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Philosophy, Literature, and the Dissolution of the Subject

Nietzsche, Musil, Atay


Zeynep Talay

If philosophy has limits, what lies beyond them? One answer is literature. In this study, rather than seeing literature as a source of illustrations of philosophical themes, the author considers both philosophy and literature as sometimes competing but often complementary ways of making sense of and conveying the character of ethical experience. She does so through an analysis of ideas about language, experience and ethics in the philosophy of Nietzsche, and of the way in which these themes are worked out and elaborated in the writings of Robert Musil and the Turkish novelist Oğuz Atay.
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Chapter VII: Atay on History and Authority


Oğuz Atay (1934-1977) was born in Inebolu, a small town in the Black Sea region of Turkey. His father was a judge and his mother a schoolteacher. He attended school in Ankara until 1951, after which he enrolled at Istanbul Technical University, graduating as a civil engineer in 1957. Shortly after graduation Atay he started an enterprise as a building contractor, which rapidly failed. In 1960 he joined the staff of the Istanbul Academy of Engineering and Architecture, where he taught for many years until diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1976. He went to London for treatment, but never recovered and died in 1977.

Atay’s first novel, The Disconnected (Tutunamayanlar), appeared in 1971-72 in two volumes. It was never reprinted in his lifetime, but a new edition came out in 1984, seven years after he died. A UNESCO survey described it as ‘probably the most eminent novel of twentieth-century Turkish literature’: ‘a work that won high critical acclaim and popular following, Tutunamayanlar offers an endless series of tragicomic observations, an expansive and critical panorama of Turkish manners, attitudes and clichés through a profound sense of irony, parody, dark humour and existential questioning.’614 The Disconnected was awarded the prize of the Turkish State Radio and Television Institution, TRT in 1970, before it had been published.

Atay’s first publication was not a novel but a 1970 textbook on surveying, Topography, submitted in application for promotion to an associate professorship. In 1973, soon after the release...

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