NOVEL BY ORHAN KEMAL
“Mourtaza” as an Ideal Citizen and
By Dr.Mehmet Nuri Gültekin
Translated By Academy Group
“-What’s your duty?
-My name is Mourtaza!
-I did not ask your name. Your duty?
- Mourtaza means duty, duty means Mourtaza.
Mourtaza who is not only one of the most
important types of Orhan Kemal but also the Turkish Literature, is a
character which is used many times because of the years that the events
take place, the actuality and the mentality he represents. Is the“Mourtaza”
character or “being Mourtaza” a comedy character in our social life, or
on the contrary, is he a tragic hero? We will try to answer this
question in our forthcoming analysis. Before this, it is beneficial to
glance the articles about “Mourtaza”.
Some critics evaluate Mourtaza as a real
person. Such that, it is possible to meet him everywhere in the street,
at work, in the coffee shop at any time. At every stage of life, you
will definitely meet someone like him. If the exaggeration in the novel
character is evaluated as a problem, like by the ones who are searching
an exact equivalent, when compared with the features of a real person,
some faiulures may arise. But there has to be a lot of qualifications of
the novel that separates it from the one-to-one concreteness of real
life: Lukacs say that, a dramatic comedy is the figural result of every
aspect of life.
The name of the hero (“Mourtaza”) has a
literary success aspect which becomes identical with itself. A character
which was created with a different name would have been less convincing,
without leaving the narration aside. The comedy character in the novel,
as in “Mourtaza” has a characteristic which does not get out of the
lines he has, does not become conscious and which is hard-headed. The
possibility of change can be his end. Therefore, Mourtaza is a comedy
character in every aspect; because he does not change, he resists. He
does not avoid any behaviors that would make him more ridiculous. When
we approach from a different angle, Mourtaza is an icon of the ‘loss of
human dignity’. He stands as a testimony to how open a person can be to
exploitation and to abuse. But, it should not be forgotten that Mourtaza
is a result; there is a social reality that created him. Like in social
life, it’s a total insanity to be alone within the plot of the novel and
this fact exists in Mourtaza excessively.
The author describes who Mourtaza is with
these words: “…I have asked myself many times: in addition to being a
funny character, is Mourtaza a clown? And I immediately answer it to
myself: No! Well, what is Mourtaza? In my opinion, in a society, or a
world, where it has started to be seen ordinary to walk on hands,
Mourtaza is someone who walks on his feet, and forces others to walk the
same way, and who totally believed in himself.. For a man who comes
agains the society he lives in every second, who has endless
contradictions, the society is roughly divided into two with a thick
line; the wealthy and the poor. (...) Mourtaza, without regarding that
he is one of the poor, has been on the side of the wealthy. Mourtaza
tries to be favorable to the wealthy although, this group does not want
anything from him and almost does not require him at all. Is there
anything he expects? No. If there is, Mourtaza would not be “Mourtaza”.
There is a continuity that we come across
often in Orhan Kemal novels. We can mention many transitions and common
situations in the events, places or the characters. Or events that are
left in the middle, continues in the other novel by composing the main
plot. This atmosphere makes it possible to narrate the phenomenon from
different aspects and from the lives of different characters. The
general lines of the atmosphere in the novel, resembles the ambiance of
the Gemile, The Cobbler and His Sons and Dünya Evi (World House). We can
say this with an intuition that, Mourtaza and the Topal Eskici’s kids
and the cobbler himself, the neighborhood of Gemile and most of the
workers know each other! Because their characteristics are similar. And
this feature will be also confronted later again in novels which we will
The way that Mourtaza perceives himself,
the society and the government is not that of a sick personality, in and
of itself, it is the product of representation of a serious and real
The portrait of Mourtaza, which is being
drawn, is a portrait of someone who is integrated with his job. The main
reasons that bring him into existence are the formality, the job,
absolute obedience to the masters and the orders. He is a type that
reflects the general ideals of 1940s with all his existence.
