1- Further Remarks on Hafci’s and Ay’s Narratives
In my previous writings on textual analysis, I focused on two narratives, one by Yalcin Hafci, “Besinci Duvar” and the other being Seyhmus Ay’s “Yaz Yaz Bitmez”. Regarding “Besinci Duvar”, I analyzed the narrative structure in general, and afterwards investigated the significance of the metaphors Hafci employs in the text. For the intentions of the analysis on intertextuality, I examined the ways in which Ay applies intertextual references.
I had two main propositions for the investigations that I made in both analyses. First of all, when dealing with the ways in which Hafci makes use of metaphors in his text, I suggested the term, “transcendental metaphor”. The transcendental metaphor was conveyed by the metaphor Hafci founded: “the Fifth Wall”. I explained the notion of transcendental metaphor as follows:
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.
My intention in representing Hafci’s use of this metaphor, as one of transcendental was to underscore the presence of an ultimate metaphor empowering all the previously depicted metaphors, rather than implying the existence of an ultimate signifier, which makes all the other metaphors obsolete. I needed the urge to warn the reader about this positive aspect of the word transcendental since the very word connotes “disturbing” meanings when considered by means of a poststructuralist/deconstructionist approach (since, those philosophical traditions are at war with anything transcendental). Consequently when I read Ay’s essay, the headline “Yaz Yaz Bitmez” fascinated me for it signaled the presence of a testimonial essay (this is a term that I employ here, not in my previous writings, it basically refers to the collaboration of the genres of essay and testimony), which declared that there is no final/ultimate signifier within the act of writing. A final signifier, which was supposed to be present, yet will never appear according to Derridean deconstruction led me to consider the two narratives as opposed to each other.
On the one hand, Hafci was employing a sense of transcendentalnessinto his text by means of the ultimate metaphor of “the Fifth Wall”; yet his transcendental creation was in the service of a higher unity of meaning, which strengthens the metaphors through which Hafci’s testimony illustrates the repressive prison conditions, traumas, pains, etc. On the other hand, Ay’s text implied an impossibility in terms of a particular finality; although his essay was written in order to expose the repressive prison/state/PKK mechanisms, according to his claims, he was handling an impossible task of telling his story since there was no ultimate signifier. Hafci’s text had an end, a beautiful one indeed, due to the empowerment of the metaphors, which were strengthened in course of the representations of a catastrophic prison. Ay’s text did not end; Ay was aware that it would never end no matter how much he writes. Then, does Ay employ the devices of intertextuality in order to manage to end his text? Is there a relation between intertextuality and the deathof a text? If not a death, does intertextuality decrease the life of a particular text, bring it closer to an end?
I guess that in this paper/commentary, I’m allowed to ask questions through philosophizing several issues whose answers I don’t know. Yet these were the puzzles that I was trying to solve after I’ve submitted my previous analyses and received feedbacks. I drew two distinct portraits consisting of Hafci vs. Ay, as though the two were completely opposed to each other in terms of this particular idea of “finality” that I tried to elaborate. Well, yes, they are in fact. However, this doesn’t change the fact that both writers are wandering among the boundaries of a particular impossibility. I already interpreted Hafci’s perception of the prison as a site of catastrophe in my previous writing: “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.” Moreover in relation to this ambivalent space of prison, I stated the following:
… 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.
Hafci finds the cure for his traumas and pains at the very center of where those pains and traumas, the darkness of the prison resides. He cruises among the borders of this paradox in order to achieve salvation. The more he gets closer to salvation, the more he suffers. Yet the metaphor of “the Fifth Wall” bears this suffrage/salvation dialectics by means of the assignment of a particular finality to the struggle in virtue of literature. Hafci does not just problematize issues, thereafter not just manifests an impossibility and leaves everything out there eventually, formless, like Ay does.Additionally he maintains a structure consisting of the suffrage/salvation dialectics and declares that one should nevertheless operate within this structure, this pathway in order to achieve salvation, that is to say, to be able to stay human.
2- Men’s Narratives: Toward the Transformative Effect of Literature
Apart from these observations, I will mention another point to illustrate the ways in which the textual analysis part contributed to my analyses so far. One of my main goals in undertaking Mahsus Mahal project was to investigate the ways in which literature becomes a means for transformation. In the beginning of the textual analysis part, I was expecting to find out some hints through the analysis of the texts that I would be dealing with regarding the transformative effect of literature. In which ways was literature was transformative in prisons? In order to find a sufficient answer to this question, I analyzed Hafci’s and Ay’s texts carefully. I focused on these particular texts because I read the two writers before and I appreciated their style of doing literature. I was basically enjoying reading Hafci’s aestheticized essays published in Mahsus Mahal journal so far. Seyhmus Ay’s poetic language and his wide knowledge of contemporary social theory and philosophy as evident in the ways in which he applies intertextuality to his essays/testimonies fascinated me.
