the text, based on the intensification and transformation of passion, supports this intensification and concentration trend too. Istanbul is a “journal” of beauties;4 as for Çamlıca, it is the point where each one of these beauties can be collectively viewed. Every region of Istanbul is at the disposal of views directed from Çamlıca. In other words, in the pupil of the eye of the person seeing Istanbul from Çamlıca, all beauties of the city concentrate; the pupil turns into a map: “It is as if the pupil of the eye turns into a masterfully squeezed single point map of that beautiful city.”5

Çamlıca is not only a concentration spot of Istanbul; it is also like a segment of the heaven on the face of the earth, whose water resembles the elixir of life. As the concentration point of the city as well as the heavenly, Çamlıca is also the site where people gather and the encounters between men and women intensify. In Çamlıca it is not only nature that comes into bloom in spring but also “Some of our gentlemen that attempt to hit on the ladies they come across here and there.”6 The human chaos reaches its highest in Çamlıca especially on holidays, Fridays and Sundays. For the narrator, these days and these intensities are unbearable; in the bustle of Çamlıca and Kağıthane, human beings, cars, and dust and dirt intermingle with one another. These people that revel in viewing resemble “a witch who has shouldered her grave.”7 Even though, for the narrator, the beauty of Çamlıca rests in its location and nature, in the Istanbul of 1870s Çamlıca invited people with its intense population and the high prospects of the encounters between men and women. It is rather meaningful that Çamlıca is the place where the main theme of the novel, that is Ali Bey’s intense passion for Mehpeyker, is brought into action; it is the site where the beauties of the city are viewed as well as the crowdedness of the city which promoted opportunities to encounter beautiful men and women of the city is experienced immensely

The Mingling of Nature and Society

As the first story of Müsameretname by Emin Nihat (b.1839-d.1879) that was completed on July 7, 1288 (19 July 1872), “Binbaşı Rifat Bey’in Sergüzeşti” too presents Istanbul’s gatherer and concentrator feature. However, this time, Istanbul’s unique features are expressed through the viewpoint of a missionary whom Rifat Bey met on a Bosphorus8 ferry. As the weather invited people to wander and those who honored the invitation dressed as well as possible and filled the ferry, it was Istanbul’s nature and weather that granted Rifat Bey the opportunity to meet the missionary on this ferry. As the ferry passengers look at the hills surrounding the Bosphorus and the trees and flowers on them with admiration, the wind blowing from these hills brings them the smell of spring, “the minds of the people” falling under the influence of these smells become occupied with joy and failing to control this inner joy they feel the need to pass it onto others. This leads people to chat with one another as if they were boon companions forever.9 As seen, ferry turns into a location where the conditions and movements of the nature and people’s socialization are connected to one another; a venue where nature and society intermingle and mingle.

What brings Rifat Bey and the missionary closer is this very atmosphere. From the missionary’s perspective, the uniqueness of Istanbul rests in its ability to gather: Istanbul is the “center of gathering” between Europe and Asia, and the “unification conduit” of Mediterranean and Black Sea. In terms of its geographic latitude and longitude, it is “a land in the middle” and as for its climate “a temperate point”. The interweaving of Istanbul’s natural features with its artificial beauties and the intermingling of its cultural, historical, and human aspects strengthen its uniqueness. Istanbul is the origin and source of the earth’s ideal beauties.

Impure Istanbul: A Social Centre

In Ahmed Midhat’s (b. 1844-d. 1913) works,10 Istanbul’s rich dispositions and attributes materialize with the particular emphasis put on its gathering feature and being a social centre. Even though in his novel Süleyman Musli, dated 1877, travellers’ and inhabitants’ admiration of Istanbul is attributed to the city’s natural beauties rather than its architecture and facilities (“letafet-i sun’î” “artificial charms”), the richness and chaos of Istanbul as a social centre is often observed in Ahmed Midhat’s works. In terms of city planning, Istanbul lags behind civilized cities: “ In comparison to the delicacy cities such as Vienna, Petersburg, Paris, New York achieved artificially through new style they were imposed to or renewed, what kind of a charm or delicacy our city can have that would prompt the travellers’ astonishment?”11 While claiming Istanbul’s distinguishing feature to be its natural beauty, Ahmed Midhat refers to Osman Gazi’s founding dream of the empire. This way, the beauty of Istanbul is also confirmed with historicity and state mediation:

The Sultan Osman I when he was describing his famous dream interpreted that this supreme city which is at the meeting point of two seas and two pieces of land is like a diamond brightly shining between two yellow rubies and two emeralds. This beauty is not an artificial one; and it is clear from his expression and the outer appearance of the place that the Sultan Osman I wanted to talk about natural charms unique to our city..12

In addition to being the conjunction point of two continents and seas (“meeting point”), Istanbul is an encounter point of people from various continents and regions, and in this regard, it resembles a universal exhibition of humanity: “At this moment Istanbul receives people from Anatolia, Rumelia, Europe, Asia, Africa, in short from the five continents of the world. In this regard, it is proper to call Istanbul a general exhibition of the humankind.”13

As revealed in Ahmed Midhat’s works, Istanbul’s social life is a multiplicity of religions, ethnicities and languages. In these works a heterogeneous dynamics runs such that people of different social strata come together and meet one another; different religions coexist; and several languages are spoken together, or one of them melts the other(s). Ahmed Midhat thinks Istanbul with all its complexity proves an interesting and important case for the discipline of anthropology as well.

From the standpoint of anthropology, another example of this astonishing as well important case lies next to us in Istanbul. Within a three-four hour distance to Beykoz, Paşaköy is this place, which is a farm owned by a pasha. He brought from Rumelia some Bulgarian workers in order to employ them in agricultural service. Some poor girls from the Armenian village in Alemdağ were encouraged to wed Bulgarians. Husbands would not speak to their wives in Bulgarian and wives to their husbands in Armenian, right? Naturally, they regarded Turkish as their family language. Even their offspring spoke in this language. The denomination of this village community, inherited from their first fathers, is Greek Orthodox sect. Yet, neither the women [of the village] nor their men speak any Greek, Armenian or Bulgarian. Turkish has become their mother tongue. Their pronunciation is different from that of the inhabitants of neighbour villages. Their prounciation is a joint combination of Bulgarian and Armenian pronounciations.14

In this quotation, while it is presented that the encounter between different ethnicities results in monolingualism, based on the “dominant nation,” multilingualism is also praised in the same text: “Above all we see that our own children speak Turkish and Greek like their mother tongues. During our stay in Beyoğlu, we have seen that Armenian children could speak three languages, Turkish, Greek and Armenian as their mother tongues.”15

Istanbul’s concentrating power is a quality that is treated implicitly in Ahmed Midhat’s collecting the stories of his works. In “Methal” part of Gürcü Kızı yahut İntikam which was published in 1888, while narrating how he learnt the story from a traveler, an implicit narrative on the concentrating quality of Istanbul is presented. When “a collective map” of three continents is viewed, Istanbul stands as the “common centre” of Europe, Asia and Africa. As this “centralisation propensity” has always existed, Istanbul turned into a commercial centre. Since Istanbul is at the junction of commercial roads travellers often drop by Istanbul. The “general map” of journeys travellers took or will take is taken in Istanbul into a “brief look”, to an an encapsulating overview, and a general consideration.16 Thanks to the centrality of Istanbul, on the one hand the stories of other lands are collected in this city, on the other those visiting Istanbul compose their own stories of the city. In an anecdote in “Henüz 17 Yaşında,” which was published in 1881, three peasants who had been to Istanbul narrate three distinct Istanbul stories completely different from one another. Istanbul is for one of them a city of madrasahs, whereas for the other a “public bar”, and for the third, a “woman bazaar”. It is rather meaningful that the worldly-wise old man of the village utters the following upon listening to these three stories: “Each of you has beheld Istanbul with an eye unique to his own tendency and preoccupation.”17 With its potential, Istanbul could offer a city to catch the different fancies of the three peasants.

