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Depicting the Late Ottoman Empire in Turkish Autobiographies : Images of a Past World (Hardcover)

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This study examines, on the basis of autobiographical narratives, ways in which the last decades of the Ottoman Empire are depicted in 20th-century Turkish literature. The period between the 1880s and the 1920s was a time of momentous changes in almost every aspect of political, social and cultural life of the Ottoman Empire and its successor states. It was also an age of widespread experiments in literature and the media, of which the rich genre of Turkish autobiography forms a part. At least a dozen autobiographies written between the late 1920s and the early 1970s have been in print continuously, others are have been reprinted in recent years or are re-discovered and re-edited. The texts examined in this study were written after the end of the Ottoman Empire in the cultural context of the Turkish Republic, which went to great lengths to disassociate itself from the empire and its legacy. However, what emerges from this analysis is that the 'Ottoman chapter' in the lives of Turkish intellectuals, academics, journalists or politicians was anything but a topic consigned to the censor’s blacklist. While the official Turkish republican discourse went towards a downright dismissal of the imperial past, autobiographical narratives offer a much more balanced picture. This book aims at showing some examples of how the Ottoman context is depicted and evaluated by authors who grew up in the Ottoman Empire but wrote in the Turkish Republic. The book first discusses the context in which post-Ottoman Turkish autobiographies were written, charting the authors’ motives as well as the political and cultural framework -or constraints -under which these texts were produced. The book then continues by analysing the topic areas, such as childhood and education, which are discussed by authors of Turkish autobiographies in five thematic chapters. In this way, it will be shown which attitudes towards the Ottoman parts of their life stories were taken by the authors as they endeavoured to paint what one of them, the doctor Tevfik Sağlam, called 'images of a past world'.

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