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WRITER IN EXILE

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” This sentence by Franz Kafka could open any story on literature and exile, as it contains all the elements of a narrative of exile: a repressive state/system, an individual examining the origin of violence and his own actions, informants and a repressive apparatus. It ends with an arrest, as expected. Kafka wrote the opening sentence of his novel The Trial in the year...

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” This sentence by Franz Kafka could open any story on literature and exile, as it contains all the elements of a narrative of exile: a repressive state/system, an individual examining the origin of violence and his own actions, informants and a repressive apparatus. It ends with an arrest, as expected. Kafka wrote the opening sentence of his novel The Trial in the year in which The Great War broke out, at the time when both the political and cultural climate in Europe had changed dramatically. These were the times when all freedoms had shrunk, media censorship had increased and sabre rattling and propaganda had replaced proper journalism and works of literature.

One hundred years later, in the united Europe of today, at first glance this sentence may appear as an artefact from a Museum of Literature or a fragment from a university lecture, where curious students analyse the literature of Central Europe. For Doğan Akhanli, a German author of Turkish descent, The Trial’s opening sentence must have sounded like a terrifying flashback from the Old Continent’s traumatic past. On the morning of 19th August 2017, while on holiday in Granada, Akhanli was arrested without having committed a crime of any kind.

Doğan Akhanli was asleep when the “long arm” of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime knocked on his hotel room door. Initially the author thought that it was just a routine check on foreigners in Spain, in the aftermath of the terrorist attack that had taken place in Barcelona a couple of days before. He was wrong. The “terrorist” the Spanish police were after was Akhanli himself. The author was informed later that the Interpol arrest warrant was issued in his homeland, Turkey. This came as a great surprise, as he had often stayed in hotels across Europe and had never had encounters with the local police, suggesting that the Interpol warrant for Akhanli’s arrest was reactivated fairly recently, a consequence of the radicalisation of Erdoğan’s politics.

His dissident status can be traced back to the mid 1970s, when, after discovering left-wing press, Akhanli joined the illegal Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey and started to be politically active. After the military coup on the 12th of September 1980 Akhanli had to go underground, but he was arrested five years later. He spent two and a half years in a military prison in Istanbul, where he was brutally tortured. After his release from prison Doğan Akhanli was closely monitored by Turkish security services, which resulted in him permanently leaving Turkey in 1991. He sought political asylum in Germany, finding his adopted home in Cologne, where he continued to write (mainly political prose and essays). He never stopped being highly critical of the Turkish state, its politics and stance towards the 1915 Armenian genocide. It is clear that Akhanli’s arrest, immediately upon his arrival in Spain, where he planned to spend his holiday, is directly linked to his criticism of the Erdoğan regime.

The German PEN Centre reacted immediately after Akhanli’s arrest, condemning the “politically motivated arrest of the author”. The German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel followed with a similar statement, which came only days after he had clashed with Erdoğan regarding the Turkish president’s call to the electorate of Turkish descent in Germany to not vote for two major political parties, labelling CDU and SPD as “enemies of Turkey”. “Case Akhanli” happened after the ties between Berlin and Ankara were already heavily strained, which lead to Angela Merkel’s statement in which she warned that “international organisations like Interpol mustn’t be abused for prosecution of critics”. Doğan Akhanli was released 24 hours after his arrest, following a court hearing in Madrid, on the condition that he remains in Madrid for 40 days, a period during which Turkey could send a formal extradition request.

Doğan Akhanli’s literary work is closely connected with his work as a human rights activist. His best-known work is a novel Apocalypse of the Judgment Day (Turkish edition Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları – 1999; German edition Die Richter des Jüngsten Gerichts – 2007). It is a story about the genocide of Armenian people, which started in the late 19th century and culminated in 1915, seven years after the Young Turk revolution. Two prominent figures from that period, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, who ordered and then oversaw the genocide, were shaped into the novel’s central characters. The second aspect of the novel is concerned with the life stories of people throughout 20th century who challenged the official version of this 1915 atrocity. By doing so, Akhanli established the tradition of critical writing in Turkey.