In Ahmed Midhat’s works signs of Istanbul’s gathering feature are given also together with the interlacing of the collected elements and the blurring of boundaries between them. Carnivals are one of the best examples of this feature. “Our city is in a perpetual state of carnival due to the clothing and outfit;”18 but during carnival times this liveliness reaches to its utmost degree. At carnival times especially in Beyoğlu and Galata, an excitement is experienced during which individual, ethnic and social boundaries are crossed. “Carnival is here. That entertainment gathering is decorated. Oh how well it is decorated! Colorful flags are waving in front of ball rooms such that you can see here the national colors of any nation that has a flag.19 The carnival in the city is like “a vortex of people. You too will roll into the vortex as a drop of it!”20 As obviously seen in this expression, the humanbeing melts at these times in the merrymaking of the city.

In Eski Mektuplar, published in 1897, what stads out is the overwhelming nature of being subject to the city life and experiencing its chaos. Arriving at Istanbul in order to forget his love in İzmir, Kenan’s city experience is frightening and weary. Despite his “aspirational look,” he finds the people of the city “quite cold and strange.” Kenan becomes “blockheaded” by the city’s work life, the clamors of porters, cabbies, or boatmen and their “loud shouts.” “He bewilderly looked at these men that like monsters attacked one another in order to achieve their daily provisions. …Following the weariness of the journey, this appalling racket dragged him down. He took a deep breath as he escaped this noise and entered the hotel.”21

The novel Müşahedat stands out as it embodies various manifestations of Istanbul mentioned above in Ahmed Midhat’s works. It is possible to find in this novel, which started to be serialized in 1890 and published in 1891, Istanbul’s religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity; its social centrality; carnivalesque structure as well as texture convenient for collecting stories that become important sources for novels. Starting with what goes on in the ferry about social layers and gender then moving onto love relationships between people of different religions, or from an Armeanian girl’s reading practices in different languages to the dynamics of being national, native, and foreign in Istanbul, the central theme of the novel is viewing. Novels examine not only the “adventure of a lonely man” but also “the situation of the world.”22 Every corner of this “perpetual theatre” called “world” should be acknowledged as “an area of sight”23 by the narrator who believes that in order to grasp the adventure of a person every dynamic of the city needs to be uncovered. A human being cannot fulfil every single condition of the world but can examine it. It is important for our subject that wandering in the city is given as an example to this claim. The narrator thinks that seeing and observing the life in the city as well the enrolled professions without the idea of making any profit “enlightens the wisdom” of humanbeings.

With this approach, in the role of the narrator, Ahmed Midhat offers us a very lively and diverse depiction of Istanbul that is hard to find in other works. Istanbul is described as the centre of work and commercial life. Following the practises of people working night shifts in order to keep up the daily life of the city, the liveliness of trade in Köprü and Sirkeci is examined. The circulation of money and labor is observed in the leadership of Ahmed Midhat. Istanbul is “a vast land. A great funfair.”24 In observing the novel’s characters and Istanbul’s different worlds we experience the ways in which the author-narrator brings the story together, how he constructs it and how the characters that then turn into readers interpret the text, as a result of which the text becomes altered and repaired. Istanbul is the city which hosts the fiction but it is also the city in which the metafiction takes place.


Idealised Istanbul: An Experience Freed from Senses

Viewing Istanbul and Boğaziçi is also central in the beginning of the novel by Mizancı Murad (b.1854-d.1917) Turfanda mı Yoksa Turfa mı? which was published in 1890. However the approach to this aesthetic experience is two-way. In the first part, starting with the reactions as the Bosphorus comes into the sight on the ferry from Varna to Istanbul, we focus on the look of the twenty European travellers coming to Istanbul with the desire to “have a share in being influenced by and taking pleasure in the elegant and grandiose views of Boğaziçi and Istanbul,”25 to contemplate Istanbul as an aesthetic object. This look carries a rapture with the beauty of Istanbul . However, the real focal point of this part is Mansur, who is also the main figure of the novel. Mansur, originally from one of the ruling families of Algeria, endured French colonialism, then studied medicine and Orientalism in French. Istanbul is the place Mansur arrived in order to experience the authentic Islam, true Muslimness, and Ottoman indigenousness freed from colonialism. The first experience Mansur had of Istanbul is portrayed in an intertwined as well as contrasting manner with that of the aesthetic rapture the Europeans felt.

In the case of Mansur the aesthetic stimuli of Istanbul promotes indifference instead of an ecstasy. Mansur seems as if “nailed to the spot”26 with his fixed attitude and look: “Defeated to his intellectual considerations and his heart’s latent sorrows, he has forgotten himself and the people around him”,27 “dispatching his looks and thoughts to unknown desires,” he stands “like a statue.”28 While the travellers’s experience of Istanbul is sensual, Mansur’s senses are indifferent to Istanbul. According to the narrator, Mansur’s relation with Istanbul cannot even be described as seeing: “His eyes were open. But, his brain was completely occupied with feelings and deep sorrows. Nothing was left of the part of the brain that would help and serve for the reflection of the eye.”29 Mansur was experiencing Istanbul not with his body and senses but with his mind, thought, and heart. Similar to a magnet, the heart of Istanbul and the ideal of Istanbul attracted Mansur. He is under the “captivating influence,” the “electrical power”30 of Istanbul, the centre of sultanate and caliphate. While his heart infatuated with Istanbul did not let his eyes or senses, the dream of Istanbul materialised in all his existence: “Every part of him, including even his body hair, was prepared to meet “Istanbul” that was already personified in his imagination”.31 Moving along the Bosphorus, as Istanbul’s centre appears Mansur’s senses too are triggered. While looking at Sarayburnu, the body is entranced by the experience in which senses and feelings, the view and the ideal are blended: “His body could no longer endure the sweet memories occupying his heart or the beautiful scenes that penetrated into his eyes as if accompanying one another. He was drunk with affection. Because reality replaced the dream.”32

Mansur’s authentic, untouched, and pure Istanbul will be shaken up as the novel progresses but its signs are observed already in this first chapter. The spiritual Istanbul experience, whose intensity was mentioned above, is first interrupted by the scene of Robert College next to Rumelihisarı. As a missionary school adjacent to the structure that is the symbol of the Ottomanisation and Islamization of the city, it is the first stain on Mansur’s pure experience. The events he experienced in Pera right after getting off from the ferry, seeing that franc is in circulation instead of kurush, and “not being able to see any sign of Turkish letters and numbers”33 increase the stains. However, the Istanbul view from his hotel room still makes him forget these stains. Istanbul and Mansur’s heart are in absolute harmony. “With the brightness of the sun which is special to the southern land, the charm and freshness of the scenery that is visible only in Istanbul formed a harmony with Mansur Bey’s pure heart which has not yet been injured by painful experiences.”34 Together with Istanbul, Uludağ was also in the view from his room. Representing the rise of the empire and being once its capital, Uludağ was in front of his eyes. This view results in ecstasy. His body quivers with “a deep flow like that of the electricity”: “That shock arose from admiration for magnifience emerging from his thought that embodied the great Ottoman achievement as well as from strong feelings such as affection, loyalty, gratitude, pride that at once attacked his heart.”35 It should be reminded that, as covered above, the beauty of Istanbul was considered along with Osman Gazi’s foundation dream of the empire in Ahmed Midhat’s Süleyman Musli too.