In the end, by reading both authors, I realized what the transformative effect of literature was; it was so transformative that it turned two very young people into writers, poets and essayists. Hafci was 20 years old when he was arrested in Izmir in 1998. Ay was trialed for death penalty in 1988; he was only 16 years old. Is there such a thing defined as prison writing or prison literature? It is exactly what these two young men conducted. They were Kurdish revolutionaries, militants. They had no affinity toward literature before they have been to prisons. They became writers in prisons, by means of the prisons.
Now that I made this claim, I would like to make it sound even more problematic. As I said, I was looking to investigate the ways in which literature transforms the individuals. After I heard the life stories of Hafci and Ay, accompanied with what I heard from Aytekin Yilmaz, I’m convinced that literature is transformative. Yet, does the fact that these three young revolutionaries became writers by means of the prison, mean that the very space of prison is also transformative? Is it the transformative effect of literature or the transformative effect of prison as a space active in their becoming writers?
When one takes a look at Hafci’s, Ay’s and Yilmaz’s narratives, one comes across the idea that it is literature, which is transformative. If the prison as a space is transformative, if the prison as a space bears the essential effects of becoming, wouldn’t most prison inmates become intellectuals and writers? Certainly, that’s not the case. For these three writers, literature paves the way for becoming, and prison conditions, which are repressive, traumatic, against human dignity and painful, trigger this act of becoming by means of literature. There is no cure, no salvation, no redemption, no escape from the mechanism, which oppress human dignity, other than literature. When it comes to literature in terms of transformation, the prison as a space is of secondary importance. This is why Ay proposes his provoking idea of “Cikarin Beni Bu Disaridan”. The space is not important; be it a prison or not, literature transforms and one is inevitably in need of it. Without literature, there is no transformation, no becoming.
Although I was convinced with this basic argument about the transformative effect of literature (I couldn’t deny it since the idea is produced on the basis of the very witnessing of these three writers, the transformation was so apparent in their lives), I was still interested in the idea that there should be some role of the prison as a space which is transformative as literature does.Eventually, Hafci’s transcendental metaphor of “the Fifth Wall” was an idea, which he implied through the very physical structure of prison as a space. Ay’s emphasis on the never-coming final signifier implied some essentials of prison as a space, which doesn’t allow for that final signifier to come, as if it bears a possibility to arrive if one is writing outside the prison. Ay’s emphasis on this particular impossibility was accompanied with his memoirs of repression during his imprisonment; the final signifier cannot come if one is in prison; as if the end of imprisonment would pave the way for that very final signifier to come, as an empty signifier though since it wouldn’t fully be able to represent the pains and traumas that the inmate was subjected during the times of his imprisonment.
Besides, the very space of prison enabled these three writers to publish their essays, poems and stories, which were the illustrations and representations of prison conditions. By means of their testimonies, they were able to testify and carve up a space for personal manifestation against oppression; and this process of writing testimonies/essays took place in prisons: including the two essays/testimonies by Hafci and Ay and A. Yilmaz’s “Labirentin Sonu: Icimizdeki Hapishane”. The prison as the site for becoming by means of literature has more than an accompanying role next to literature, which occupies the lead role in transformation. The prison as a space, as the Panopticon (is what Ay mentions in his essay referring to Foucault), physically and geometrically designed for utmost regulation was also transformative, independent of literature. But these were all solely implications, they were implicitly conveyed through the narratives, and I needed evidences to prove this transformative effect of the prison as a space, which I found in women’s prison narratives very recently.
3- Women’s Narratives: Becoming Through the Prison as a Space
Investigating women’s narratives wasn’t my initial intention in this project. Yet the brainstorming process, which began with probing the boundaries of the transformative effect of literature, led me to think about the space of prison as a transformative site. In this respect, talking to a close friend of mine who was doing studies on Kurdish women enriched my perceptions. She knew of a Kurdish former prison inmate women whose memoirs on the prison as a site of transformation encouraged me to conduct feminist readings on women’s narratives published in Mahsus Mahal. At this point, I want to make two remarks. First of all, the first part of our class, the ethnographic fieldwork helped me to extend my investigation within my project by opening me new perspectives by means of my colleague’s experiences. Secondly, all of a sudden I realized that I was unconsciously focused on male inmate writers in Mahsus Mahal as though the writing of the female inmate writers were not significant. In the beginning of the textual analysis project, I noticed an essay of Sibel Oz published in “Hapiste Yazmak” collection of testimonies, yet the reason I was interested in her piece of writing was not for the purposes of analyzing them from the perspective of femininity and womanhood in prison as a space. The moment when I realized the significance of prison as a space on woman inmates’ lives, I did a feminist reading of Oz’s essay. Eventually I realized that the prison as a space was transformative in women inmates’ lives. Now I will try to explain with references from two narratives, by Sibel Oz and Sadiye Manap.
