Previously I analyzed an essay by Seyhmus Ay, an author of prison literature in Turkey. In this paper I will analyze a piece by another prisoner/writer, Yalcin Hafçı’s “Beşinci Duvar”. The main motivation behind Hafçı’s text is to propose that writing is the means for survival in prisons. In what I called his “aesthetic testimony”, he makes use of metaphors in order to illustrate the matter.
The beginning of Hafçı’s testimony is constituted by several metaphors; “Kasvetli bir akşam vaktiydi. Bardaktan boşanırcasına, gürültülü bir Nisan yağmuru bütün hiddetiyle şehrin üstüne dökülüyordu. … O büyük şehir sanki asırlık kanlı ellerini sallayarak beni uğurluyordu. İşte böyle bir günde, yirmi bir yaşımı bırakıp dışarıda girdim cezaevine.” (p. 83). The narrative starts in a catastrophic manner as indicated in the words “kasvetli”, “gürültülü Nisan yağmuru”. Besides, “şehrin kanlı elleri” as a metaphor stands as a crucial signifier which identifies the city (İzmir) as a murderer. Hafçı is under arrest and is defeated; the city farewells him, and that city once was a meaningful symbol for Hafçı: “Sokaklarında büyük sevdaların tellallığını yaptığımız şehir…” Hafçı maintains a dialectical relation within the metaphor of “city” alone; the city on the one hand is a century long murderer while it is the very place where “resistance” against that very murder is undertaken. It is as if the city contains two opposite characters: the repressor and the liberator. One should also bear in mind that Hafçı, a Marxist Kurdish, was a PKK member arrested at 1998. The “century long” struggle and the murder associated with the urban space can also be related to the century long liberation act of Kurdish people.
After being defeated by the city of the oppressors, Hafçı begins his struggle against the oppressors “inside” that is, the repressive acts of the PKK in prisons. Hafçı defines this process as follows: “İnsan kişiliği ilk anda bozguna uğratılarak, oradaki iradenin bir parçası haline getiriliyordu. Oysa her insan bir renkti, onlarsa tek renk istiyorlardı.” (p.83-84). Hafçı explains the variety of human existences by employing the use of “color” as metaphor. In this instance too, Hafçı maintains a dialectical understanding in order to enhance his position as the resisting individual; he positions himself as the defender of all existences that is, human freedom and liberation while the PKK organizers in prison aims to embody a concrete, homogeneous group of militants which are signified by Hafçı as “one single color”. Throughout this process of alienation and struggle, Hafçı is alone and has only his inner self to hide and turn on into. He has no other way of escaping the repression of PKK than finding a way of departure from that repression in his very self. In that regard another metaphor is introduced: “Cezaevine girdiğim ilk aylardan itibaren kırk kişilik koğuş içerisinde cüzamlı bir ada gibi dolaştım ve hiç kimseden bir şey beklemeden kendi içime gömülmüş bir yaşam kurdum. Kendim, kendim için yollarında kaybolduğum bir dünya olmuştum” (p. 84). Hafçı’s is an impressive metaphor; at first, he becomes a world for and in himself. Yet that world, which is supposed to exist in order for the individual to escape from and resist repression, is “a world on whose roads that self disappears”. Hafçı’s narration once again bears a dialectics through the use of metaphor and one can say that the employment of metaphors by Hafçı paves the way for a dialectical relationship between two opposite meanings to emerge, concurrently enhancing the position that Hafçı maintains. That position is manifested by Hafçı in the consequent sentence: “Mevlana’nın, o günlerde okuduğu şu sözünü dilime pelesenk etmiştim: “Cahil insanın yanında kitap gibi sessiz ol.” (p. 84). Hafçı’s journey among the borders of his self is a mystic one indeed which explicitly underscores the dualism which is inherent in the self as “inside” and “outside”; the inner world containing the will to liberation and freedom while the outer world consisting of the evil, repressor and the murderer. One should be reminded that Rumi made use of metaphors while journeying among these borders of the self; Hafçı’s is a slightly different approach since he is operating within a “modern” genre of prose which can be specified as “testimony” maintaining an aesthetics which is constituted by the use of metaphors. Metaphors are crucial elements in aesthetic testimonies and the way they are implemented in accordance with the “dialectics” is immanent to Hafçı’s style of narration.