Observing a Symbolic Istanbul

Istanbul is in front of us in Nabızade Nazım’s (b.1862-d.1893) Zehra, published in 1896, as the one embracing Suphi and Zehra. In the beginning of the novel, this couple contemplating the circulating sounds, visions and nature in the Bosphorus are in a state of ecstasy. This Istanbul of 1884 summer stands out with its gathering quality, too. Every spot of Bosphorus is like “a panorama in which various unique beauties unite;” it is “a collection of matchless beauties;”36 “it contains each and every beauty, counted among natural beauties, that one can possibly imagine.”37 As the word “panorama” expresses explicitly Istanbul, and particularly Bosphorus, is considered a spectacle to be viewed. Istanbul is like an art representation: “It shows us such pleasing, sensually stimulating, and poetry titillating signs and views that in order to be acquainted with the unique natural beauties of our city it is necessary to look at these signs and views by taking a deep sigh.”38 The “geology and topography” of the Bosphorus give it an aesthetic form, a “unique shape”. When the hills surrounding the Bosphorus, shades, groves, coves, and, in addition to the harmony of small valleys, white clouds reflect on the rich blue sea; the sea changes into the sky and the sky into the sea. The aesthetic relationship interrelated with this scene, or “the feeelings of the one promoted by the exposure to this view proves impossible to be described.”39 However, this is not only an aesthetic experience of a special state of nature, but also experiencing social practises, boat enjoyments, moonlight merrymakings,40 music and poetry that have been hosted in this situation. The following verses of a poem recited during a moonlight emphasizes the subjective aspect of this aesthetic-social experience: “Hearts flutter from the overflow of love/ All loves are set safe from the record of the black spot.”41

The coming of two main figures like Suphi and Zehra to the novel’s stage occurs by focusing on the way they lose control of themselves in this aesthetic experience as mentioned above. The good times of their marriage is expressed with the intensity of this aesthetic city experience. “The spectacle look” that views Istanbul from the mansion nearby Libade, like a bird flying with relish, perches at every spot of city sight. They look at Istanbul that is the “panorama of unrivalled natural beauties,” and view “this world of enjoyment” in a way to arouse envy.42 Suphi splits up with Zehra and marries to Sırrıcemal but then cheats on Sırrıcemal with Ürani. However, regardless of the woman next to him, Suphi’s being carried away by love is intertwined with his enjoyment of the scene of Istanbul. After seeing with Ürani in a carriage the beauties of Kağıthane the following that he expressed illustrates this point very well: “These delicate scenes enraptured Suphi by Ürani’s attractiveness, gaiety, and particularly the influence of cognac...”43 Istanbul is also the site where Suphi experienced restlessness emerging from his attraction to Ürani. This restlessness that was almost like a nervous breakdown was mixed with the walk on the Sarıyer coast. While Suphi’s body was moving along the coast, his mind set out on an exciting and heartthrobing journey to his affair with Ürani. This time, Suphi turned insusceptible to the major stimuli of Istanbul’s aesthetic-social experience; he was aloof to the Bosphorous boat enjoyments and to other people among whom he was walking. While he was carried away by the anger that he directed towards his extreme passion and as such became unresponsive to the stimuli he was able to calm down by the walk he took in the city. At the end of his walk, his desire for seizing the day as well as his passion for Ürani again win over. The city surrounds a mood that first experiences anger but then regains tranquility. At the same time, a strong parallelism runs between the openness to the city and that to the emotions.44 However, upon learning that Ürani cheated on him, the restlessness that he was unable to face truly reaches to the tipping point and he kills Ürani. Suphi’s experience of the city is always intermingled with these processes. While his passion for Ürani causes him to end up in the streets, and leads him to the occupation of a fire brigade and its customs and morals, his killing of Ürani results in his expulsion from the city.

The Aesthetic Representation of the Enjoyment of the Scene

Also in Fatma Aliye’s (b.1862-d.1936) novel Refet, which was serialized in 1896-1897 and published in 1898, we find a genuine example of the ecstasy due to the aesthetic experience of Istanbul. Due to her uneasy life and “ugliness” Refet experiences herself –by obliterating her desires and sensitivity— merely as an intellectual being, and she is extremely cautious against the temptation of senses and desires. Yet during her two-month stay in her upper class member friend Şahap and elder sister Cazibe’s family mansion in Göztepe Refet gets to know conditions she did not taste before. As much as the beauty of the mansion, its view of Istanbul is remarkable. Watching the wide spectrum of the view extending from Adalar to Boğaziçi, Refet’s relationship with the view is first mental. For example she compares the view to a map. The Istanbul view is like “a natural map where art and nature unite.”45 However, in time, Istanbul starts to spread into Refet’s steely self-control and cautiousness. The view transforms from a map with set boundaries into an enjoyment area where looks push the limits and in which she “wants to soar into the sky.”.46 While other residents of the mansion are on the move, enjoying themselves, Refet delves into observing the scene. At the beginning of this state, Refet’s comprehension and feeling abilities improve and she begins to quickly grasp what she reads and listens. Over time, the enchantment and intoxication prompted by the view influence other activities, too, especially book reading.47 In the face of such a view comprised of Istanbul’s nature, carriages, structures, and people Refet is now completely entranced. The “natural delicate beauties” of Istanbul by filling in the air in the form of a yet undisclosed poem “penetrate into her depth.”48 Refet who in the face of the realities of life repressed her sensations, desires, as well as the artist inside her and let her willpower dominate her existence, now observing the movement, flow, and circulation of Istanbul is loose, sensual, and desirous.49 However, her willpower which panicked due to this condition attempts once more to repress what is evoked in her as well as the movements of her heart. It aims to reduce the heart to its barest form, to its biological function: “I do not recognize anything in this poor and miserable body other than a piece of meat called heart that serves blood circulation.”50 Yet, in the face of an Istanbul view that she observes on the fourteenth night of a month, she once again begins to feel “dizzy and confused.”51 It is no longer possible to eliminate or repress the effects of the city’s natural beauty on her. Instead, the influence and senses are elevated, and the aesthetic experience transforms into an aesthetic work of art. The outcomes of Refet’s observation and enjoyment of the Istanbul view materializes in the form of a picture.

Exposure to the Crowd and Experiencing “Cemm-i Gafîr” (Throng)

Serialized in 1896 and published in 1898, Araba Sevdası by Recaîzade Mahmud Ekrem (b. 1847-d. 1914), like Namık Kemal’s İntibah, starts in the Çamlıca Garden. Set in 1870, the year Çamlıca Garden was opened, the novel puts forth Çamlıca as a location that with its appeal brings men and women together, unlike the Çamlıca of İntibah where it is presented as a site that captures the entire view of Istanbul. In Araba Sevdası the men hitting on women in İntibah become bees and the women flowers.52 Although the Çamlıca became less crowded during the period the novel was written, in 1870 it attracted visitors as a “noisy place of incitement and entertainment.”.53 There is a harmony between its nature and visitors. While its nature is a “a collection of the selected by the nature’s spring” its trees shiver “like the youth unstable in front of fanciful desires.”54

In the novel, the ways the park experience that is new for the inhabitants of Istanbul influenced the strolling practices of the people are described in detail. Matters such as the formation of gender relations in this new concentration and gathering area, the visibility social layers attain here, or the influence of strolling in a car on the city observation are provided in a way to embrace Bihruz’s love experience. The park experience does not simply constitute the basis for Bihruz’s love, it seeps into the unconscious. The dream Bihruz gets to have often with minor variations or the fantasies associated with this dream takes place in the “imaginary excursion spot,” “imaginary park.”.55 Bihruz’s unconscious is imagined as a kind of park.

