What can be concluded from the travel writings and thrillers studied in the present thesis is the difficulty of determining a distinct range of images totally peculiar to the twentieth century divorced from the historical past of Turkey. In other words, despite the works intended to examine twentieth century perceptions of Turkey in the west by analysing the texts of various thrillers and travel accounts, it can be established that, with a few exceptions, it is almost impossible to discuss the prevalent images completely dissociated from early religious and historical stereotypes of Turks, which can be traced back to the Crusades. 'The traditional Eurocentric attitude towards the Turk began then, when the Pope called for the First Crusade to protect the Christian Byzantine Empire. It was then that the name Turk became a pejorative term meaning infidel, savage'(1).
The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 has in particular become the milestone of Western concern about the Turks in political and military terms, as well as building up western stereotypes of the Turks associated with cruelty, savagery and sadism. Other historical factors which made the Ottoman lands a focus of curiosity for Europeans as regards beliefs, culture, traditions and manners can briefly be attributed to the Empire’s subsequent expansion into Europe through the conquest of Belgrade (1521), Rhodes (1522), Budapest (1529), and Cyprus (1571), followed by later economic agreements with European counterparts and the gradual decline of the Ottoman Empire due to various humiliating defeats by those same European powers.
As a consequence of such a long but unstable historical process, the Western view of Turks and Turkey has been an evolving entity - evolving over a period of centuries by means of a lengthy historical process:
We have seen that the prevalent impact of this ongoing historical process of Turkish stereotyping can be perceived in different forms in twentieth century fiction. The images are reproduced either through direct reference to particular locations such as Istanbul, Izmir and Trabzon, and events like the coup attempts targeting the democratic system of the Turkish Republic, or through the creation of ficticious characters, usually villains, supposedly modern counterparts of historical figures in terms of savagery, eccentricity and sensuality.
On the other hand, this historical process has also been the formative element for various contemporary travellers such as Glazebrook and Macaulay who set out on their journeys to Turkey to satisfy their cultural nostalgia for the numerous architectural and religious remains of different Western civilisations as well as all the mysterious and unusual elements of the East they had already learnt about from the tales of their predecessors - varying from the early missionaries to European merchants, traders, warriors, diplomats, etc. This can be seen from the direct references to previous works or the explicit emphasis on the writers’ aspirations to visit the country expressed in their works. However, in most cases these aspirations result in ironic disappointment.
Intrigued by nineteenth-century accounts of journeys of adventure through Ottoman lands, Philip Glazebrook became fascinated by characters who had been to the Middle East. With this and many questions in mind, he planned a journey of his own in 1980 which took him through the old Serbian and Greek provinces and islands, through the ruined cities of Asia Minor as far as Turkey's eastern frontier with Russia at the fortress of Kars, then back to Trebizond, Istanbul and the Balkan capitals. He travelled alone for months at a time when Turkey was under martial law.
Glazebrook's apparent respect and admiration for Victorian travellers(4) is reflected in his references to them and citations from their works in different parts of Journey to Kars (1984), as when he declares: 'I came across a copy of Layard's Early Adventures (1887), and with that my real interest in Near Eastern travel began' (Journey to Kars, 172). He chose to travel following more or less the same route as his Victorian predecessors:
Upon his arrival in Athens in the early pages of the book he refers to the early travellers in order to emphasise the historical and cultural significance of the ancient city:
As for Istanbul Glazebrook reflects Victorian travellers' perceptions of Eastern peculiarities. Referring to the accounts of N.P. Willis, a nineteenth-century American traveller who visited a mad-house in Istanbul, Glazebrook starts with his peculiar picture of the appalling conditions of the asylum:
It has become clear, then, in the course of writing this thesis that twentieth century works are actually the direct offspring of earlier literature in terms of themes, atmosphere and content. This leads us to consider briefly another means of popular entertainment, which perhaps deserves fuller analysis in a separate work, a genre - or more accurately - a group of genres which, because of technological advances, has diminished the power of the writer and critic to effect changes in popular opinion, i.e. cinema and television. It will, therefore, become increasingly important to gauge how the image of Turkey develops in the light of this explosion in media formats, and to discover if these media are able to break free of the past or will be as much the slaves of literature as twentieth century novels and travelogues are of works produced in earlier centuries.