In this catastrophic world of his, Hafçı states: “O günlerde, karanlığın bir yerinden yırtılıp üzerime boşaldığını düşünüyordum.” Consequently he states: “Okumak benim için dünyaya açılan geniş bir havalandırma oluvermişti. Sanki tüm zamanların bilge kişileri, aramızdaki zaman ve mekan engellerini aşarak karşımda duruyor, benimle konuşuyorlardı, gülümsüyorlardı.” (p.84). Hafçı states that the darkness is torn and discharged onto himself at some point. It is the very place where the darkness is torn that Hafçı positions his act of reading; as darkness surrenders him, he becomes more acquainted with the act of reading as he revives the eternal power of literature in himself. This is also a matter of imagination; imagination begins just after he is surrendered by the darkness. The prison is the place where darkness and freedom are positioned dialectically, just like the city which consists of the evil and the redeemer at one and the same time.
As I explained in my previous assignment, Hafçı orients his text through aestheticization of his testimony and accordingly, metaphors are the tools that he employs throughout this process. And until now, I exemplified the ways in which metaphors inhabit the dialectics of meaning. Hafçı proposes his testimony on the basis of this dialectics; he is an individual who undertakes a resistance against repression which is the fountain of all the resistance. Repression for Hafçı is the evil; yet one needs the evil in order to resist. Metaphors pave the way for him to underscore his will to resist among this dialectics. Yet, one will be mistaken to interpret Hafçı’s text just on the basis of this dialectics with the use of metaphorical narrative structures. Then what does Hafçı actualize other than using the dialectics inherent in the very metaphors that he employs?
In this regard, as I also mentioned in my first assignment, I hold the metaphor “fifth wall” in high regards. Through the end of his testimony, just after he quotes Nietzsche who says “Ümit, işkencelerin en kötüsüydü, işkenceyi uzatırdı”, Hafçı explains the title of his testimony, “the fifth wall”: “Ne kadar neşeli ve hayat dolu bir insan olsanız da, mutlaka bir kez bile olsa intiharı düşündüğünüz çaresizlik dönemleriniz olmuştur. Kırık öykülerde zaman donar ve içine çöker. Aynalara bakmaksa, kalbinize çöreklenen acıları çoğaltır. O zamanlarda umut, çoktan beşinci duvar olmuştur.” (p. 89). Hafçı again points out a dialectics of “hope” through his use of “the fifth wall”; the act to hope through literature is a means for survival yet it is the very reminder of the impossibility of the fact that the hope will never be actualized, realized. Literature in prison is an impossible activity, and it is the very impossibility where the survival resides. Just looking at this sentence, one can illustrate Macherey’s “textual unsaid”; the metaphor of “umut” stand for the acts of writing and reading in prisons, and engaging to literary activity in general, although it is not explicitly stated. Literature constitutes the fifth wall of the prison. In that regard, “the fifth wall” becomes a transcendental (or a meta-) metaphor; not because it dysfunctions or disregards the previously depicted metaphors who bears dialectics similar to “the fifth wall” does, but because it enables all these other metaphors to serve for a higher unity of meaning which empowers them all. This transcendental metaphor brings together all other metaphors employed to depict the dialectics inherent in prison experiences of Hafçı within the general structure of “the fifth wall of prison” as the repressive and the liberator of the individual.
All in all, Hafçı’s struggle continues when he says at the very end of his testimony: “On yıldır ben, terk edemediğim zırhımın içinde, kalemimi beton duvarlara sürterek sivriltiyorum. Kim bilir! Daha kaç zaman kitaplarım ve yazdığım kusurlu yazılarımla gecenin zehrini emzireceğim gölgeli yüzüme. Yine o gecelere, düşlerimin suyundan nice şafaklar doğurtacağım… Bir yanım acıya batmışken, bir yanım rüyalarımda kelebekler uçuracak yedi iklime…” I must say that this is very powerful. And all this power is due to the transcendental metaphor of “Beşinci Duvar”.