Bihruz is not content with the social life in the park. The increasing bustle of the park especially on Fridays and Sundays is an obstacle sometimes for Bihruz to unite with his love or to remain alone by himself. People turn into a crowd, a mass in the park. The crowded park is an inharmonious aggregate where smells, sounds, and people intermingle. Whereas some come to the park to satisfy their appetite, others their visual appetite. Interfering with the “arrival and speech uproar of this motley crowd”56 are the sounds of vendors as well poorly performed music; then food smells join this visual and aural crowd, and Çamlıca becomes a “disorderly, indelicate, tasteless, inadequate entertainment place.”57 In Araba Sevdası, the special name for this crowd strolling in this inharmonious disarray is “cemm-i gafir” (throng).58 This phrase cemm-i gafir corresponds well with the terms “crowd” or “mass” formulated by Gustave Le Bon in those years. The novel opening with the throng of Çamlıca ends up with the throng of the surroundings of Beyazıt surroundings in the month of Ramadan. While the narrator describes with joy the diversity of people and activities in Istanbul during the Ramadan for Bihruz it is a torture as he believes Periveş passed away. The relationship between the crowd’s enthusiasm and Bihruz’s grief is offered in juxtaposition with the contrast between the movement of the crowd and Bihruz’s being stuck in it. In the meantime, the spiritual, social as well as sexual intertwine and coexist in Istanbul’s Ramadan crowd. Within this spiritual-social atmosphere also in circulation is the flirtation between men and women. The degree of the density of women is described with the expression “covered raging sea.”59

Subjectivity and Love Experience in Istanbul’s “Cemm-i Gafir”

In the novel Mai ve Siyah60 by Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil (b. 1867-d.1945), which was serialized with Araba Sevdası in 1897, umbrellas supersede the vast sea of yashmaks in the crowd. While Ahmed Cemil is walking with his friend “he is watching the bridge’s being occupied by a regiment of black, navy blue, or dark green umbrellas that were opened like mushrooms and waddled.”61 Even though Ahmed Cemil shares the clash Bihruz experiences between his dreams and reality, in distinction to Bihruz’s passion for being seen rather than seeing, Ahmet Cemil longs for observing. Sitting at the Luxembourg Café and watching people, Ahmed Cemil composes short stories by carefully focusing on some people, observing their clothing and gestures.62 Whereas Ahmed Midhat’s observing figure is inclined to carry the stories in circulation in the city into writing and to record them, for Ahmed Cemil the transformation of observations in the inner worlds is as important as the observations themselves. The following expressions explicitly disclose the role subjectivity plays in the process:

Hundreds and thousands of human life would pass before his eyes; this place, this short velvet chair of this café was a rich library for him. Its collection and hardcovers were not to be read but to be felt and not to be seen but to be understood. If he wanted to write a story, he would have found a theme in each one of these.63

Wandering around the city and watching the shop fronts, toys, clothes, and objects, “all those aughts that gratify hearts”64 is another observation activity of Ahmed Cemil.

Similar to Araba Sevdası the entertainment world is identified with an inharmonious mass. While Beyoğlu nights are described with dissonant and noisy bad music, with people who do not really enjoy but crowd Beyoğlu only in order to tell their friends the following day that they were there;,65 Kağıthane is composed of people yearning for love, carriage crowd, and sound chaos. The sounds remind us of Araba Sevdası: “I cannot sacrifice half my day to listen my mouth wide open to the band singing a Hejaz fasıl while yawning and stretching, that is under the regular coffee attendees’ shouts stuck in the middle of a Jewish juggler’s outcries.”66

The city is also for Ahmed Cemil a location that has a gender or sex. Observing its young ladiness is one of Ahmed Cemil’s greatest pleasures: Contemplating her maidenliness is one of Ahmed Cemil’s greatest pleasures: Ahmed Cemil look at these young girls that he comes across on his route with an eye of love similar to passion, resembling a kiss. They were being prepared from being one thing yesterday to being something else the next day; yet, today, they are vague and untidy, and as such are creatures full of poetry and love.”67 In fact, these young girls he met in Kağıthane, Şişli, Tepebaşı, Taksim, or Köprü are like the manifestations of his dream ideal young girl, “[they are] some fairies flying around the fictitious shape of that girl, winged poems.”68 Upon his coincidential encounter with his close friend Hüseyin Nazmi’s sister Lamia in Taksim, the vague shape of the young girl in his dreams disappears and takes the form of Lamia. When he sees Lamia as a grown-up young girl, Ahmed Cemil discovers the true direction of his love, “his entire soul’s most crucial desire.”69 This discovery is intermingled with Ahmed Cemil’s city experience. After his encounter with Lamia, on the one hand Lamia’s face “was making him live his entire life again in a moment in his mind by going through a sequence of reincarnation, by tickling a memory at every change”70 on the other Ahmed Cemil’s gaze was spreading all over the city, expanding from the people in the Taksim Garden to the Bosphorus view. Lamia’s various conditions and the Bosphorus view work in parallel to one another. “The serene sheet of the Bosphorus…..was blurring in her eyes; hills, waters, mansions, all pleasant shapes and views were, as if they were colours coming off from a brush stroke, mixing with one another and turning into a dough.”71

For Ahmed Cemil, failing to unite with Lamia, his sister’s death as well as his disappointment due to his literary failures intermingle with Istanbul. As we have seen in Turfanda mı yoksa Turfa mı?, although the theme of view that is contemplated at the arrival in Istanbul is a recurring theme in other texts, Mai ve Siyah offers us the view at the departure from Istanbul. Having to leave Istanbul in order to restart life after disappointments, Istanbul’s disappearance before Ahmet Cemil’s eyes is described in detail. With the departure of the ferry, the city that he considered as the bowl of his emotions, begins to turn into a picture:

The congestion of the port, all that movement that turned this piece of sea stuck between Istanbul and Galata to the crowd of the armageddon, occupied his mind and eyes for some time; but as the ferry slowly distanced itself from this congestion, as if yearningly drawing apart from this life; and as the passing minutes left this city, which Ahmed Cemil regarded as the only receptacle of being touched, as a sheet sketched on the navy blue base of the horizon; suddenly a painful feeling of separation evoked in his heart.72

Whereas the observation of the Istanbul view turned into a work of art in Refet, in Mai and Siyah the experience of separation from Istanbul caused considering the city like a picture.

Rapture and Intrusion of Privacy in Istanbul

In Mehmet Rauf’s (b. 1875- d.1931) novel Eylül, published in 1901, Bosphorus is loaded with an intense figurativeness, including various spiritual and psychological attributions. The house and neighborhood Suad and Süreyya lived before moving to the Bosphorous were flawed with “a limited view and single colorness,” and Süreyya compares the life they lived there to a period of ordeal and staying in a monastery.73 Süreyya has a strong desire for the Bosphorus. Bosphorus would give him the joy of “living alone in a crowd, and secluding to a corner after wandering around in a crowd”.74 The opportunities of a place for being able to socialize as well as remain alone would also affect their emotional and sexual life. Living in Bosphorus also meant for Süreyya seeing other women and as such desiring Suad even more. For Süreyya Boğaziçi thanks to the contact between the natural and the social, the public and the private amounted to living each one through its own value.

This desired life is attained as with the help of Suad’s father a mansion is rented in the Bosphorus. They reached a life that is cleaner, nicer and more real than that at every corner of Istanbul. Necib, who would later fall in love with Suad, feels full of life on his visit to the newly-wed couple. Necib feels relieved as he proceeds from his gloomy and dismal life in Beyoğlu towards Bosphorus:

As the ferry overflew with people hurrying to Bosphorus, departing from the bridge and nestling into the blue chest of the Bosphorus, this became a relief, an increasing exhilaration for him. When looking around, he was feeling a life full of joy among the cheerful and lovely passengers’ exaltation and their lives intoxicated by spring; taking deep breaths, he was carried away by a freshness, an energy and excitement with the colliding fresh smells of colourful flowers in the meadows. All his gloom and melancholy were left behind in the streets of Beyoğlu. On every face there was a joy. Today all women among the people filling the upper deck appeared to him with a beauty worth desire. Whereas the pace of seeing consecutive buildings in a row on the shore made him half-dizzy, the vibrant life boiling in front of his eyes half-asleep.

