Merging the Political into the Personal: Identity Formation Narratives in Anayurt Oteli (The Motherland Hotel)

  • Abstract:

    Yusuf Atılgan’s novel Anayurt Oteli [Motherland Hotel] was published in 1973 and it narrates personal experiences of Zebercet, a middle-aged lonely man, living in an anonymous small town in the hinterland of Aegean coast. He spent his entire life in the hotel where he was born and tries to combat his suffocating daily routine through fantasies and delirious actions. The novel portrays a highly personal story of an “outsider”, who was belittled by modern meta-narratives which were effectively used in the transformation of Anatolian society into a modern nation. Zebercet’s story of becoming a mad man is surrounded by the political symbols which undercover the uncanny aspects of becoming a nation-state. Although Anayurt Oteli is an example of the “Third World literature”, it is not a “national allegory” since Zebercet is not identified with the nation but the political process of constructing the Turkish national identity is depicted as an overarching spectrum to make sense out of the personal experience. The metaphorical narrative structure, therefore, establishes two separate layers of meaning while questioning the modern separation between the personal and the political. This presentation focuses on analyzing multi-layered narrative structure of the novel in order to discuss how Zebercet’s personal story is transformed into the realm of discussing how political symbols of social transformation demarcate personal identities and how the personal becomes a metaphor to understand the formation of political collective identities. It is also possible to question the clear cut separations between politics and aesthetics, individual and society as well as alternative uses of literature in the construction of both collective and personal identities by analyzing the novel’s different layers of meaning.