“Is the Turkish Program at LBF Inclusive Enough of Minorities?”

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I came across this article titled “Is the Turkish Program at LBF Inclusive Enough of Minorities?” at Publishing Perspectives, it includes excerpts from an interview with Dr Laurent Mignon of Oxford University. Well, in general, I agree with the author Roger Tagholm and Dr Mignon of course, but I’d like to dwell on the use of the word “minority” for a minute.

Dr Mignon probably has Deleuze and Guattari’s (1975) term “minority literature” in mind – I know he uses the concept in his work. To me the minority-majority binarism implies a power structure, or some sort of hierarchy, and Dr Mignon might be using the term deliberately to highlight this. (Or, the word might not be subject to today’s standards of political correctness when Deleuze and Guattari wrote their book back in 1975 and Dr Mignon might be using it simply because that’s the source he draws from.) However, political correctness aside, literature produced by the cultural and linguistic communities of Turkey, including mainstream “Turkish” literature in the Turkish language, is hugely diverse and as such, the question that pops up in my head is whether there is such a thing as “majority literature” any more.

Well, there are Kurdish authors writing in Kurdish, there are those who prefer to write in Turkish, and still there are non-Kurdish authors touching upon the Kurdish situation in their work (in the Turkish language). There are authors from the Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities writing in Turkish (some of whom are purposefully multicultural), but I don’t know how many contemporary authors we have writing in Armenian, Greek or Ladino/Hebrew. Again, with cosmopolitanism rising to prominence as an elective affinity, “Turkish” authors take the liberty to explore aspects of cultural diversity, problems of Othering and historical tragedies as well. So in this context, I don’t know whether “minority literature” is really an enabling category.

According to the article, “the only panel [at LBF] that seems to evoke the existence of literatures in languages other than Turkish is the session on “Migrant, Diaspora and Minority Writing and Translation,” which could be interesting but is not exclusively focused on the literatures of Turkey.” I don’t really mind this, for the same reason. I would love to see more diversity represented at London Book Fair of course, but why lump together authors from different cultural backgrounds or literary traditions just because they’re not Turkish-Turkish or because they choose non-Turkish characters? In that case, attention would be drawn to the cultural themes of their work, and not to the treatment thereof, which might lead to the foregrounding of objectified and quasi-ethnographic representations, as if their “marginal status” legitimizes their literary activity, or as if their work is to be enjoyed to the extent that it offers insights from “the oppressed,” with quite a bit of biographical fallacy involved. Their being “minor” would be reinforced then.

I would much prefer if Kurdish, Armenian, Greek and Jewish (and other) authors were invited to panels on the basis of the technical aspects of their work (or the subgenre they write in, or the period they cover) and maybe asked to comment individually on the challenges of writing in their language or addressing sensitive issues. I don’t really like it when women authors are grouped together just because they’re women either – I can understand focusing on women’s issues in one’s work, but that’s something different, and it could be done by a male writer too.

I hope the Turkish pavilion at LBF is having a productive time. I am looking forward to seeing more translations from Turkish literature – “in all its colours,” as they say.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1986 [1975]) Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (trans. Dana Polan) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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