This rapture is not unique to Necib; the Bosphorus nights that Suad, Süreyya and Necib spent together evoke a feeling of rapture as well: “Then, night… Istanbul’s finest, the most adorned, and the most serene nights…Without a need for light, all the splendours of the sky reflecting on the sea generate such a jolly languor of light that they stay embedded in that shade, half-dead. At that moment the sea, the sky, as well the meadows appearing across had an indescribable charm.”75

When considered with the life led with Suad’s in the Bosphorus, the “oppressiveness, mindnumbingness” of Beyoğlu life is felt more strongly for Necib. Behind the diversity on the surface, there is a dry and uninspiring life going on in Beyoğlu. The inhabitants and regulars of Beyoğlu are flawed with artificiality, malicious competition, hypocrisy, grudge and sneer: “Firstly, a life of all sorts is seen, it appears to have unique phases, but it indeed it is so single colored, oh God so drab, all the faces seen are so similar… A life with no privacy and sincerity, comprised entirely of mimicry, a cold yellow imitation…”76 When one looks at the life in Bosphorus experienced together it is the transformation of human to nature and nature to human. While the serenity in the flow of a stream is presented, the stream turns into a human in the final analysis: “The stream rests there with its rippling, here splashing, flowing, sometimes whispers from among the grass, then after deepening it thinks without rendering apparent that it was flowing in silence.”77 The state of rapture in the face of this lively Bosphorus nature, to which we only gave an example, was intensifying more; a desire for being part of nature, being embedded in this livelihood, unifying and dying with this livelihood was evoked. “Indeed, in the midst of the outburst of the emotion, he was suffering from the difficulty of resisting the need to unite with this grass and mix up with this soil by screaming; the feeling of being overwhelmed and the desire to die that he always felt in the face of beauties that terrified him most were now rendering him helpless with an even stronger and dispriting determination.”78 As the novel proceeds, we pass from these three characters’ love of Bosphorus and nature to a platform of human relations, to a love triangle. Necib’s feelings towards Bosphorus and nature are now in the same way to Suad, and the novel reaches a point where his desire to die by joining the nature turns into a declaration and manifestation of his love for Suad by dying in a fire with Suad.

Degradation of the City

In the poem “Sis79 by Tevfik Fikret (b.1867-d.1915), dated March 3rd, 1902, Istanbul appears with a completely different aspect. The aesthetic enjoyment object Istanbul is replaced with an Istanbul that the is the site of the embodiment of degradation. The clarity of Istanbul, which we are accustomed from other texts, that exposes its beauty before our eyes disappears and fog surrounds the city. Istanbul is in a state in which the heaviness of the fog eliminates all lines of the objects and all landscapes and views turn into a dusty density such that the gaze cannot travel over. However this state is not a temporary one concealing Istanbul’s beautiful reality, rather this degradation represented by the fog is Istanbul’s real essence. Istanbul’s face and this dark cover are intertwined. Behind the “splendour” and “pomposity” in appearance lie “tragedies”, deaths, and “injustices”. This vigorous mass, brought closer to the “Orient,” to “decrepit Byzantium”, and to history and death, is also feminized and all these negative qualities are identified with womanhood. Istanbul as an “untouched widowed woman of a thousand man”,80 is like “the dirtiest women” that use their friendliness to deceive men; she is the “whore of the world”, the prostitution of the universe. The theme of womanhood is intermingled with dirtiness and Istanbul is pure dirt: “Always filthiness of hypocrisy, filthiness of jealosy, and that of expediency.”81 Mosques, minarets, beggars, cemeteries, elders, madrasahs, and courts are all surrounded by this dirt. Dust and mud are in a fight on the streets and every breach opened during this fight is an incident indicating the degradation of the city. Ruins are becoming locations for hussies, residents represent “standing sorrows with their pitch-black roofs.”82 The mouth upon the call of the stomach tasting every kind of abasement, the ones hiding behind a fake submission instead of performing action based on what is granted to them, as well as “useless eyetears and “poisonous laughter” are phenomena that Fikret abhors. There is no place for virtue, right, law or “sword and pen” in this contemptible Istanbul.


Riot of Colours, Soundscapes and Gender Relations

Although we witness numerous aspects of Istanbul in Ahmed Rasim’s works (b. 1864-d.1932), here I will mainly focus on the riot of colours and soundscapes.83 The bridge connecting Istanbul and Galata with its movement, speed and diversity is often used as an intensified image of Istanbul. In a city letter, Ahmed Rasim describes the heterogeneous richness of the bridge through the riot of colours. At the most crowded moment of the bridge, he describes various colours of it in full detail. By focusing mainly on women, but also without ignoring children and men, all sorts of colours of shoes, umbrellas, socks, that is those of every kind of clothing but especially çarşaf’s (head-to-toe garment) are depicted in front of our eyes. This variety of colours in the most crowded point of the city calls people for contemplation. Compared to a carnival, this color world is associated with the variety of skin colours, and then the topic of abundance of people in Istanbul, the side by side living of people from a variety of origins, colours, and classes, is discussed. The riot of colours turns into a symbol of cultural pluralism that is unique to Istanbul: “In short, this is such a panorama displaying degrees of variety of colours that it is not possible to be seen everywhere.”84

Not only colours but also sounds come to Ahmed Rasim’s notice. As much as the visual array of the city, “soundscape”85 is described in detail. Those who have a grasp of the delicacies of these colors and sounds as intense symbols can easily figure out to which social strata a person belongs, based on the color of his/her dress and the way he/she speaks. This point is explicitly made in the essay “Mahalle Aralarında Eksilen Sesler86 which also refers to a concern about the diminishing richness of Istanbul’s soundscape. In his article “Sokaklarda Geceler” Istanbul’s soundscape is discussed in the context of the possibility of foreigners’ perception of the city’s authentic experience. When gazing at Istanbul at night, Europeans experience the city as “Orient! The region of sleep, silence, and idleness of relish!”87 Even Pierre Loti who lived in Istanbul for an extenden period describes Istanbul nights with idleness: “Istanbul nights, still lying under fog, stand like a breathing body that has not left the bed though the owners took away the quilt …88” Yet those that have truly experienced Istanbul can draw out even from the slightest noise in the night implications about the social life of the city. The night sounds are signs for the richness of life in Istanbul. Ahmed Rasim shows what social states these sounds and movements illustrate by describing in detail “a sluggish walk”, “brisk walk”, “walking with striking heels”, “idle lope”, “running” or styles of door knocks. A European cannot understand this because “as he was grown up on unkempt Western streets and boulevards, he cannot decipher the strong connection and relationship existing since past between the street and the psychology of its inhabitants. Only “one of us” would have a totally different experience: “As for a suspicious one of us he/she can figure out even those passing by at night from the sound of their footsteps.”89

As much as the sound and colour variety of Istanbul, Ahmed Rasim records the modes of encounters between women and men in the city. We mentioned the spiritual, social and sexual atmosphere around Beyazıt in Ramadan, at the end of Araba Sevdası. In Ahmed Rasim the sexual rituals of the “throng” are described in more detail. The array of clothes, colours, and gestures gathers this time around sexuality in the tenth article of Fuhş-i Atîk. This atmosphere of a religious night that carriages are on the way back and people are squashed like sardines is defined as the “armageddon of fancies.”90 In this place where carriages and people almost merged, “people full of desire” line up for enjoyment. Ahmed Rasim on the one hand describes the special gestures men and women performed while flirting, on the other hand he explains their meanings. As the movement of carriages and people decreases, and as those present become more packed, gestures intensify and moral restrictions fade away: “as carriages become more stuck, all moral expressions were being discharged. It was as if the city gathered here samples of all its present inhabitants.” 91

