Here is the link for Şeyhmus Ay’s essay analyzed in this paper: http://mahsusmahal.org/Pages.asp?Pages=&cat_id=11&cat2_id=10&wid=59
Ay’s narrative “Yaz Yaz Bitmez” can be determined as a testimony in terms of genre since Ay recounts his memories of imprisonment and particularly his affiliation with intellectual activities in the meantime. On the other hand one can consider this text as an essay for Ay demonstrates many theoretical points by referring to several philosophers and writers throughout his text. Yet his way of applying literary/aesthetic devices such as metaphors on top of those ideas/theoretical points is what makes him a powerful and a unique writer of “Hapiste Yazmak” essay/testimony collection. Previously I stated that Hafçı was a writer of aesthetic testimony whose text is a work of aesthetization of life accounts. Ay’s is an aesthetic testimony on the one hand whereas his narration abides the requirements of an essay, a theoretical one indeed where Ay underscores and highlights various theoretical approaches concurrently maintaining the aesthetic side of his narrative. In that regard, the ways in which Ay establishes an aesthetic-essay is actualized by means of the frequent use of intertextuality.
Şeyhmus Ay begins his essay with a quotation from Adorno:
“… Perspektifler oluşturmalı, öyle perspektifler ki dünyayı yerinden uğratsın, yadırgatsın, onu bütün çatlakları, kırışıklıkları, yara izleriyle birlikte bir gün mesihin ışığında görüneceği gibi sefalet ve çarpıklığıyla göstersin.” (p. 124)
In the following sentences, Ay mentions his engagement to writing during his imprisonment and defines the act of writing as follows:
“Sınırları alabildiğince daraltılmış ve denetim altına alınmış bir hayatı ve dünyayı yazıyla, yazanın ufkunu kaplayan metinlerle yeniden yaratmak. Dünyayı kelimelerin ışığı ve karanlığı altında yeniden kurmak. Kelimelerden dünyalar yaratmak…” (p. 124)
Ay stresses the centrality of writing on the road to creation of new worlds, and the possibilities of life, which correspond to what Adorno points out when he writes perspectives. The choice of this Adorno quote is significant since Ay’s narrative claims to be putting forth a new way of considering the crucial role of writing in prisons, while on the other hand it aims at emphasizing the double repression active in prisons, handled by the state and the PKK as was also the case in Hafçı’s narrative. Ay intends to unsettle the readers’ already constituted perspectives and bring into a new way of imagining and thinking. Therefore his intertextual reference in the beginning of his text is very important and significant.
However, Ay points at a paradox of sharing this new perspective when he says afterwards:
“Geriye dönüp baktığımda defterlerimi bir çeşit aynaya dönüştürdüğümü, kendime defterlerde var olabileceğim bir dünya yarattığımı şimdilerde daha iyi anlıyorum. Bu aynada ve bu dünyada nasıl göründüğüm ise apayrı bir yazının konusu.” (p.125)
Although he refers to another essay to be written in the future regarding the way in which he is seen on the mirror that he created, he already provides an answer with the passage below:
“Herkes kendi geçmişini, kalbiyle bildiği bir kitabın sayfaları gibi kapalı tutar ve dostları sadece onun başlığını okuyabilir.”
These are by Virginia Woolf, quoted in order to warn and remind the reader about the impossibility of reading Ay’s whole account of his past. Yet he goes on telling his ideas about writing in prisons in the following section when he begins as:
“Hapishanede yazmayı göze almak, bazı sıkıntılara katlanmayı daha baştan kabullenmeyi gerektirir.”
The previous quote from Adorno was assigned an introductory role by Ay, whereas this time he applies the words of Woolf as a hidden reminder to utter the impossibility for the reader to be able to comprehend his experiences, and as a response to his own question whose answer he promised to provide in an essay-to-come. Nonetheless, no matter how much we read his experiences, it will stay beyond our grasp, since there is too much trauma and it is a very personal world; a “perspective” which can only be mastered and experiences by Ay himself. On the other hand, it is significant to be reminded of the title of the essay “Yaz Yaz Bitmez”, in thinking of this emphasis of impossibility; the title refers to an endless process of writing. When analyzed in the light of a Derridean/deconstructionist approach, one can conclude that this symbol of endless writing process refers to the “final signifier”, which will never appear. A “perspective” (can be interpreted as ethics, or in the light of Nietzsche’s “perspectivism” as a will-to-power) which never truly be realized since it has no end with infinite boundaries. Ay’s text seeks a state of impossibility; it wants to testify yet it cannot since there is no defnite/final signifier in the process of writing.
On the other hand, within that perspective Ay refers to Kafka when he criticizes PKK’s prison activities and their application of laws inhabiting repression:
“Başlangıçta yaşamış olduğumuz çok ciddi güvenlik sorunları nedeniyle aldığımız kimi masum önlemler, gün geçtikçe tüm masumiyetlerini yitirmeye ve bir iç baskı mekanizmasına dönüşmeye başladı. Yani devletin baskı ve saldırılarına karşı aldığımız korunma önlemlerinden kurtulamak, artık ciddi bir sorun halini almaya başladı. Tam da Kafka’ya özgü bir durum. Kafkaesk dedikleri böyle birşey olmalı. Kafka’nın metinleri yaşadıklarımıza ayna tutuyor adeta.” (p. 129)
Here, Ay’s intertextual touch displays an explanation of the situation regarding the relation between the law and repression through Kafka. Ay refers to Kafka and Kafkaesque in order to draw attention to the catastrophic mood that Ay feels surrounded during his imprisonment where the law, which is supposed to bring salvation becomes a means for repression:
“Sansüre karşı çıkıp da sansür uygulamak, yasaklara karşı çıkıp yasakçı olmaknasıl bir politi şizofreniye yol açar, yaşayanların deneyimleri bu konuya epey açıklık getirecektir.”