Radicalisation of Erdoğan’s politics is closely linked, among other things, with the preservation of the official account of Turkey’s past. Memory of the genocide is largely supressed, emerging onto the surface from time to time in rare critical writings by outspoken authors and journalists, writings that are always perceived as attacks on the Erdoğan’s regime itself. The case of Turkey is a paradigmatic one. It serves as a warning to all unstable democracies (“stabilocracies”) in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, especially those who have also buried deep the memory of genocides committed in the 1990s. Serbia is one of them. The authorities in Serbia today demonstrate all the features of authoritarian rule, with all the traumatic events and crimes of the past being successfully masked by an unprecedented propaganda about Serbia’s “economic progress”. The public debates on Serbia’s traumatic past, seeking truth and reconciliation in the region, which emerged in the early 2000s, along with many books published on the same topic, have ended up in the underground, in a kind of internal exile today.

Translated by Svetlana Rakocevic

 

***

PISAC U EGZILU

 

„Neko mora da je oklevetao Jozefa K., jer iako nije učinio nikakvo zlo, jednog jutra bio je uhapšen.“ Ova rečenica Franca Kafke mogla bi stajati na početku svake priče o literaturi i egzilu. U toj rečenici se nalaze svi elementi egzilantskog narativa: represivna država/sistem, čovek zapitan nad poreklom nasilja, njegovo delo, doušnici i represivni aparat. Naposletku dolazi hapšenje, razume se. Kafka je ovu, prvu rečenicu svog romana Proces napisao u godini izbijanja Prvog svetskog rata, kada se politička i kulturna klima u Evropi drastično promenila, suzio se prostor slobode, kontrola medija porasla, a ratne trube potisnule literaturu i pravo novinarstvo.

Danas, stotinu godina kasnije u ujedinjenoj Evropi, ovakva rečenica na prvi pogled deluje kao artefakt iz nekog muzeja književnosti ili kao fragment predavanja sa nekog univerziteta, gde se znatiželjni akademci bave literaturom Srednje Evrope. Za nemačkog pisca turskog porekla Dogana Akhanlija, međutim, ova rečenica je ovog leta morala zazvučati kao zastrašujući flashback iz traumatične povesti starog kontinenta, jer ovaj je pisac, stigavši u jedno domaralište u Španiji, ne učinivši pritom ništa zlo, jednoga jutra bio uhapšen.   

Dogan Akhanli je spavao kada je produžena ruka Redžepa Tajipa Erdogana pokucala na vrata njegove hotelske sobe. U prvom trenutku, pomislio je da se radi o rutinskoj kontroli stranaca u hotelu posle terorističkog akta koji se dogodio u Barseloni, ali se prevario u proceni, jer je taj traženi „terorista“ bio upravo on. Tek kasnije mu je saopšteno da je uhapšen po poternici Interpola koja je stigla iz piščevog zavičaja. Ovo je posebno čudilo Akhanlija jer je prethodnih godina često odsedao u hotelima širom Evrope. Međutim, nikada se ranije nije sretao sa policijom u tim hotelima, što navodi na pomisao da je poternica reaktivirana nedavno, na talasu Erdoganove političke radikalizacije.

Duga je senka koja prati Akhanlija i proteže se od sredine sedamdesetih godina, kada je pisac pošto je otkrio levičarsku štampu pristupio ilegalnoj Revolucionarnoj komunističkoj partiji Turske i počeo da se društveno angažuje. Nakon vojnog puča koji je izveden 12. septembra 1980, Akhanli se povukao u ilegalu; međutim, pet godina kasnije bio je uhapšen. Proveo je dve i po godine u vojnom zatvoru u Istanbulu, gde je bio podvrgnut teškoj torturi. Po izlasku iz zatvora, Dogan Akhanli nastavio je da živi pod paskom službe bezbednosti, zbog čega je 1991. napustio Tursku zauvek, zatraživši politički azil u Nemačkoj. Nastanio se u Kelnu, gde je nastavio da se bavi literaturom ali ne odustajući od kritike Turske, njene politike i odnosa prema počinjenom genocidu nad Jermenima u prošlosti. Sasvim je izvesno da je zbog toga, odmah po prispeću u Španiju gde je nameravao da provede svoj godišnji odmor, Akhanli i uhapšen.

Samo nekoliko sati posle hapšenja Akhanlija, reagovao je i Nemački PEN centar, osudivši „politički motivisano hapšenje pisca“. Usledila je potom reakcija nemačkog ministra spoljnih poslova Zigmara Gabrijela, koji je prethodnih dana već imao okršaj sa Erdoganom, kada je turski lider pozvao svoje sunarodnike s pravom glasa u Nemačkoj da ne glasaju za najveće nemačke partije, označivši ih kao „neprijatelje Turske“. Slučaj Akhanli je tako dospeo na teren uveliko narušenih odnosa između Berlina i Ankare, zbog čega se oglasila i kancelarka Angela Merkel, rekavši da je „nedopustiva zloupotreba Interpola u proganjanju svojih kritičara“. Nakon dvadeset i četiri časa, sud u Madridu je oslobodio Dogana Akhanlija, ali uz uslov da ne napušta Madrid narednih četrdeset dana dok vlasti ne razmotre turski zahtev za izručenje.