Agency That Spread To Every Element of the City

Similar to the authors Ahmed Midhat and Ahmed Rasim, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar (b. 1864-d. 1944) is another important pen of the trend of portraying Istanbul with all its richness and diversity, whether glorious or despicable, of paying attention to the visual, auditory and relational views composed by people rather than its natural scenery. Although approaching Gürpınar’s Istanbul extensively92 goes beyond this article, the introductory chapter93 of the novel Şıpsevdi which was published in 1911 is representative in this respect. A live scene from the social life of Istanbul is presented before focusing on the snobberies of Meftun Efendi; the central figure of the novel. He is represented as a part of the city life with his daily meanness, commonness, and dynamism. In the Istanbul of Şıpsevdi, everything is somehow an agent, even if partial everything has a decisive influence in the common life. Firstly we observe the gathering feature of the gutters on Aksaray streets. This is a location where not only rainwater but also various superstitions as well as tramcar drivers and people gather. Towards evening, shopkeepers arrive, too, and the place turns into a funfair. Gürpınar puts gutters at the centre of all these gatherings. The wastes of this gathering location are dumped into the gutters, some of them fall and mix in the water, and some remain stuck between the gutters. The dirty waters flowing from the shops are also collected in these gutters. Around the people of the city, the filthiness of these gutters where despicable wastes are collected produces flies. This time Gürpınar focuses on the flies, we observe people in their social networks through the movement of flies travelling over streets and shops. Across the spectrum from the tramcar drivers to the shopkeepers and finally to the female passengers, social life is displayed with its various layers. The ways in which the differences emerging from gender, profession and class get reflected on manners and language are presented. Thereby, before concentrating on Meftun, who is put forth as someone alienated from society the life in Istanbul with its things, living beings, and people lived side by side, intermingled, as well as with differences is represented.

Cosmopolitanism, Localness, and Being Istanbulite

Cosmopolitan Istanbul is in the foreground in Safveti Ziya’s (b. 1875-d.1929) Salon Köşeleri which was serialized in 1898, but could be published uncensored as late as in 1912. Through the experiences of Şekip Bey who culled with the utmost care for Western etiquette and dances, we witness the social life and entertainment world of the foreign families in Istanbul. Şekip Bey’s strolls in the city which are described in detail are important for the plot of the novel. Şekip during one of these walks awakens to the multi-layered life of Istanbul whose cosmopolitanism is presented through enclosed spaces. At the end of his walk, he finds himself next to a little Greek girl, who is forced to engage in prostitution for the treatment of her sick sibling.94 However, during the strolls he took with his love Lydia around Şişli, the reality of the city and other people disappears and his existence concentrating on Lydia becomes indifferent to all other things. Although their side-by-side walking was sometimes inhibited by the city crowd and Şekip was left behind, Şekip cannot take his eyes off of Lydia. Via the chats during these strolls, Lydia for the first time gets in touch with an Ottoman in real terms. She realizes that the Ottoman she got to know through the Greek and Armenian was only a misrepresentation.95

The novel also present being an Istanbulite and a European as two radically different experiences. As we see in Ahmed Rasim’s works, it is conveyed that a European cannot fully grasp an Istanbulite. What lies at the root of this basic difference is time perception. The lack of overlap between the European style standardized measurement of time and that of the Turkish style based on the movements of the sun is presented as the strongest sign of the impossibility of understanding the Istanbulite experience. Turkish style time determines the daily life entirely. This Istanbul life cannot be reduced to the European criteria of timing. Even, the continuous change of the Turkish time and the variability of the moods of Istanbulites are presented related to each other.96

In the end of the novel, being an Istanbulite is identified with being a captive under tyranny. When Lydia goes back to England, Şekip’s sense of captivity strengthens more. He transfers the emotional pain of separating from Lydia to being the representative of a nation suffering from oppression. By referring to the binaries of civilized- barbarian which is frequently used by Orientalism, he claims that oppression tries to detach him and his nation from civilization. While Lydia’s ferry was departing, Şekip stands aghast in Istanbul nailed by the chain of oppression. He is not only unable to prevent Lydia from leaving but also is condemned not be able to take a step towards development, enlightenment and civilization.97


Glorifying the Past, the Degradation of Wartime Istanbul

Salon Köşelerinde overlaps with Tevfik Fikret’s “Sis” when we focus on the orientation of the events and the closure point. We find this image of Istanbul where despotism oppressess people and the city, and it turns impossible to lead a dignified and free life in addition to these works that portray the period of tyranny in novels about the World War I and Turkish War of Independence. Refik Halid Karay’s (b. 1888-d.1965) novel Istanbul’un Bir Yüzü which he started to write through the end of World War I and finished after the war (September 15-December 15 1918) but published in 1920 depicts the Istanbul of war circumstances as a place of moral degradation and corruption, while the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II is yearned for. From the viewpoint of Ismet, once the adopted daughter in Fikri Paşa’s mansion, a sort of an ethnography of Istanbul during the pre- and post-Second Constitutional periods is offered. This ethnography is that of the degradation the city. From Ismet’s standpoint the old Istanbul is not a location of complete purity, yet it is still better than the new Istanbul. Wrong or evil acts committed secretly begin to performed openly and shamelessly in the wartime Istanbul. War profiteering and sexual corruption are the most degraded conditions of this Istanbul. According to Ismet, love has been fully materialized in Istanbul:

Then, love used to be sold like a forbidden good, such as gunpowder and poison, clandestinely, from hand to hand, whisperingly, with enormous difficulty. One was supposed to wait for too long, to miss, and to go through fears and trembles. Now we pick it from the shopwindow as if buying a tooth brush, grabble it and then throw into our bags; tomorrow another one, the following day a tougher or softer one…all shapes and sizes, abundant and effortless!99

Old Istanbul is also a place where social sensitivity about romantic relations existed, where reciprocal love of a young woman was monitored by the society that worked like “a secret service organization” in cooperation.100 While these social and sexual boundaries were completely loosened in the Istanbul of wartime, in the old Istanbul one could stay safe from this controlling society only in summer resort neighborhoods. In summer time, restrictions about the relationships between men and women would ease and in autumn “these joys in the meeting of the eyes from carriage to carriage or boats to boats would come to an end [.]”101 As the passing of summer titivates Bosphorus into a gloomy atmosphere residents are filled with tediousness too. While Ismet narrates the love between Recai Bey and Şadiye Hanım, she also explains how the city influences and enables the running love dynamics. It should be noted that wandering in the city is presented here as a mimetic desire. The couple wanders around Eyüp after being influenced from Pierre Loti novels. As they compliment on the site with a language they adorn with French words, for İsmet who accompanies them as a servant this Eyüp experience, like the Eyüp trips of her childhood, is “vulgar”, “tasteless” and in vain.102

At the end of the novel which is based on the degradation of Istanbul in the transition from the old to the new Istanbul, İsmet provides a general assesment of the city. In fact, İsmet is somenone who by abusing her sexuality enriched in the process. She is part of the corruption that she talks about. Though its material conditions are improved, Istanbul which was “dignified and important in the past” is now “colourless and miserable.”103 Ismet seems to get old untimely. Similar to Ahmed Rasim’s “Mahalle Aralarında Eksilen Sesler”, she remembers the old sounds of Istanbul, its peddlers and the life in the mansions. On the one hand this reminiscence is one of lamentation on the other it is a yearning for a beautiful Istanbul by thinking it is “as if I got so old but am remembering my youth with pleasure.”.104 Ismet desires the moment in which nothing has changed and Istanbul remained as same. It sounds as if she is in a foreign land in this new city which has lost its ancient traces and generated a completely different perception of the space. While longing for the sounds and images of the old Istanbul in Şişli which she considers a tasteless district, she expresses her homesickness as follows: “I feel as if I am homesick in foreign lands; I sense that the desire to go back to my place, my home, my origin like hunger makes me famished. I want to cry sobbingly while looking for Istanbul in Istanbul and discerning that I will no longer be able to find it.”105 While in “Sis” degradation was something that spread all over the history of the city, in Ismet’s Istanbul it is attributed to the Istanbul of World War I period, and it is the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II that is affiliated with dignity. For İsmet, the old Istanbul is like a body embracing her and upon the loss of this body she was subject to a true loss of her selfdom. In this new period when sexual and financial desires are satisfied lavishly, Ismet desires the old Istanbul: “I burn, I yearn for it.”106