Mourtaza’s personality is best described by
these expressions: “coughing with importance” or “walking with his
stomach in, his chest out and his eyes right straight ahead”!
His duty philosophy correspond the ideals
of a class, but definitely not of the poor. Nearly all the people he
perceives to be a threat is the poor. His talking with himself includes
important data, where he actually talks to the ‘government’ or the
authority in himself. This is the out reflection of the way Mourtaza, as
a civic servant, perceives the citizens - especially the poor.
Another striking point is that Mourtaza
combines concepts like government, power, honor, decency in one pot and
puts an attitude against the women.
We see that Mourtaza has a patriarchal
mentality and it concretizes this by showing an absolute and
unconditional obedience to the government or the superiors. For Mourtaza
who neither appreciates the authority nor the warrior abilities of
women, they are creatures not to be cared for in social relationships.
Thus the unquestionable personality, traditional values, judgments of
the hero arrives to position to recreate the continuity of a political
He is an icon of a militaristic order
and discipline that erases all the differences with total disregard for
the individual. Mourtaza is the incarnation of government patrolling the
streets. This government is the government of the 1930s and 1940s. An
individual is devoted to the government with all his/her being.
Mourtaza, in fact, is an ideal citizen who should be in every district
Besides the traditional
patriarchal culture, the thought of having a strong discipline and
government authority, makes Mourtaza a scary type. Vulgar behavior
towards the women, with the absolute dominance advocacy is a situation
which overlaps with the military’ emphasis we will mention later.
Especially in the poor neighborhoods, ‘the tricky citizens’ who have
identified the incarnated forceful government with the fear and
repression are the main targets. Because, he has ‘Puritan’ approach
against the rich. The rich have that wealth because they definitely
worked very hard and were never lazy (like some tricky citizens!) and
therefore they deserve respect and protection. But this fact can not be
valid for the poor (‘some tricky citizens’). Right here, this mentality
pushes Mourtaza to the wanted and ideal citizen status. Because, it is
possible to be the member of a ‘classless and united mass’ without
questioning the authority (the wealth). The otherwise is not possible
We meet with a narration
overlapping with the sociological and historical reality in the novel.
The race of grabbing an estate at the exchange era, the struggle of the
native public to share the left-overs from the enforced migration and
the treasure is a situation encountered in the other Chukurova novels of
Orhan Kemal. Here, there is the reflection of the phenomenon in an
esthetic way rather than the novel-narration being a historical
Throwing away the opportunities that the
time has offered him, honesty, the ‘martyr’ uncle figure resemble the
role in tragedy, the effect of it determining everything before
happening causes Mourtaza to find himself in complete isolation.
Everyone including his family see him as someone foolish, stupid, who
don’t know what he is doing. In reality Mourtaza don’t know the ‘jobs’
Mourtaza is a deviation, a deviation from
the time, economic conditions, the base of political mechanism and the
traditional relationships. Therefore, he is left in ridiculous
situations. But the difference here is, he does not care much about this
ridiculous situation, sees everyone else other than himself on the wrong
path (and, mostly they are), and becomes more and more lonely as he gets
away from practical benefit and advantage. Because he is the one who
turns his back to the any kind of ‘amoral shares’ and is the person of
different space and time; being in novel he is ‘real’ and being real he
is a novel, too.
It is Mourtaza who is
“incompatible” in every aspect. While the people that he immigrated with
(exchangees), exaggerated their wealth and settled on wealth that they
never had or could have had and changed social statuses, he chooses the
“honor”. One of the reasons for it is that while he was the imaginary
heroic Captain Hasan, his living in a time that he does not belong to.
Because, he is described as someone who damages the functioning in every
aspect and who is excessively realistic, he turns into a fairy tale
hero; become a caricature. “Having Honor”’ in Mourtaza’s world is a
straitjacket that brings disasters and poverty. However, the same honor
while turning him into a duty machine causes him to be exploited.