Sibel Oz, in her essay “Sozlerden Kurdugumuz Sehir” states:
Ben on yil kendi cinsimle, kadinlarla birlikte yasadim hapiste. Virginia Woolf’un deyimiyle ‘kendine ait bir oda’miz yoktu ama kendimize ait bir kogusumuz vardi. Bunun onemli bir deneyim oldugunu dusunuyorum. Kadinlarin, erkegin golgesinde olmayan bir yasam kurabilmeleri icin birlikte yasamayi ogrenmeleri gerek. Ve ne ilginctir ki, hapishane disindaki hicbir yerde boyle bir sansa sahip degiller. Biz kendi istekleri disinda bir araya getirilmis kadinlar olarak, ilk baslarda sorun olarak gordugumuz ortamimizin aslinda bir sans oldugunu daha sonra anladik. Birbirimizi sevmeyi ogrendik. Kadin renkleriyle bezenmis bir dunya kurduk kendimize. Guclu ve zayif yanlarimizi gorduk, kadin arkadasliginin degerli oldugunu… (p.176)
Oz emphasizes the transformative effect of the prison as a space, which paves the way for women to found a feminist commune in which masculinity is replaced by all forms of sensitivity toward femininity. By means of the space of prison, women come to realize their essentials as women and constitute a living on the basis of the shared feminine essentiality. On the other hand, Sadiye Manap, in her essay called “Bir Baska Dunya” makes the following remarks:
Kadin olarak hapiste olmanin diger bir ayirt edici yani; ‘siginacak’, ‘dayanacak’, ‘denetimini duyumsayacak’ bir erkegin, kolayca ulasamayacagi bir yerde olmaktir. Bir yerde hapislik, kadinin -zorunluluklardan kaynaklansa da- kendi gucuyle, iradesiyle bas basa kaldigi, erkek dayanaginin objektif olarak ortadan kalktigi bir zemindir. Hep erkeklerin belirledigi kadin tarihinin yasamimizdaki tum negatif etkileri hapishane gercegimize yansisa da bu pozitif durum da bir vakadir. Ilk kez sadece kendimizle, sadece hemcinslerimizle yasamayi ogrendigimiz zemindir hapishaneler. (p. 66)
Manap, in defining the space of prison as a place where women learn to live with other women, points at the productiveaspect of prison. Plus, it is transformative since it brings together a community of women, altering the male dominance and paves the way for them to produce an autonomous space. The prison as a space transforms women’s lives, liberates them from male dominance at the expense of their freedom. Literature is transformative for the male and the female inmate, yet it is the prison as a space itself, which is only transformative for women. In the prison as a space, men become writers, while women journey toward their womanhood inhabited by a collective understanding of it, toward becoming women, although they are women.
This is the ending sentence regarding the sum of analyses I’ve made so far, yet I have too much to explore, since from now on I have a genderedproject.
Picture retrieved from: http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=§ion=&q=prison#/d27lsxb
 Nonetheless one shouldn’t interpret Ay’s text as not maintaining a resistant approach. On the contrary, Ay resists. Since the state of resistance doesn’t occupy a structure like the one in Hafci, and since it diverges to infinity, within the absence of finality, his resistance is also operating towards the impossible. It is empowered and disempowered at the same time during its journey toward the non-finality of the signifier. And I hail Hafci’s work because he was able to constitute a proper structure of resistance out of that very paradox and impossibility.
 Although it seems the contrary, I’m not ending this discussion of litarature as transformative, and move on to the arguments regarding the prison as a space. In terms of exploring the transformative effect of literature, it is crucial to analyze whether the reader (us) is also becoming, transforming through their literature. If it is the case, then literature paves the way for a double transformation. And this whole theory is pretty much Romanticist. Literature transforms an individual and creates an artist from him/her, the artist produces a work of art, consequently the artist transforms the masses.
 Oz’s essay was published in “Hapiste Yazmak”, pp. 174-179. Manap’s essay was published in “Hapishane Dunyasi” published in 2008 by Mahsus Mahal Kitapligi, pp. 61-66.