Spatial Division in the Istanbul of War: Degraded Beyoğlu, Dignified Estekzade

Whereas Istanbul is temporally divided into two in İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, and present time is identified with degradation, in Gün Batarken by Ercüment Ekrem Talu (b.1886-d.1956) which was published in 1922, the Istanbul of armistice period is spatially divided into two. While degradation concentrates in Beyoğlu, the fictitious neighborhood of Estekzade in the historical peninsula is the location of dignity. The main character of the novel, Hulki Bey experienced degeneration in his own life like İsmet in İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü. In this novel,too, we witness Hulki Bey’s improvement from degradation to enlightenment. Instead of the nostalgia which Ismet attributes to the past, in Günbatarken there is an imaginary neighborhood in which authentic localness is lived. The degradation of the present moment is now concentrated in a specific location. Beyoğlu constitutes “an abhorred stain”107 in Istanbul, the city on which the Western countries lay eyes with “ambitious looks” and for which world wars are waged. A disdainful approach toward Beyoğlu’s degradation is dominant in the narrator’s language: “This place of nastiness and malice where all the ugliness and ignoble actions of the Orient and the Occident are carried out is a bastard born from the affair of that Orient and Occident.”108 Residents of Beyoğlu are neither Easterner nor Westerner. “They are like stateless-homeless”; they do not have conscience, they have profits; they bear more than one passport; and they are saved from every kind of tremor without any damage; they are “microbes” inherited from the Byzantium to the Ottoman; “spreading wound.”. Beyoğlu is the origin of corruption, also the well of lust. Whenever the state is occupied with an important task, Beyoğlu gets engaged in its perverse activities. “Beyoğlu benefits from morality’s ‘declination tendency’ in these times of Asa[bın] müteheyyic.”109 After stating these findings that express the wretchedness of Beyoğlu in disgust, the novel concludes with Hulki’s arrival to the real Istanbul by passing the bridge. This symbolical passing is Hulki’s crossing from degradation to dignitiy with his heading for “Istanbul which stands tranquilly and splendidly like a live statue in agony.”110 The sunset in Istanbul at the moment, too, is associated with the collapse of the empire and with Hulki’s realization of his responsibility in this collapse.

We see the dignified Istanbul in Kan ve İman by Ercüment Ekrem which is a continuation of Gün Batmadan serialized between October 10th, 1922 and January 10th, 1923. The Estekzade neighborhood where Hulki settled in is the exact opposite of Beyoğlu. In contrast to the district of degradation, Estekzade is the site of purity and chasteness. “Safe”, “chaste”, “pretty”, “tranquil”, “honest”, “unadulterated”, “pure” are major terms used to describe the district.111 This neighborhood where perversive habits are unknown, where faith is experienced purely, not just in form, where “it is as if there exists a secret but very strongly determined alliance to protect its chastity and creed,”112 does not let strangers in easily at all. In this neighboorhood envisaged as a location for the manifestation of the ideal of a homogenous purity no room is reserved for those that are not national or Islamic: “Above all, they would never allow infidels to come close to their districts. The store Karamanlı that is the vanguard of deception and depravement everywhere would not even approach this neighborhood”113 The district is also safe from any media originating outside its boundaries as much as possible. “World events” and newspapers cannot enter here. Even if they can in some way, it happens pretty late. An important news managing to reach the district does not evoke any excitement: “Disaster is confronted with submission, good news is met with glorification. Every event comes from the Almighty; it occurs with God’s permission; [this] mentality prevails the morals, moods and lives of the people in the neighbourhood.”114

Upon the declaration of the armistice, defeat became official and the occupation of Istanbul was received with “despair and anguish” in the neighbourhood. These events result in the split of the city into two: “Istanbul is hiding its anguish with dignity and submission, [whereas] Beyoğlu was struggling with a crazy and insincere pleasure.115 The occupation of Istanbul meant the spread of degradation materialized in Beyoğlu to the rest of the city. While Istanbul was turning into a site of abasement, the inhabitants of Estekzade neighborhood that are exemplar of purity were turning towards the struggle in Anatolia. The opportunity for purity and cleanliness was now more limited in Istanbul, a decent life beyond this abasement was possible outside of Istanbul in the national struggle. Yet the dignified that had to stay in Istanbul helped Anatolia despite all difficulties. While the occupying allied forces, Beyoğlu, and the Ottoman government were characterized with abasement, seemingly powerless ranks of society provided help for Anatolia: “small boats gliding on the blue waters of the strait among the battleships that lie with a proud magnificence carried to Anatolia the heart, spirit, feeling, mind, moral and material support of Istanbul that was yearning for Anatolia.”116

Looking holistically at the images of Istanbul which are represented and became the subject matter in the texts that we dealt with throughout this article, it becomes clearly evident that modern Ottoman literature had a rich and heterogeneous imagery of Istanbul. Undoubtedly, in this limited article, we could mention only basic tendencies; we could not explore many texts; however, within these limits, we can still claim that we can observe the traces of the centrality of Istanbul in all regards in the literature too. Istanbul is settled in the focus of modern Ottoman literature as a city where nature and culture are blended; man and women confront each other; social differences exist together with either peace or conflict; people, stories and languages amass; a person views oneself or the beloved when contemplating the city; degradation and dignity are intertwined with the accompanying conflicts between them. Istanbul is an adored and yet corrupted city, one that occupies the humanbeing as well as gets occupied itself.


1 Günil Özlem Ayaydın Cebe, “19. Yüzyılda Osmanlı Toplumu ve Basılı Türkçe Edebiyat: Etkileşimler, Değişimler, Çeşitlilik” (Ph.D. Dissertation), Bilkent University, 2009, pp. 300, 376.

2 See Johann Strauss’s article in this volume regarding how Istanbul was represented in the Turkish works written in other alphabets during the same period. Undoubtedly, it is impossible to evaluate all the texts of the period in question on Istanbul within the scope of one article. In this article, I focused on the examples with a distinguishing feature, and examples representing certain trends of the period between 1870 and 1923. See Mehmet Kaplan, “Türk Edebiyatında İstanbul”, Yeni Türk Edebiyatı Üzerinde Araştırmalar II, Istanbul: Dergâh Yayınları, 1994, pp. 48-55; M. Orhan Okay, “Yeni Türk Edebiyatında İstanbul”, DİA, XXIII, 293-296; Mehmet Kaplan and Mustafa Kutlu, “Tanzimat’tan Sonra Türk Edebiyatında İstanbul”, TDEA, V, 15-20 for these are articles addressing to the same period with other criteria and they bring the reader together with other works on Istanbul.

3 For the treatment of Çamlıca in literature see. Selim İleri, “Edebiyatta Çamlıca”, DBİst.A, II, 465.

4 Namık Kemal, İntibah, edited by Mehmet Emin Agar, Istanbul: Enderun,1996, p. 11.

5 Namık Kemal, İntibah, p. 12.

6 Namık Kemal, İntibah, p. 8.

7 Namık Kemal, İntibah, p. 12.

8 For the treatment of Bosphorus in literature see Selim İleri, “Edebiyatta Boğaziçi”, DBİst.A, II, 286-288.

9 Emin Nihat, Müsameretname, edited by Sabahattin Çağın and Fazıl Gökçek, Istanbul: Özgür Yayınları, 2003, p. 28.

10 For a more detailed research on Istanbul in Ahmed Midhat’s works, see Mehmet Doğanay, Ahmet Midhat Efendi’nin İstanbul’u, Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür A.Ş., 2008.