Književni rad Dogana Akhanlija tesno je povezan s društvenim angažmanom. Njegovo centralno delo je roman Apokalipsa Sudnjeg dana (tursko izdanje Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları – 1999; nemačko izdanje Die Richter des Jüngsten Gerichts – 2007). To je celovita priča o genocidu nad Jermenima koji je otpočeo krajem devetnaestog veka a kulminirao 1915, sedam godina posle dolaska Mladoturaka na vlast. Otuda su i dve istorijske figure iz tog doba dobile svoje književno uobličenje kao nalogodavci i izvršioci genocida – Mehmed paša Talat i Enver paša Ismail. Drugi aspekt romana posvećen je sudbinama onih ljudi koji su se kroz dvadeseti vek suprotstavljali zvaničnoj verziji ovog događaja u Turskoj. Time je Akhanli uspostavio tradiciju kritičkog pisanja u Turskoj.

Radikalizacija politike Redžepa Tajipa Erdogana, između ostalog, duboko je u vezi sa održavanjem zamrznute slike prošlosti Turske. Potisnuta slika genocida, koja tek povremeno isplivava na površinu u tekstovima pisaca i novinara, doživljava se kao udar na sam Erdoganov režim. Turski primer je više nego paradigmatičan i opominjući kada su u pitanju nestabilne demokratije (stabilokratije) na tlu bivše Jugoslavije, osobito one koje u svojoj istorijskoj dubini kriju slike genocida. Srbija je takav slučaj. Vlast u Srbiji pokazuje sve osobine autoritarne vladavine koja upravlja državom čije vruće tačke iz prošlosti za sada bivaju uspešno zamaskirane nezapamćenom propagandom o “ekonomskim uspesima“. Čitav talas literature i javnog mnjenja koji je s početka dvehiljaditih bio okrenut problemima istine i pomirenja u regionu, te prevladavanja traumatične prošlosti, danas je u undergoundu, nekoj vrsti unutrašnjeg egzila.

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” This sentence by Franz Kafka could open any story on literature and exile, as it contains all the elements of a narrative of exile: a repressive state/system, an individual examining the origin of violence and his own actions, informants and a repressive apparatus. It ends with an arrest, as expected. Kafka wrote the opening sentence of his novel The Trial in the year in which The Great War broke out, at the time when both the political and cultural climate in Europe had changed dramatically. These were the times when all freedoms had shrunk, media censorship had increased and sabre rattling and propaganda had replaced proper journalism and works of literature.

One hundred years later, in the united Europe of today, at first glance this sentence may appear as an artefact from a Museum of Literature or a fragment from a university lecture, where curious students analyse the literature of Central Europe. For Doğan Akhanli, a German author of Turkish descent, The Trial’s opening sentence must have sounded like a terrifying flashback from the Old Continent’s traumatic past. On the morning of 19th August 2017, while on holiday in Granada, Akhanli was arrested without having committed a crime of any kind.

Doğan Akhanli was asleep when the “long arm” of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime knocked on his hotel room door. Initially the author thought that it was just a routine check on foreigners in Spain, in the aftermath of the terrorist attack that had taken place in Barcelona a couple of days before. He was wrong. The “terrorist” the Spanish police were after was Akhanli himself. The author was informed later that the Interpol arrest warrant was issued in his homeland, Turkey. This came as a great surprise, as he had often stayed in hotels across Europe and had never had encounters with the local police, suggesting that the Interpol warrant for Akhanli’s arrest was reactivated fairly recently, a consequence of the radicalisation of Erdoğan’s politics. 

His dissident status can be traced back to the mid 1970s, when, after discovering left-wing press, Akhanli joined the illegal Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey and started to be politically active. After the military coup on the 12th of September 1980 Akhanli had to go underground, but he was arrested five years later. He spent two and a half years in a military prison in Istanbul, where he was brutally tortured. After his release from prison Doğan Akhanli was closely monitored by Turkish security services, which resulted in him permanently leaving Turkey in 1991. He sought political asylum in Germany, finding his adopted home in Cologne, where he continued to write (mainly political prose and essays). He never stopped being highly critical of the Turkish state, its politics and stance towards the 1915 Armenian genocide. It is clear that Akhanli’s arrest, immediately upon his arrival in Spain, where he planned to spend his holiday, is directly linked to his criticism of the Erdoğan regime.