With the immense development of audio-visual technology in the second half of the twentieth century, the process of manipulating the masses through image-making has gradually escalated, and the influence of western, and particularly American, media (which seem to be exercising a cultural control on the rest of the world) reinforces the means of producing and circulating images, news, and representations. Furthermore, discussing the depiction of cultural export in his Sociology of Culture Raymond Williams takes into account the role of media, especially cinema and television, in terms of political and commercial dominance, and points out:
Since the cinema, by building on the visual image and the direct spoken word, contains within it the potential for effects that are not possible in literature, it has become an effective visual medium for the propagation of cultural images and stereotypes of different peoples and countries. It does this, often for economic and political reasons:
On the other hand, the villain in the James Bond tradition is the Other, someone who is the very antithesis of the hero. He is physically or morally repulsive and has cultural traits repugnant to the Western audience. This kind of characterisation - a construct of opposites - ensures that a Western audience will identify with the hero, whose positive character is well developed in the scenario, and impels him to wish consistently for the villain’s destruction. Most frequently, the villain is a stock figure with no developed past who never appears to live a normal life. Moreover, where the hero will be loyal, courageous, fair, honest, and attractive, the audience can expect the villain to be cowardly; a physically ugly person who stabs in the back ally and foe alike, who corrupts the young, weak, and innocent and presents an overpowering danger to Western society: ‘He is the Other, the one who must be smashed lest he conquer, pollute, corrupt, control, defeat, or destroy the good’ (The Middle East, 92)
Within the media context, the pejorative image of Turkey has been perpetuated and many people have continued to judge Turkey on the basis of images of Midnight Express, since criticised by its own apologetic director as being based on an account full of lies, distortion and appalling racism(12). By the same token, Mary Lee Settle makes a similar conclusion that 'the Turks I saw in Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight Express were ogrelike cartoon caricatures compared to the people I had known and lived among for three years of the happiest years of my life' (Turkish Reflections, XII).
In the former, Lawrence a British army officer, stationed in Cairo during World War I, works to ally the Sharif of Makka with the British against the Turks. The Turks are utterly vile and disgusting with no saving qualities of any kind. Although it is a well-made film from the artistic point of view, it was based on a biased book written by an officer who was sent to the region on a secret military mission, which is to fight for the Arabs against the Turks. Therefore, as the villain or the enemy must be characterised as a contrast with the hero, Turks are pictured as brutal, barbaric and sexually frustrated - a particular reference to the Turkish Pasha in Egypt who is, in addition to being ugly, foul and aggressive, a sodomite, a fact which has been called into question(13). On the other hand, the image taken from the movie not only denigrates and demeans the image of Turks, but also renders Arabs inferior by treating them as naive, awkward and unable to act for themselves. With reference to Williams’s depiction of the ‘works of art’ where he asserts that in one sense, they are the products of fine workmanship, but in another sense, their function is ideological (Sociology of Culture, 96), Lawrence of Arabia is conspicuously infused with distorted political and cultural messages for and against some peoples, despite the fact that the movie received a very warm welcome from Turkish audiences.
Another stereotyped movie, which was based on the personal account of Billy Hayes, an American tourist who visited Turkey, and has been widely shown since its production in 1978, is Midnight Express. It is the story of his incarceration in a Turkish prison for attempted hashish smuggling in the midst of world pressures on Turkey over drug farming. It did not create a great impact until it came out as a film directed by the English director, Alan Parker. Parker created a hair-raising story of brutality and torture, leading a contemporary reviewer to comment that ‘most viewers will find Midnight Express a tough visceral experience, and the credit goes to Alan Parker and his ability to commingle the real and the surreal usually’(14).
When the film critic Pauline Kael compared the original text with the production, she agreed on the artistic skillfulness of Alan Parker, the director, and Oliver Stone, the screenwriter, and adds:
The setting of the movie is a depressing scenario of Istanbul despite the fact that the movie was shot mostly in a nineteenth-century British barracks in Malta. Midnight Express is successful in building up a negative Turkish image as humiliating as possible - ‘the Americans, and Englishmen and the Swede are civilised and sensitive, and the Turks are bestial, sadistic and filthy’ (“Movie Yellow Journalism”, 498).
What has been understood from the examination of twentieth century Western images of Turkey with reference to a number of texts of thrillers and travelogues is the evolving entity of Turkish stereotypes which have usually been produced as a result of the political dependency of discourse. In other words, as the twenty-first century approaches, taking into consideration Foucault’s discourse analysis, the close interrelation of politics and discourse or more precisely power and knowledge is prevalent with regard to the perpetuation of cultural or even geographical ‘Otherness’ of Turkey as a Middle Eastern country despite its long-lasting effort to transform itself into a new national entity through cutting off almost all ties with the past and attempting to adopt Western norms in various forms ranging from economic to educational, from social to political. Although it has been emphasised by critics such as Said and Bassnett that there can be no unchangeable validity or canon of geographical entities, Turkey has been kept distant from the West by the recreation of previous negative images through verbal as well as visual means.