11 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Süleyman Musli, edited by Fatih Andı, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000, p. 133. We see similar findings in Hayret published in 1885 (prepared by Nuri Sağlam, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000) “Actually, instead of assuming our capital’s Istanbul aspect as a city, it will be more appropriate to consider it as a big and expansive village. Because although the thing called as a “city” needs to meet all the vital necessities for people’s survival, it is apparent that Istanbul lacks most of the aforementioned necessities.” (p. 56)

12 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Süleyman Musli, p. 134.

13 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Süleyman Musli, p. 133.

14 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Taaffüf, edited by Necat Birinci, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000, pp. 20-21. It was first published in 1895.

15 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Taaffüf, p. 27.

16 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Gürcü Kızı yahut İntikam, haz. Kazım Yetiş, Ankara 2003, p. 5.

17 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Henüz 17 Yaşında, prepared by Nuri Sağlam, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000, p. 22.

18 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Karnaval, prepared by Kazım Yetiş, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000, p. 15. First publication is in 1881.

19 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Karnaval, p. 139.

20 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Karnaval, p. 140.

21 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Eski Mektuplar, prepared by Ali Şükrü Çoruk, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2003, pp. 37-38.

22 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Müşahedat, prepared by Necat Birinci, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2000, p. 54.

23 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Müşahedat, p. 55.

24 Ahmed Midhat Efendi, Müşahedat, p. 64.

25 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı yoksa Turfa mı?, prepared by Tacettin Şimşek, Ankara: Akçağ Yayınları, 2005, p. 1.

26 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 3.

27 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 2.

28 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 5.

29 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 5.

30 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 6.

31 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 6.

32 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 9.

33 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 15.

34 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p. 16.

35 [Mizancı] Mehmed Murad, Turfanda mı?, p.17.

36 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, prepared by Mustafa Nihat Özön, Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1954, p. 4.

37 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 2.

38 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 2.

39 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 4.

40 Regarding moonlight merrymakings see Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Beş Şehir, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 1960, pp. 326-328; Beşir Ayvazoğlu, Geceleyin Dersaadet, Istanbul: Kapı Yayınları, 2013, pp. 129-137.

41 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 8.

42 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 36.

43 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, p. 105.

44 Nabizade Nazım, Zehra, pp. 152-156.

45 Fatma Aliye Hanım, Refet, prepared by Şahika Karaca, Istanbul: Kesit Yayınları, 2012, p. 138.

46 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 139.

47 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 145.

48 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 146.

49 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 145.

50 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 147.

51 Fatma Aliye, Refet, p. 153.

52 Recâîzâde Mahmûd Ekrem, Araba Sevdası, prepared by Mehmet Emin Agar, Istanbul: Enderun Kitabevi, 1993, p. 8.

53 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 9.

54 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 9.

55 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, pp. 68-71.

56 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 87.

57 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 87.

58 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 89.

59 Recâîzâde, Araba Sevdası, p. 203.

60 As an article researching Istanbul nights in Mai ve Siyah see Ayvazoğlu, Geceleyin Dersaadet, pp. 119-127.

61 Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, prepared by Enfel Doğan, Istanbul: Özgür Yayınları, 2011, p. 153.

62 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, pp. 155-156.

63 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, pp. 156-157.

64 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 200.

65 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, pp. 158-159.

66 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 179.

67 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 202.

68 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 202.

69 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 204.

70 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 206.

71 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 205.

72 Uşaklıgil, Mai ve Siyah, p. 395.

73 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, prep. Metin Martı, Istanbul: Arma Yayınları, 1998, pp.  9-10.

74 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, p. 10.

75 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, p. 45.

76 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, p. 47.

77 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, p. 59.

78 Mehmet Rauf, Eylül, p. 60.

79 Tevfik Fikret, “Sis”, Yeni Türk Edebiyatı Metinleri 1: Şiir (1860-1923), compiled by İnci Enginün and Zeynep Kerman, Istanbul: Dergâh Yayınları, 2011, pp. 248-250.

80 Tevfik Fikret, “Sis”, p. 248.

81 Tevfik Fikret, “Sis”, p. 248.

82 Tevfik Fikret, “Sis”, p. 249.

83 Orhan Pamuk expresses the excitement felt by Ahmet Rasim about the heterogeneity of the city as follows: “He feels a botanist’s excitement arousing in a forest in front of the variety and richness of the plants in Westernization, immigrations and the diversity of the city which generated a novelty, eccentricity, destruction or nonsense every day with the irony of the history. (İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2003, p. 132).

84 Ahmed Râsim, Şehir Mektupları, prepared by Nuri Akbayar, Istanbul: Oğlak Yayınları, 2005, p. 46.

85 Şerif Aktaş, Ahmet Râsim’in Eserlerinde İstanbul, Istanbul: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1988, p. 68.

86 Ahmed Râsim, Eşkâl-i Zaman, prepared by Orhan Şaik Gökyay, Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 1969, pp. 79-80.

87 Ahmed Rasim, “Sokaklarda Geceler”, Türk Edebiyatı, 2008, no. 416, p. 14. The first edition of the article is in Nevsal-i Millî, dated 1330 (1914). For the works touching upon Istanbul nights through this article, see Ayvazoğlu, Geceleyin Dersaadet, p. 26-28; Tanpınar, Beş Şehir, p. 198.

88 Ahmed Rasim, “Sokaklarda Geceler”, p. 14.

89 Ahmed Rasim, “Sokaklarda Geceler”, p. 15.

90 Ahmed Râsim, Fuhş-ı Atîk, Istanbul: İkdam Matbaası, 1340 [1922], p. 76.

91 Ahmed Râsim, Fuhş-ı Atîk, 77.

92 For Istanbul in Gürpınar’s literatüre see Neslihan Tırlı, “Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar’ın Eserlerinde Gündelik İstanbul Hayatı” (MA Thesis), İstanbul University, 2009.

93 Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar, Şıpsevdi, prepared by Sevengül Sönmez, Istanbul: Everest Yayınları, 2009, pp. 13-41.

94 Safveti Ziya, Salon Köşelerinde, prepared by Nuri Akbayar, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2009, pp. 59-73.

95 Safveti Ziya, Salon Köşelerinde, pp. 137-140.

96 Safveti Ziya, Salon Köşelerinde, p. 80-81.

97 Safveti Ziya, Salon Köşelerinde, p. 160-161.

98 Mütareke İstanbul’unun Türkçe edebiyata nasıl yansıdığı ile ilgili olarak bkz. Tamer Erdoğan, Türk Romanında Mütareke İstanbul’u, Istanbul: Kanat Kitap, 2005.

99 Refik Halid Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, Istanbul: İnkılap Kitabevi, 2009, p. 42.

100 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, pp. 80-81.

101 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 82.

102 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 90.

103 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 195.

104 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 196.

105 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 197.

106 Karay, İstanbul’un Bir Yüzü, p. 197.

107 Ercüment Ekrem Talû, Gün Batarken, prepared by Rahim Tarım, Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1990, p. 45.

108 Talû, Gün Batarken, p. 45.

109 Talû, Gün Batarken, pp. 46-47.

110 Talû, Gün Batarken, p. 85.

111 Ercüment Ekrem Talû, Kan ve İman, prepared by Rahim Tarım, Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 1988, p. 1.

112 Talû, Kan ve İman, p. 2.

113 Talû, Kan ve İman, p. 2.

114 Talû, Kan ve İman, p. 3.

115 Talû, Kan ve İman, p. 9.

116 Talû, Kan ve İman, p. 84.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.