The German PEN Centre reacted immediately after Akhanli’s arrest, condemning the “politically motivated arrest of the author”. The German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel followed with a similar statement, which came only days after he had clashed with Erdoğan regarding the Turkish president’s call to the electorate of Turkish descent in Germany to not vote for two major political parties, labelling CDU and SPD as “enemies of Turkey”. “Case Akhanli” happened after the ties between Berlin and Ankara were already heavily strained, which lead to Angela Merkel’s statement in which she warned that “international organisations like Interpol mustn’t be abused for prosecution of critics”. Doğan Akhanli was released 24 hours after his arrest, following a court hearing in Madrid, on the condition that he remains in Madrid for 40 days, a period during which Turkey could send a formal extradition request.

 

Doğan Akhanli’s literary work is closely connected with his work as a human rights activist. His best-known work is a novel Apocalypse of the Judgment Day (Turkish edition Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları – 1999; German edition Die Richter des Jüngsten Gerichts – 2007). It is a story about the genocide of Armenian people, which started in the late 19th century and culminated in 1915, seven years after the Young Turk revolution. Two prominent figures from that period, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, who ordered and then oversaw the genocide, were shaped into the novel’s central characters. The second aspect of the novel is concerned with the life stories of people throughout 20th century who challenged the official version of this 1915 atrocity. By doing so, Akhanli established the tradition of critical writing in Turkey.

Radicalisation of Erdoğan’s politics is closely linked, among other things, with the preservation of the official account of Turkey’s past. Memory of the genocide is largely supressed, emerging onto the surface from time to time in rare critical writings by outspoken authors and journalists, writings that are always perceived as attacks on the Erdoğan’s regime itself. The case of Turkey is a paradigmatic one. It serves as a warning to all unstable democracies (“stabilocracies”) in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, especially those who have also buried deep the memory of genocides committed in the 1990s. Serbia is one of them. The authorities in Serbia today demonstrate all the features of authoritarian rule, with all the traumatic events and crimes of the past being successfully masked by an unprecedented propaganda about Serbia’s “economic progress”. The public debates on Serbia’s traumatic past, seeking truth and reconciliation in the region, which emerged in the early 2000s, along with many books published on the same topic, have ended up in the underground, in a kind of internal exile today.

Translated by Svetlana Rakocevic

 

***

PISAC U EGZILU

 

„Neko mora da je oklevetao Jozefa K., jer iako nije učinio nikakvo zlo, jednog jutra bio je uhapšen.“ Ova rečenica Franca Kafke mogla bi stajati na početku svake priče o literaturi i egzilu. U toj rečenici se nalaze svi elementi egzilantskog narativa: represivna država/sistem, čovek zapitan nad poreklom nasilja, njegovo delo, doušnici i represivni aparat. Naposletku dolazi hapšenje, razume se. Kafka je ovu, prvu rečenicu svog romana Proces napisao u godini izbijanja Prvog svetskog rata, kada se politička i kulturna klima u Evropi drastično promenila, suzio se prostor slobode, kontrola medija porasla, a ratne trube potisnule literaturu i pravo novinarstvo.

Danas, stotinu godina kasnije u ujedinjenoj Evropi, ovakva rečenica na prvi pogled deluje kao artefakt iz nekog muzeja književnosti ili kao fragment predavanja sa nekog univerziteta, gde se znatiželjni akademci bave literaturom Srednje Evrope. Za nemačkog pisca turskog porekla Dogana Akhanlija, međutim, ova rečenica je ovog leta morala zazvučati kao zastrašujući flashback iz traumatične povesti starog kontinenta, jer ovaj je pisac, stigavši u jedno domaralište u Španiji, ne učinivši pritom ništa zlo, jednoga jutra bio uhapšen.   

Dogan Akhanli je spavao kada je produžena ruka Redžepa Tajipa Erdogana pokucala na vrata njegove hotelske sobe. U prvom trenutku, pomislio je da se radi o rutinskoj kontroli stranaca u hotelu posle terorističkog akta koji se dogodio u Barseloni, ali se prevario u proceni, jer je taj traženi „terorista“ bio upravo on. Tek kasnije mu je saopšteno da je uhapšen po poternici Interpola koja je stigla iz piščevog zavičaja. Ovo je posebno čudilo Akhanlija jer je prethodnih godina često odsedao u hotelima širom Evrope. Međutim, nikada se ranije nije sretao sa policijom u tim hotelima, što navodi na pomisao da je poternica reaktivirana nedavno, na talasu Erdoganove političke radikalizacije.