Turkey’s otherness has not only been perpetuated through the recreation of previous images but also it has recently been expressed in different forms, particularly through the media with reference to internal political events such as military coups or to international ones like drug-trafficking, or even in the news of international sports events. For example, while several football disasters resulting in a significant number of casualities have taken place recently in Europe itself such as the one in Brussels during a European championship match between Liverpool and Juventus in the mid-1980s, it is Istanbul, which is depicted as the ‘deep Hell’ or ‘fixture from Hell’ - an image that ironically contradicts the Mollne tragedy in Germany, where five Turkish immigrants were burnt alive.
As has been pointed out by some critics such as Davies, the negative representation of Turkey has had an influential impact upon the political attitude of the West. In her analysis of Turkey within the context of the European Community, Davies suggests that, besides some internal economic and political problems of the country, another crucial handicap in Turkey’s membership to the community still stems from its historical stereotypes(16). In addition, having discussed on an international level, the reason why images of the Turks are based on unchanging cliches in books, newspapers, movies, etc., Sir Bernard Burrows opines that ‘Turks have been notoriously bad at lobbying for themselves, and myths of the ‘terrible Turk’, whether or not realistically based, continue to be perpetuated through Byron, Lawrence of Arabia, and Midnight Express’(17).
The evolving entity of images may generally be countered through the liberation of the discourse or the knowledge of the ‘Other’ from the political control of the ‘Self’. As far as Turkey is concerned, one way of doing this is to inject material into the corpus of Western literature via translation studies which have already started to gain ground and have come to be a discipline in their own rights with professional associations since the end of the 1970s(18). Furthermore, translation has been designated by theorists such as Bassnett and Lefevere as a major shaping force in the development of cultural transfer between the source and target cultures and languages (Translation, History and Culture). England, for example, has become known worldwide through its geography, history and above all language, as a result of its cultural interaction with the rest of the world through translation of numerous English classics such as Shakespeare into different languages.
Compared to various European or non-European countries Turkey has always been one of those which have had a very limited number of books translated into European languages so far. Therefore, the demand for learning about the Turks, their culture, religion, social life, traditions, etc. has usually been met by the West itself. Under these circumstances, as has already been pointed out on different occasions in the thesis, most of the information about the region is usually provided either through personal speculations and imaginative accounts or through the reproduction of previous texts. As a result, there appear various misconceptions and misuses of some cultural and religious terms such as the Harem and Gazi - a word which is indicated in some thrillers as an epithet for Kemal Ataturk meaning the murderer of Christians whereas it simply means the survivor of the war.
Turkey as a state is undergoing a period of change despite the fact that it still has some serious ethnic, political and economic problems to tackle, and in order to provide a neutral picture of the country and a better understanding of the people and their culture and traditions with positive as well as negative aspects, it is necessary to know Turkish philosophers, writers, critics, poets and artists, not necessarily through the original texts, but at least through translation.
In the closing decades of the twentieth century this evolving entity
of Turkish stereotypes may also be countered through mass tourism, since
it is likely that direct perceptions of people make positive images. In
other words, the recent explosion of tourists can provide the opportunity
to counteract the historical picture of the Turks. In the past tourism
was a very individual pursuit and those who engaged in it influenced others
through their accounts of what they saw, experienced or even sometimes
what they heard and imagined. Today, however, in the period of mass tourism
a broad spectrum of people is able to experience Turkey at first hand,
and although there are no statistics to back up the thesis, it cannot be
understated that the positive image which tourists constantly refer to
will influence the overall picture of Turkey.
1-Mary Lee Settle, Turkish Reflections (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991), p.77. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its title, ‘Turkish Reflections'.
2-Frederic Raphael, “Empire Building” in The Sunday Times, 5 December, 1993, p.6.
3-Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of Orient (London: Pandora Press, 1988), p.114.
