Sunday, February 5, 2012

Writer Murat Uyurkulak on love, homophobia, misogny and the society of denial

An Interview with the writer Murat Uyurkulak
conducted by Ilker Cihan Biner and published originally in KAOS GL.
translated by GIT-North America

Your new storybook “Bazuka’ is composed of stories that you published in various journals before. The subtitle is “stories about love, solitude and violence”…What are the roles of the words love, solitude and violence in your life?

I lived a life that prevented me from thinking that human conditions are peculiar to me. I am all for making joy and pain collective, even though in the last instance they are experienced individually. That’s why I have a tendency to embrace every concept related to the human condition. I have more or less seen and got to know poverty, the solidarity that the struggle to survive involves, sinister competition, loneliness, violence. I can say that I am witness to how difficult it is to find love, and how easy it to lose it when you find it in all this jungle.This order with its sexual and class structures is established on crushing, isolating and subjecting majority to permanent explicit or implicit violence. They throw love in front of us as a lousy opportunity for consolation. Love, today, is a deforming, commodifying thing, which shows its face everywhere, but in reality it is nowhere. As a matter of fact, it rather increases than decreases the loneliness and violence.

You described your first novel ‘Tol’ as male, second novel ‘Har’ as female and gay. ‘Kus Yuvasi’, one of the stories in ‘Bazuka’ tells the love of two women. Do you see a difference between the love of a man and a woman and the love of two women?

I replied to that question five years ago. If I were asked now, I would avoid describing ‘Tol ‘and ‘Har’ in that manner. These kinds of categorizations seem uncanny to me. To look for the difference between the love between a woman and a man, and the love of two women, might mean to attribute, even indirectly, normalcy to either of them. There might be a lot differences among the loves of man-woman, woman-woman and man-man. The important is to live what we call love that nameless and sourish state, which produces relief, excitement, and pain like a human, like an animal. To the extent that we have any strength left in the middle of all this pressure, violence, misery…

We see that the question of gender plays an important role, as well, in Murat Uyurkulak texts. Does the left in Turkey put up enough of a fight when it comes to issues of gender? For instance homophobia was significant among most of the leftist organizations ten years ago. Even though it is less frequent today, it seems to still exist in some of such organizations…

Homophobia and misogyny are like metastatic cancer. They have penetrated deep into the bones and marrow! It is very difficult to unpick. Perhaps I can recommend a kind of chemotherapy from my angle that starts with the language. In an effort to clear the language of its sexist, homophobic and misogynist tumors, we can start with being relentlessly critical of chit chat, expressions, jokes, fun and games that are assumed innocent and reasonable. We may start with not tolerating the sly grins and joking comments that minds assumed to be the most progressive make upon coming into contact with, say, a gay person. We can protest the “chick picking” talk that dominates even the most seemingly marginal and distinguished tables but puking right towards the center of the table. Discrimination starts first and foremost in the language; and there is no such thing as an innocent or acceptable form of discrimination.

One of your short stories is entitled “Pink”… Why is color pink such a nightmare for the heterosexual male in this society?

There is a long [hi]story behind this [nightmare] that extends from colors that are thought becoming of female and male babies to little willies exhibited for the appreciation of uncles, and from there to schools, barracks or factories as sites of the ongoing effort to prove one’s masculinity. This is [only] one way in which the sordid gender construct of the established order manifests itself. One can understand the making of “pink as a nightmare for the male subject” by following the above-outlined sequence.

There is an emphasis on colors in your short stories. For example, the LGBTT flag is rainbow colored and these colors are dazzling. What is the place of colors in your life?

My favorite colors are red (kızıl), black and white. Red symbolizes revolution, black symbolizes impotence and white is the symbol of peace. I also love purple and the rainbow. Without the latters, red, black and white don’t mean anything.

Sensitive topics like Secret Organization (Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa) and Armenian Genocide pop up in your short stories. One can argue that the Turkish society is a society of denial shaped mainly by “national sensitivities”. Is there a way of coming to terms with these sensitive issues?

Struggling with a militant conscience, insisting on understanding the truth, trying to found the basis of an explosion of conscience… I think that is the way. The denial resulting from guilt is like a durable surface under which exist many sorrows and pains. It is hard to crack and break that surface but once it is cracked I believe no one can stop the gush of humanitarian attempt to come to terms with the past.

Just when we were expecting a novel from you, you published a book of stories. Are you planning to write a new novel?

Yes, I am writing a novel. Its name is "The Deceased Woman" for now. I don't know when it will be finished, or whether it will ever be, but I made substantial progress writing it.

Are you informed of the activities of the LGBTT movement in Turkey? What do you think about this subject?

I am aware of their activities. I consider organizations of LGBTT and the likes, the struggles of women organizations as crucial to change the male, conservative, full of violence, uptight and sullen "general culture" of this country that doesn't recognize any other than one's own self.