Duga je senka koja prati Akhanlija i proteže se od sredine sedamdesetih godina, kada je pisac pošto je otkrio levičarsku štampu pristupio ilegalnoj Revolucionarnoj komunističkoj partiji Turske i počeo da se društveno angažuje. Nakon vojnog puča koji je izveden 12. septembra 1980, Akhanli se povukao u ilegalu; međutim, pet godina kasnije bio je uhapšen. Proveo je dve i po godine u vojnom zatvoru u Istanbulu, gde je bio podvrgnut teškoj torturi. Po izlasku iz zatvora, Dogan Akhanli nastavio je da živi pod paskom službe bezbednosti, zbog čega je 1991. napustio Tursku zauvek, zatraživši politički azil u Nemačkoj. Nastanio se u Kelnu, gde je nastavio da se bavi literaturom ali ne odustajući od kritike Turske, njene politike i odnosa prema počinjenom genocidu nad Jermenima u prošlosti. Sasvim je izvesno da je zbog toga, odmah po prispeću u Španiju gde je nameravao da provede svoj godišnji odmor, Akhanli i uhapšen.

Samo nekoliko sati posle hapšenja Akhanlija, reagovao je i Nemački PEN centar, osudivši „politički motivisano hapšenje pisca“. Usledila je potom reakcija nemačkog ministra spoljnih poslova Zigmara Gabrijela, koji je prethodnih dana već imao okršaj sa Erdoganom, kada je turski lider pozvao svoje sunarodnike s pravom glasa u Nemačkoj da ne glasaju za najveće nemačke partije, označivši ih kao „neprijatelje Turske“. Slučaj Akhanli je tako dospeo na teren uveliko narušenih odnosa između Berlina i Ankare, zbog čega se oglasila i kancelarka Angela Merkel, rekavši da je „nedopustiva zloupotreba Interpola u proganjanju svojih kritičara“. Nakon dvadeset i četiri časa, sud u Madridu je oslobodio Dogana Akhanlija, ali uz uslov da ne napušta Madrid narednih četrdeset dana dok vlasti ne razmotre turski zahtev za izručenje.

Književni rad Dogana Akhanlija tesno je povezan s društvenim angažmanom. Njegovo centralno delo je roman Apokalipsa Sudnjeg dana (tursko izdanje Kıyamet Günü Yargıçları – 1999; nemačko izdanje Die Richter des Jüngsten Gerichts – 2007). To je celovita priča o genocidu nad Jermenima koji je otpočeo krajem devetnaestog veka a kulminirao 1915, sedam godina posle dolaska Mladoturaka na vlast. Otuda su i dve istorijske figure iz tog doba dobile svoje književno uobličenje kao nalogodavci i izvršioci genocida – Mehmed paša Talat i Enver paša Ismail. Drugi aspekt romana posvećen je sudbinama onih ljudi koji su se kroz dvadeseti vek suprotstavljali zvaničnoj verziji ovog događaja u Turskoj. Time je Akhanli uspostavio tradiciju kritičkog pisanja u Turskoj.

Radikalizacija politike Redžepa Tajipa Erdogana, između ostalog, duboko je u vezi sa održavanjem zamrznute slike prošlosti Turske. Potisnuta slika genocida, koja tek povremeno isplivava na površinu u tekstovima pisaca i novinara, doživljava se kao udar na sam Erdoganov režim. Turski primer je više nego paradigmatičan i opominjući kada su u pitanju nestabilne demokratije (stabilokratije) na tlu bivše Jugoslavije, osobito one koje u svojoj istorijskoj dubini kriju slike genocida. Srbija je takav slučaj. Vlast u Srbiji pokazuje sve osobine autoritarne vladavine koja upravlja državom čije vruće tačke iz prošlosti za sada bivaju uspešno zamaskirane nezapamćenom propagandom o “ekonomskim uspesima“. Čitav talas literature i javnog mnjenja koji je s početka dvehiljaditih bio okrenut problemima istine i pomirenja u regionu, te prevladavanja traumatične prošlosti, danas je u undergoundu, nekoj vrsti unutrašnjeg egzila.

Saša Ilić

Saša Ilić, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

Saša Ilić, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

Saša Ilić, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

Saša Ilić, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

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