4-In order to provide the reader with detailed information about the books which he mentions or quotes, Glazebrook adds a bibliography at the end of his work. The date of publication is not necessarily that of the earliest edition. The bibliography includes; Abbott, Captain James, Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow and Petersburg, 2 vols (1843); de Bode, Baron Clement, Travels in Luristan and Arabistan, 2 vols (1845); Burnaby, Captain Fred, A Ride to Khiva (1876), and On Horseback through Asia Minor, 2 vols (1877); Burnes, Sir Alexander, Travels into Bukhara in 1831, 3 vols (1839), and Cabool (1842); Carlisle, George, Earl of, Diary in Turkish and Greek Waters (1854); Carne, J., Letters from the East (1830); Conolly, Lt. Arthur, Journey to the North of India, 2 vols (1838); Creagh, James, A Scamper to Sebastopol and Jerusalem in 1869 (1873), and Armenians, Koords and Turks, 2 vols (1880); Curzon, Hon. Robert, Armenia (1854), and Visits to Monasteries in the Levant (1849); Digby, Kenelm Henry, Broadstone of Honour, 3 vols (1829-48); Fowler, George, Three Years in Persia, 2 vols (1841); Fraser, James Baillie, Winter Journey to Tehran (1838), and Travels in Koordistan, etc., etc. 2 vols (1840); Galton, Francis, The Art of Travel; or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries (1855); Gerard, Mrs, Land Beyond the Forest (1888); Houghton, Walter, The Art of Newman's Apoligia (1945); Jenkyns, Richard, The Victorians and Ancient Greece (1982); Jolliffe, Rev. T.R., Letters from Greece, 2 vols (1827); Kinglake, A.W., Eothen; or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East (1844); Madden, R.R., Travels in Turkey, Egypt, etc. (1833); Monk, Charles, J., The Golden Horn, 2 vols (1851); Newton, Charles T., Travels and Discoveries in the Levant, 2 vols (1865); Ross, H. J., Letters from the East, 1837-1857 (1902); Sandwith, H., The Siege of Kars, and Narrative of Travels in Armenia (1856); Scheider, D., The Traveller's Guide to Turkey (1975); Spencer, Captain Edmund, Travels in Circassia, 2 vols (1839), and Travels in European Turkey, 2 vols (1851), and Turkey, Russia, the Black Sea and Circassia (1854); Warburton, Eliot, The Crescent and the Cross, 2 vols (1846). See Philip Glazebrook, Journey to Kars (London: Penguin Books, 1985), lst pub. by Viking, 1984, pp. 244-46. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its title, 'Journey to Kars'.
5-Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (London: Fontana, 1990), p.31-2. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Towers'.
6-Jan Morris, 'Introduction' in Turkish Reflections (New York: Prentice Hall, 1991), p.IX.
7-Raymond Williams, Sociology of Culture (London: Fontana Paperback, 1982), p. 96?. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its title, 'Sociology of Culture'.
8-Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993), p. 353.
9-Bill Nicholls, (ed) Movies and Methods, vol.I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), p.24.
10-Jim Collins, Uncommon Cultures: Popular Culture and Post Modernism (London: Routledge, 1989).
11-Simon S. Reeve draws some similarities between the characterisation of thrillers, spy and detective novels and the cast of the movies concerning the Middle East with particular reference to James Bond. See: Simon S. Reeve, The Middle East in Crime Fiction (New York: Lilian Barber Press, 1989). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its shortened title, 'The Middle East'. Also see: Tony Bennett, “The Bond Phenomenon: Theorising a Popular Hero” in Southern Review, Literary and Interdisciplinary, July 1983, vol.16, pt.2, pp. 195-225 and Robert Chrico, “From Baker Street With Love: Being a Study of James Bond and His Illustrious Predecessor” in The Baker Street Journal: An Irregular Quarterly, December 1988, vol. 38, pt.4, pp. 199-205.
12-D. Shipman, The Story of Cinema, vol.I (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984), p.1103.
13-Sir A.S. Kirkbride, Crackle of Thorns: Experiences in the Middle East (London: John Murray, 1956).
14-Neal Nordlinger, “The Making of Midnight Express” in Filmmakers Monthly, November,1978, vol.XII\1, p.21.
15-Pauline Kael, “Movie Yellow Journalism” in When the Lights Go Down (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980), p.496. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the texts, by mentioning its title, '“Movie Yellow Journalism”'.
16-Christie Davies, “Time to Talk Turkey” in New European, Summer 1989, pp.22-24.
17-Sir Bernard Burrows, ‘Turkey and Europe: The Cultural Background’ in Gordon Johnson (ed), Turkey and Europe in a Cultural Context (Cambridge: Centre of Middle Eastern Studies, 1988), pp.1-8.
18-Susan Bassnett, “From
Comparative Literature to Translation Studies” in Comparative Literature:
A Critical Introduction (London: Blackwell, 1993) and Susan Bassnett and
Andre Lefevere, ed. Translation, History and Culture (London: Pinter Publishers,
1990). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in
the texts, by mentioning its title, 'Translation, History and Culture'.