East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey
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Leaving behind the life he cared about, Erich Auerbach arrived in Istanbul late in the summer of No one remembers whether he came by ship or by train, but had he taken the northerly route, he would have come on the Orient Express, passing through Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Already, there were Nazi uniforms on station platforms in Munich, as well as other, more heartening sights— peasants beginning their harvest, the Jewish quarter in Budapest, and the medieval architecture of Bucharest. During the three-day journey eastward, the Prus sian scholar might have wondered at what point Europe ceased to be Europe and the familiar no longer spelled home.
But perhaps Auerbach sailed via Italy and Greece, the cradle of classical Europe. With his monograph on Dante, the precursor of Re naissance humanism, in his baggage, he would have likely embarked in Genoa, crossed the Mediterranean, and put in at Piraeus, near Athens. An unknown error has occurred.
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Jewish refugees—Turkey—Istanbul. Humanism—Turkey—History—20th century.
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Turkey—Intellectual life—20th century. Europe—Intellectual life—Turkish influences. Turkey—Civilization—Western influences. Margaret Bourke-White, Flock of sheep grazing among Hebrew tombstones in a cemetery outside Istanbul, circa Giovanni da Modena fl.
East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey by Kader Konuk
Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed on Buraq a mythical horse , miniature, nineteenth century. This book has benefited from the generous support, advice, and enthusiasm of my colleagues at the University of Michigan, who at various stages have read and critiqued the manuscript. Archivists in Germany and Turkey acceded to my numerous requests, providing me with access to files, letters, photographs, newspapers, and lectures that helped me tell the story of Turkish exile. At Stanford University Press, I owe special thanks to senior editor Norris Pope for his enthusiasm and care during the review process, and to editorial assistant Sarah Crane Newman for the attention she paid in giving the manuscript its final shape.
I am also indebted to Katie Trumpener and an anonymous reader for another press. I benefited immensely from the breadth and depth of their knowledge and am grateful for their instructive recommendations on revising the manuscript. Helen Tartar, in particular, stands out as a model of generosity and graciousness.
I have been inspired and encouraged by a wider community of scholars across the disciplines and am gratified by the enthusiasm they showed in the subject of this book. The Turkish-German Studies Group at the University of Michigan provided a welcome and lively forum for discussing ideas related to this book.
East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey
Students in my graduate seminars on Auerbach and on Postcolonial Studies asked probing questions that helped me better formulate some of my ideas; my undergraduate courses on German Ethnicities and Modernism likewise provided a helpful context—I thank all the students, and, in particular, doctoral candidates Nick Block, Efrat Bloom, Gen Creedon, Adile Esen, Ela Gezen, Spencer Hawkins, Solveig Heinz, Amr Kamal, Michael Rinaldo, Corine Tachtiris, Patrick Tonks, Simon Walsh, and Orian Zakai for their stimulating engagement with issues of exile, migration, and transnationalism.
I am, beyond words, indebted to Vanessa Agnew, who edited my work numerous times. Without her care, patience, and eloquence this book would not be what it is now. John Donohue at Westchester Book Services coordinated the copyediting. The support and patience of my friends has sustained me over the years.
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My father, Veysel Konuk, who died without seeing the completion of this book, and my mother, Sakine Konuk, raised me in the spirit of Alevi humanism. Only on finishing this book did I realize what must have spurred my interest in the origins of humanist thought in Turkey.
East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey
It is, I now know, because, as a child of migrants growing up in Germany, I puzzled over my first piece of Turkish literature—a poem by Yunus Emre on a plaque in our living room. My uncle Mahmut Oluklu, who was trained as a teacher in the humanist village institutes, and my aunt Elife I thank for their unconditional love.
I thank them for encouraging me each step of the way. Above all, I am grateful to the most generous and talented of all, Vanessa.
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With her gift of being true to herself at all times, she never fails to inspire me. Writing this book has not only been contingent on her love, loyalty, editing skills, and endless cups of tea; it is the result of our intellectual companionship. My precious, infinitely curious daughter, Sefa, I thank for having arrived in our lives with a dimple on her cheek. Both turned my life around. No one remembers whether he came by ship or by train, but had he taken the northerly route, he would have come on the Orient Express, passing through Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Already, there were Nazi uniforms on station platforms in Munich, as well as other, more heartening sights—peasants beginning their harvest, the Jewish quarter in Budapest, and the medieval architecture of Bucharest. During the three-day journey eastward, the Prussian scholar might have wondered at what point Europe ceased to be Europe and the familiar no longer spelled home.
In Istanbul, the Orient Express ran parallel to the old walls of Constantinople and came to a stop in the Sirkeci terminal—a rather modern building designed by one of his own countrymen. But perhaps Auerbach sailed via Italy and Greece, the cradle of classical Europe. With his monograph on Dante, the precursor of Renaissance humanism, in his baggage, he would have likely embarked in Genoa, crossed the Mediterranean, and put in at Piraeus, near Athens. While these were the dominant Western tropes characterizing classical Europe and the Orient, republican Turks saw the connection between the West and the East in different terms.
After all, this was the sea route that in Byzantine times had linked Rome to Constantinople. With them went the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine manuscripts that, it is still often said, contributed to the spread of classical education in Western Europe. As we will see, the Turkish minister would say that their escape from Europe catalyzed the Turkish Renaissance in the twentieth century: European scholars would revive classical education in the city once hailed as the greatest center of learning in the world.
There was a splendid view for sea passengers anchoring in the mouth of the Golden Horn. Were he lucky, his hotel room would have had a view of the Hagia Sophia, the fifteen-hundred-year-old domed Byzantine cathedral, which had been converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest.
He was a professor of Romance philology and probably would have never left Germany of his own accord. But in October of the previous year, , a university administrator at Marburg University had summoned him to a meeting that he and his wife, Marie, had been dreading for some time. Auerbach knew exactly what was coming. Under the recently introduced Nuremberg laws, he was designated a full Jew, a category that authorized Nazis to ostracize and disenfranchise him as non-Aryan.
The administrator asked Auerbach to confirm that he fell into this category. For two years, he had hoped he would be spared this moment because of the exceptional status granted to Jews, like himself, who were veterans of World War I. But the following day, the dreaded letter was delivered, sealing his dismissal as the director of the Romance Seminar. How many copies would you like to buy? Add to Cart Add to Cart.
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