Slow Futurism: Peyami Safa and the Avant Garde

By Kaitlin Staudt
Submitted to Session P4990 (Knowledge Exchange and Production across Borders, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
In early 1932 F.T. Marinetti, the father of Italian Futurism, journeyed to Istanbul. While there he gave a series of lectures at the Italian Institute of Culture in Beyo?lu, and attended a dinner where he met Peyami Safa, a Turkish conservative novelist sympathetic to Marinetti’s fascist leanings and a devotee of the European avant-garde. This paper will trace the history and legacy of this engagement within Safa’s writing of the mid-1930s. Paying particular attention to Safa’s column “Sanat ve Edebiyat [Art and Literature]” and his novel Bir Tereddüdün Roman? [A Novel of Indecision] serialized in Cumhuriyet newspaper in the summer of 1932, this paper will investigate how Safa translated the rhetoric of Futurism into a critique of Kemalist modernization. Focusing in particular on futurism’s valorization of speed, Safa traces a relationship between literature, velocity, and Westernizing reform, arguing that Turkey’s cultural climate, which urged readers and novelists to catch up with their European counterparts through reading and writing quickly, was wreaking havoc on Turkey’s literary culture. Far from emulating Marinetti’s adoration of speed, Safa instead argues for a slow avant-garde in Turkey.
This paper will examine how Safa creates an aesthetics of slow Futurism in his novel to suggest that this little-known point of interaction between Turkish and European literature represents a connected disconnection within avant-garde practices, one which mirrors Turkey’s irregular integration into and relationship with European literary modernism. As such, the Safa-Marinetti moment offers fruitful ground for investigating how such disconnections and translations shaped literary innovation in Turkey.