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Smith and Watson introduce Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia as which “assumes a pervasive and fundamental heterogeneity to human subjectivity. The text is multivocal because it is a site for the contestation of meaning.” In relation to that, Bakhtin defines the genre of the novel as “a diversity of social speech types, (sometimes even diversity of languages) and the diversity of individual voices, artistically organized.” As seen in the already given passages harboring the diversity of voices, “Beads of the Prayer Beads” contains narrations in vernacular language (Saro Nene and Sarkis) and in languages other than Turkish, which altogether pave the way for social diversities to be reflected onto the literary space. Not only Margosyan makes use of the vernacular of Turkish language engendered by the combination of Armenian and Kurdish languages, but he also utters separate words and phrases from Armenian and Kurdish which become integral to the narrative. At this juncture, Margosyan’s inclination toward not only using the vernacular but also his tendency to supplement the text with words and phrases from non-Turkish languages render Margosyan’s “Beads of the Prayer Beads” as a text which does not only signify the embodiment of a diversity of social speech types, but also points out a diversity of languages. In that regard Margosyan’s aesthetic autobiography actualizes Bakhtinian heteroglossia in three ways: First, by the use of the vernacular (as in Saro Nene’s and Sarkis’ speeches); second, by the use of different languages; and third, by the integration of certain words and phrases (i.e. words like “garod”) to the text. From now on this paper will present examples of the first point, that is, Margosyan’s use of the vernacular as a result of which he accomplishes to construct a polyphonic literary space. Besides, Margosyan’s use of different languages through which he artistically organizes his text will be illustrated. Henceforth the third way by which Margosyan composes his text, that is, the integration of certain words and phrases to the text will necessitate a discussion of minor literature in which, as Deleuze and Guattari declares that “language vibrates with a new intensity.”
Besides Saro Nene’s and Sarkis’ speeches oriented with the use of the vernacular, “Beads of the Prayer Beads” consists of various other instances where characters individually express themselves in their own languages, such as when Margosyan’ mother tells Mıgırdiç the fable of the tale of the Nymph, when she talks about her neighborhood in “Giaour Neighborhood” in Diyarbakır, when the cook of Mıgırdiç’s school in Istanbul speaks of her past experiences with the students, in addition to several other expressions of ordinary people throughout the text. On the other hand, Margosyan not only applies the vernacular to his text in order to enable individuals to express themselves in the literary space; his text also contains many instances where people of Diyarbakır who are not necessarily subjected to the “main body” of the story of the text, appear in the literary space and express themselves. For example, when an Armenian priest arrives at Diyarbakır to gather students for their newly established minority school in Istanbul, we hear the townsfolk gossip and murmur:
“ “İstanbol’dan bi tene vertebed gelmiş, çocığ topli… Cocığlari İstanbol’a götıri, vertebed yapmağ isti…”
“Saçi sakali bembeyaz, nur yüzli bi vertebedmiş. Diyiler ki çoğh oğhımiş, Eruseğim’de tahsil görmiş…”
“Diyiler ki, Patrik ona emır vermış, demiş ki get, Anadoli’yi dolaş, nerde bi Ermeni evi bulırsansa, çal kapısıni, gir içeri; eger içerde ilk mektebi bitirmiş bi oğlan çocıği görırsense, onın anasına, babasına, dedesıne, nenesıne, bibisıne, dayısına tek tek anlat: İstanbol’da Hay çocığlarıni oğhıtmağ istiyiğh; yemağ, içmağ, yatmağ, hepsi bedavaya…”
In another section when the priests from Istanbul revisit Diyarbakır for a religious gathering, Margosyan narrates the complaints of townsfolk in the urban place.
