Coping with The Loss of Empire: British Spy Fiction and Turkish Literary Conspiracism


KHAS Core Program

2 November 2021, Tuesday, 20.00

The publication of Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel Kim in 1901 marks the beginning of spy fiction as a popular literary genre, which since then has continued to flourish with contributions by prominent names of the twentieth-century British literature; Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, Helen MacInnes, John Le Carré, to name a few. In the context of a decaying British Empire, spy fiction re-energized myths of empire, externalized internal problems and antagonisms via figures of enemies and traitors, and provided cognitive mappings of complex geopolitical relations for its audience. Though it is hard to designate a direct counterpart of British spy fiction in Turkish literature in the form of a coherent genre, “literary conspiracism” as a form of thinking fulfills similar ideological functions, albeit not without its particular traits. Conspiracism, with its “paranoid” and “reparative” attributes, characterizes nationalist-conservative works of literature, exemplified by Peyami Safa’s surgical alertness towards foreign cultural elements and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s permeable desire for cultural continuity. Aside from being a comparative study of British and Turkish literatures, this research will discuss the role of entertainment and seriousness in literature as well as the interplay between the literary and the political.