In this sentence, Ay favours the testimonies of prisoners who are also bounded with this double repressive state of affairs as a response to this Kafkaesque situation. Although he underlines a state of impossibility in his reference to Woolf, he is nevertheless supportive of the act of writing memoirs, which would introduce a new “perspective” to shed light on the readers’ minds about the catastrophe experienced in prisons.
In suggesting this new perspective, Ay comes up with two different illustrations: first of all, he suggests everyone to read Foucault’s “The Birth of Prison” in order for the reader to comprehend the ongoing prison conditions (p. 131). Second of all, he presents Borges example to identify the inmate writer of testimony with a major writer of literature; draws a parallel between the inmate writer and Borges in the following sentences:
“Nedense bu yazının başından beri aklımda hep Borges var. Borges görmediği, göremediği dünyada kelimelerle, hikayelerle dokunuyordu. Biz de görmediğimiz dünyaya defterlerimizle, mektuplarımızla, şiir ve öykülerimizle dokunuyorduk.” (p. 132)
Ay refers to the figure of Borges in order to point out a broader picture regarding the act of writing in prison and its place in literature in general. In the beginning of the section where he refers to Borges, Ay quotes from Octavio Paz, who defnies the poet in the passage below:
“Toplumsal yaşama katılmasına, dönemin ihtiyaçlarına derin bağlılıklar göstermesine karşın şair ayrı kalan bir yaratık, tam anlamıyla bir mezhep-dışıdır: İçinde yaşadığı cemaatin bireylerinin söylediklerini söylediğinde bile başka şey söylemektedir.” (p.131)
With this reference to Paz, Ay attributes the inmate writer the characteristics of “the Artist” as Romantics would conceive. The broader point that Ay makes through Paz and with Borges is that the inmate writer is a poet/artist who struggles with the rest of the world first in order to survive and eventually to help the world itself survive through the application of the “perspective” that Adorno suggested. Ay writes and quotes from other philosophers concurrently, to underscore the idea that there is an essential similarity between the inmate writer and the free one; that the prison should indeed not be considered as a distinct place from society, that there is an interconnected relation between the two, that the borders between the two are not strictly determined, that the thoughts of the “free” writer outside correspond to the experiences and the practical examples of daily lives of the inmates inside, or vice versa:
“Daha da ileri gidiyorum: Pek çok yazarın yazarlık deneyimiyle hapishanedeki yazma deneyimi arasında çok önemli paralellikler kurmak mümkün. Pek çok yazar yaşadığı toplumu ve dünyayı bir hapishane gibi algılıyor ve yazmayı bir soluklanma, özgürleşme alanı gibi görüyor. Olabilir mi?” (p. 132)
The act of writing is not merely representing the world; it is to provide the means in order to effectuate a “revolutionary machine” as Deleuze & Guattari would suggest, on the road to the transformation of life on the world – World as prison. The same formulation Ay proposes also comes up with his idea of “Çıkarın Beni Bu Dışarıdan!”, meaning that the free/outside world is indeed identical to prison life with regulations, atrocities, repressions. In that regard, one has to write continuously in order to create new possibilities of life, to reserve and to maintain personal spaces where power would interfere less, to resist power and if possible to overthrow it with the application of a new “perspective” which would be actualized by literature and art:
“Sanat, birey açısından kendini yeniden yaratma, kendini yeniden biçimlendirme, inşa etme olanağıdır. Birey olma sorununu, dünyayı daha anlaşılır kılma ve dönüştürme gayretini siyasetin tasallutuna teslim etmek bir dizi sakınca doğurur ve politik deneyimimizde bunları fazlasıyla yaşadık. … Yazdıklarımız ve yarattıklarımız, yaşadıklarımız ve tasavvur ettiklerimizden oluşuyordu. İçinden geçtiğimiz her şeyi sanatın ve edebiyatın büyüsüyle yeniden işlemek, biçimlendirmek, kurmak; yaşadığımız ve tanık olduğumuz vahşetin envanterini çıkarmak da dahil olmak üzere geride bıraktığımız ve halen bir parçası olduğumuz tarihin derin bir sorgulamasını yapmak. Sanatın olanakları fazlasıyla elverişliydi böyle birşey için.” (p.133)
There exists an idea of totality in literature and art according to Ay, which manifests itself through the act of writing against repression of power among 20th century philosophers and writers. What he witnessed during his imprisonment is identical with what Adorno and others mentioned decades ago; his endeavour is to enable the continuation of this feeling inhabited by that totality which regards writing as a transformative agent in life, as evident in his words: “Çıkarın beni bu dışarıdan”. Ay’s use of intertextuality doesn’t only serve to an illustrative purpose, which would accompany and exemplify what Ay experienced in prisons; but it refers to a larger set of ambitions which operates where the act of writing proceeds, and which points at “the transformative effect” of literature and art. The quotes serve to broaden the readers’ perception, to open up new perspectives, which would pave the way for new possibilities of thinking, living, probing the boundaries of the inside vs. outside dichotomy in terms of power. Therefore, in Ay’s text, intertextuality is incorporated into an active struggle.
Picture retrieved from: http://browse.deviantart.com/?q=prison%20art&order=9&offset=48#/dc68x