On these occasions throughout the text, Margosyan actualizes what Bakhtin expects from a prose writer to conduct: “The author doesn’t express himself in them (as the author of the word), rather he exhibits them as a unique speech thing, they function for him as something completely reified.” In this respect, Margosyan’s “exhibition” corresponds to his style to “fictionalize” lived data, that is, the “novel” part of the title he assigns to his book, since in those exhibitions, as Bakhtin aptly reminds, the author is far from exhibiting himself by means of generating heteroglossia. Secondly, Margosyan’s adoption of different languages in his text may be exemplified with the following passages:
“Bu can sıkıcı haber sanki yetmezmiş gibi, üstüne üstlük bir de o gün babanızın işi ters gitmişse, kim bilir kimin dişini çekerken “köki” kırılıp içerde kaldığından, “elevatör” yardımıyla o “merat” kökü çıkarmaya uğraşmaktan imanı gevremişse; ya da yakın köylerden, belki de Alipuhar’dan sabah karanlığında atına binip kendini ağrıyan dişiyle, çenesinin sardığı kirli mendiliyle bir an once şehre atıp, “Dişçi Ali pir baş hoste e. Fılla e. Dukanê wi li meydanê Belediye e” methi uyarınca, “dükkanı Belediye Meydanı’nda, çok iyi bir usta olan ‘Ermeni’ Dişçi Ali’ye uğrayıp, bu vesileyle şehre gelmişken, İspayi pazarından da atına yeni bir yular, bitişiğindeki Bezazlar Çarşısı’ndan ilk karısı için kırmızı güllü basma fistan ile ikinci karısına dam or çiçekli pazen ve “du mitro bezê Amerikan” aldıktan sonar, Demirciler Çarşısı’ndan yine atının ve eşeğinin ayağına bağlamak için iki tane “keyd”, Yemeniciler Çarşısı’ndan gelinine kırmızı, oğlına da siyah birer yemeni ve şekerciden ufak çocukların hepsine, tüm “zarok”lara da “kilo ki şekirê aqide” alarak gerisingeri bir an once evine dönmek isteyen adamın …”
At this long passage in “Beads of the Prayer Beads, Margosyan narrates his father Sarkis’ work day which went totally wrong for him. However, throughout this long sentence, he gives up narrating the story of his father and begins to narrate others’ experiences in a fictionalized manner, during which not only he makes use of the vernacular language, but he applies Kurdish and Armenian words and expressions to the passage as well. In accordance with a literary style which resembles the technique of stream of consciousness, Margosyan doesn’t concentrate on narrating a concrete “main story” that progresses in a continuous fashion. In this passage, though it seems that the author begins to represent an unfortunate day of his father, the focus of narration is neither central nor coherent; it is split, when Margosyan depicts the “adjacent” stories of the people (in this case, of Kurdish origin) that does not necessarily relate to and explain Sarkis’ experiences. Eventually Margosyan allows his literature to penetrate into social diversity and diversity of languages ceaselessly. In that regard, in “Discourse in the Novel” Bakhtin remarks:
“But no living word relates to its object in a singular way: between the word and its object, between the word and the speaking subject, there exists an elastic environment of the other, alien words about the same object, the same theme, and this is an environment that it is often difficult to penetrate. It is precisely in the process of living interaction with this specific environment that the word may be individualized and given stylistic shape.”
Margosyan actualizes what Bakhtin acknowledges as the “penetration” between the word and to which it is directed, by deepening his narration into the “adjacent” stories which is constituted by and points out as well the diversity of languages.
At another long passage in “Beads of the Prayer Beads”, Margosyan tells the story of “Uncle Gerebed”, a dwarf Armenian in his seventies:
“… sokak kapılarının tepesinde asılı duran kimisi pirinç, kimisi demir “şakşako”lara boyu yetişmediği için kapıları bastonuyla döverek ya da minik yemenisinin sivri ucuyla tekmeleyerek gelişini haber veren, eşikte onu her defasında sevinçle “Tun perov ğherov egir is Gerebed Dayi” diyerek anadili Ermeniceyle veya Kürtçe “Tu xer hati Apê Gerebit, ser sere min, ser cava min” sözleriyle ‘hoş geldin, baş üzerine geldin gerebit amca’ gibisinden karşılayanları sesinden tanıyıp onlara Ermenice “Peri dısenk Meryem!” ya da Kürtçe “Sağ bir Gîrbo!” diyerek ‘hoş bulduk’, ‘sağ olasın’ gibi karşılıklar vererek, kimine de yarım yamalak Türkçesiyle seslenip ayaküstü hal hatır sorduktan sonra bastonunu tıktıklaya tıktıklaya gidip yerleştiği eyvandaki sedirde eline saygıyla tutuşturulan kahve fincanını avucunun içinde sıkıca tutup kahvesini höpürdetirken teşekkürünü Ermenice, Kürtçe, Türkçe dile getiriyordu:
“Kakuleyov kahveyin hemı ağgig e, şekirê wi pir baş e, elıze sağlığ…””
Margosyan’s literary world flourishes cultural diversity; though he is an Armenian, his identity and his literature is interwined with Kurdishness and Turkishness. Margosyan does not simply intend to create a utopian world with various kinds of diversities and multiplicities; indeed he works through literature to make explicit that there was once existent this diversity and multiplicity in 30’s and 40’s Diyarbakır. While he makes a claim to history in the sense that he represents a period of history of social diversity in the urban space of Diyarbakır, he uses the style of fiction in order to project that historical period onto his literature. This is exactly where Margosyan places the “novel” next to his “memoir” within the title of the book “Beads of the Prayer Beads”.
In doing so, Margosyan appropriates the vernacular and the diversity of languages in order to “artistically organize” his text in Bakhtin’s understanding. Subsequently, one should be reminded of Bakhtin’s famous dictum:
“The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes “one’s own” only when the speaker populates it with his own intentions, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adopting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to the moment of appropriation, the word … exists in other people’s mouths, in other people’s contexts, serving other people’s intentions.”
