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The genealogy of Halide Edib’s modernist impulse in masks or souls
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CitationHaliloğlu, N. (2017). The genealogy of Halide Edib’s modernist impulse in masks or souls. Modernities and Modernisms: East, West and South, Shanghai, July 2017.
In Masks or Souls, written in Paris in 1937, Turkish author Halide Edib Adıvar makes use of elements of modernist theatre to express her political views. Having been brought up in the metropolis of Istanbul, she spent time in other urban centres like London and Paris, always corresponding and exchanging ideas with literati both in Europe and Turkey. In the play I’m going to talk about, Halide Edib names Nasreddin Hoca, a country savant/sufi whose anecdotes range from the surreal to the sublime, as her inspiration. The tone of the play is informed by Hoca’s sufi embracing wit, and yet Nazım Hikmet’s ‘I want to become a machine’ poem recurs like a refrain as the modernist, futurist reflection of the sign of the times. There are several disembodied voices, poems and songs in the play: even the bodies on stage are used as masks or puppets, and thoughts are given through voice over. Masks or Souls’ aspirations are cosmological as Halide Edib brings the masks of larger than life, almost mythical figures of Nasreddin Hoca, Shakespeare, Tamurlaine and Ibn Khaldun to comment on the state of the world.