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Philosophy, Literature, and the Dissolution of the Subject

Nietzsche, Musil, Atay

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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 VIII: Atay on the Self

Extract

In this chapter I discuss Atay’s problematisation to the self (VIII.ii) through the substantive theme of the double (VIII.iii), and the formal device of self-conscious intertextuality (VIII.iv), which raises questions of literary originality (VIII.v.), and the role played in it by the act of reading (VIII.vi.). I suggest that inter-textuality plays as important a role for Atay as ‘essayism’ does for Musil, helping him create a character such as Selim whose identity is not so much contingent as radically unstable.

As we have seen, The Disconnected begins with the main protagonist Turgut receiving the news that his friend Selim has committed suicide and left a letter for him. The letter for Turgut, which shatters his sense of reality, functions as a ‘call’: once it is heard there is no going back. It is a call which, according to Ertuğrul, ‘fissures the illusionary unity of the “I” and leads one to undergo an experience of absolute responsibility for the other.’710 At first Turgut wishes to ignore the ‘call’ but realising that it is impossible, he decides to visit Selim’s flat where he discovers a large number of manuscripts – diaries, plays, short stories, long stories – and begins to read them. The manuscripts contain numerous other people, both real people who Selim knew but Turgut did not, those who both of them knew, but also characters from fiction and history, including Jesus, Don Quixote, Hamlet, Dostoyevsky and Oblomov. Turgut reads these manuscripts throughout the novel, and increasingly identifies with Selim.711...

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