The most tantalizing episode f escape into Utopia occurred at the turn f the century when a group f prominent romantic poets and novelists, including Tevfik Fikret, Cenap Sehabettin, Mehmet Rauf, et alia, no longer able to endure the sultan's repressive regime, planned to sail together to New Zealand, where they hoped to establish their own commune in pursuit f their vision f ideal life. Shortly before their departure they had a change f heart: some members f the group felt apprehensive about cultural disorientation in far-off New Zealand. The grand design fell through, but their aspiration for Utopia endured. Turkish poetry was later to experience the agonized Utopian visions f the symbolist Ahmet Hasim and the self-deluding millenarian promises f Marxist-Leninists like Nazim Hikmet.
Perhaps for the first time in Turkish literature, Hilmi Yavuz (b. 1936), a prominent poet and essayist, offers a philosophical Utopia. His vehicle does not conform to any pat genre: it is neither a tract nor a novella. The author identifies it as "anlati," a nebulous neologism which connotes description, narrative, narration, et cetera. It is a stimulating inquiry into Greek, European, and Islamic thought. Hardly a systematic philosophical investigation, it makes delightful forays into the intellectual history f the West and the East. It is peppered with bits f narrative from modern Turkey and with the author's reminiscences, which help rescue the book from excessively abstract discussion. Nevertheless, as an exercise in echolalia, it gets bogged down in intellectual name-dropping and abstruse citations in several languages.
Why Taormina Yavuz insists that it is a city created by and in his imagination. He tells his reader that he has not looked it up in the atlas and that, for him, it exists only as a word. In a way it is a pity that he does not avail himself f the rich prospects offered by the real Sicilian town f that name in the vicinity f Mount Etna, a dream city with a magnificent view, mild climate, and troubled history. One also wonders why the author has not given his Utopia a totally imaginary name Why associate his realm f philosophy with Europe when he might just as well make it an autonomous place
These questions remain intractable. Taormina itself is a book f questions with no answers. Yavuz, as a latter-day postmodernist, wants to stimulate, not to elucidate. Like a prism, his intellect emits light in all directions without illuminating anything. The creative strategy here is Utopian, but no Utopia is created. In this theater f the mind Yavuz plays narcissistic games. Like a fascinating child, he lures onlookers into his world f illusions. The outcome is a scintillating, titillating experience in ideas and cultural values. Yavuz, who has studied philosophy in London and has taught in that field at two Istanbul universities, proves once again that he has one f Turkey's best and most creative critical minds.
Tevfik Fikret and Mehmet Akif Ersoy are the two famous names f the Turkish literature. The poets had unique styles f