In the light of Bakhtin, one might speculate that Margosyan, through his artistic use of the vernacular and different languages uttered by others, appropriates the words and creates a space of his own, that is, his literary text. At this juncture Bakhtin concludes: “It is from there that one must take the word, and make it one’s own.” By means of applying the ways in which heteroglossia is established in the novel, Margosyan constitutes an aesthetic autobiography by the help of which he makes the words and speeches his own. Within this appropriation, Margosyan pertains to an ambiguous position that consists of multiple identities secured by Armeniannes, Kurdishness and Turkishness. In course of exhibiting different languages, thus engendering heteroglossia in his text, Margosyan, as Bakhtin would suggest, “does not speak in a given language (from which he distances himself to a greater of lesser degree), but he speaks, as it were, through language…” The position of the prose writer that Bakhtin acknowledges points out Margosyan’s stance within the ambiguous yet multiple borders of identity as a consequence of which he needs the urge to apply to the diversity of languages. Hence in his aesthetic autobiography, rather than proceeding with just one language either to exhibit heteroglossia or to express himself through his autobiographical “I”, Margosyan utilizes the vernacular and Armenian and Kurdish in order to work through language.
Ultimately Margosyan’s “Beads of the Prayer Beads” realizes the characteristics of a novel in terms of heteroglossia in accordance with Bakhtin’s propositions in his article, “Discourse in the Novel”. Besides Margosyan’s book which conforms to the genre of the “aesthetic autobiography” necessitates a careful observation regarding the ways in which the novel as a genre is differentiated from an autobiography. Yet this paper already discussed the ways in which this differentiation occurs throughout the novel; on the one hand Margosyan narrates his lived experiences, and his application of fictionalize the narration corresponds to the “novel” side of his text, while it is through the artistic act of “fictionalized live data” in the end that Margosyan produces “Beads of the Prayer Beads”. On the other hand, togetherness of the autobiography and the novel in “Beads of the Prayer Beads” necessitates one to theorize a linkage between the two, whose duality embodies another form of a literary style, that is, as this paper will argue, “minor literature.” In that regard, let’s first follow Bakhtin, who explains the coalescence of memoir or diary as autobiographical genres and the novel in his investigation under the headline of “incorporated genres”:
“There exists in addition a special group of genres that play an especially significant role in structuring novels, sometimes by themselves even directly determining the structure of a novel as a whole – thus creating novel types named after such genres. Examples of such genres would be the confession, the diary, travel notes, biography, the personal letter and several others. All these genres may not only enter the novel as one of its essential structural components, but may also determine the form of the novel as a whole (the novel-confession, the novel-diary, the novel in letters, etc.)… All these genres, as they enter the novel, bring into it their own languages, and therefore stratify the linguistic unity of the novel and further intensify its speech diversity in fresh ways.”
Margosyan’s aesthetic autobiographical style bring into his novel his ambiguously yet diversely oriented identity which helps him to maintain heteroglossia incorporated either with the lived or with the fictionalized experience of his and others. Thus “Beads of the Prayer Beads” isn’t just to be considered as a novel; it further comprises an aesthetic autobiography by the help of which the very presence of the author is stressed throughout the novel, as opposed to the claims regarding Barthes’ dictum, “death of the author” which propounds that in a given text, it is the language which speaks, not the author. Therefore, Bakhtinian understanding of the prose writer as the author who not explains himself, but exhibits what is present in language, is challenged whenever one takes into consideration the fact that “Beads of the Prayer Beads” in its totality signifies the exhibition of languages that are already present in societal discourse and their projection onto the author’s subjectivity. Eventually, one might conclude that Margosyan’s exhibition of heteroglossia coincides with his effort to express his very self, (remember Margosyan’s challenge regarding Butler’s paradox of loss: on the one hand he “recovers” in virtue of his detachment, whereas he hangs on to narrate the community’s sense of loss. Margosyan’s operation as an author in both ends of this duality signifies his writing an autobiography for the former -Butlerian individuation- and his being a novel writer for the latter -hence realizing Bakhtinian heteroglossia-) during which since Margosyan’s book is very much founded upon the projection of the rhetorical (i.e. vernacular) onto the text, the author as the speaker makes the word his own through the process of artistic craft and aesthetization. In another passage in “Discourse in the Novel” Bakhtin asserts:
“The prose writer as a novelist doesn’t strip away the intentions of others, from the heteroglot language of his works, he doesn’t violate those socio-ideological cultural horizons (big and little worlds) that open up behind heteroglot languages – rather he welcomes them into his work. The prose writer makes use of words that are already populated with the social intentions of others and compels them to serve his own intentions, to serve a second master.”
That “second mastery” which Bakhtin proposes points at the very existence of “minor literature” through which a “collective enunciation” is accomplished upon the correlation of the autobiography and the novel. Moreover Margosyan’s minor literature which is designated with “the intentions of others” derives itself from the very agency of the author in contrast with what Bakhtin would suggest, since he is keen to underscore the ways in which the languages “speak for themselves” in the text.
Picture: René Magritte, “Golconda“, 1953.