The ideas like land, honor,
duty, martyr that Mourtaza has been defending and symbolizing completes
with his behaviors like his carelessness of his mothers death, and later
his behavior towards his daughter where he caused the death of his own
daughter because he caught her as she take a nap while at work (we will
come back to this subject again). Because he is a bookish person; even a
faultless duty book. He is a legal duty book without a question and
never letting sensuality that would open the doors of irrationality.
Here we face a dialectic contrast: Since Mourtaza is social both with
his values (his still being proud of his commander uncle, who was a
martyr/hero and honesty) and his complying fully with honesty of the
mind and logics-so to say the laws- ; but with reality of the current
objective conditions of the society, he is ‘out of date’ (out of time).
He does not live at his own time, he can not. May be there will never be
a time that he will live/has lived in. This fact is part of the reasons
of his contradiction with his environment and the time he lives in, his
not-being accepted, and after all his being exploited.
From his angle (Mourtaza) the
second and most important duration for him was to move from the village
to the town, which he did not harmonize with or will never harmonize
with, for a temporary time. This is a migration which is accustomed to
and classical; but a very important process for Mourtaza’s ideal.
Because, he gets to know that he needs to have a duty to dominate over
people and to be respected. This ideal duty will most definitely be like
‘the Captain Hasan style’. And this is the watchman’s duty, which is in
his caliber. His life pours towards that duty.
The author sends Mourtaza and
his brother to two different paths, two different ideals and tests the
results of conditions and reality. Whoever succeeds, the other
inevitably will lose. We can anticipate that it will not be his brother
from his fellow countryman that he has turned to and who had nothing
when he came from Greece, but now who is very rich. Another reason is
the reality that Mourtaza is ‘alone’ and will be alone. With this
separation, the wisdom, ideals and the practical benefit clash. While
his brother is searching for advantage and benefit in the physical life,
Mourtaza is searching for big ideals in a very small life.
Mourtaza, as an individual, harbors all the
totalitarian, single-type features of the single political party era.
The biggest reason for him to insist for being a Watchman is his wanting
to differentiate himself from the “public”, meaning the poor majority.
As we mentioned before at the regard to
woman, although he is close to the dominant powers, because of his
longing to militaristic discipline, he wants a kid (male) who is always
going to be a soldier. What he expects from a woman (his wife) is
limited with the condition of giving birth to a baby boy, as this is not
something that the patriarchal culture is unfamiliar to. Becasue while
he is getting married, as a citizen who has his ideals, he is after the
features that emphasize on soldiery, Martyrdom and - most definitely -
masculinity. These expectations and behaviors save Mourtaza from being a
utopian character and make him a social being. He becomes a
representative for the social reality he lives in. He gets married to an
immigrant girl like himself. He is not pleased with the kids he has.
After three daughters (Firdevs, Gemile, Zehra) his son Hasan was born.
He is disappointed because ‘although’ he gives his uncle’s name to his
son, the boy’s mind was more into crafts and football, instead of being
in soldiery (uniform). He’s after a son who will go to the military
school, grow up and like his uncle Captain Hasan, “pour his holy blood
to the sacred homeland ground”.
The “Watchman” Mourtaza is included and a
part of the political, cultural and economic functioning of the society
he lives in. The political party which was united with the government
and formed the government of the era is CHP (Republic Public Party). And
naturally, Mourtaza is a follower of the government namely CHP. He does
not much care about the rest.
The street that Mourtaza lives in and the
condition of the other parts and streets
the city is the residence of contradictions that actually brings
existence. Sharp distinctions imprison
Mourtaza and his idea to class distinctions
which can not be passed over. It only gives
him a chance to exist by only being
devoted to the authority unconditionally.
So Mourtaza is a rational obligation
in his own conditions. his view to the
society and to the classes besides his own
society reflects the form and
discriminations that the class which Mourtaza
belongs to wants it to be perceived and
that the dominating idea tries to see as
non-existent. As mentioned above, we see
that as the micro representative
of the government, Mourtaza is almost with
a “Puritan” attitude far from the
liberal, tolerant and questioning behavior
against the class and wealth.
What bring Mourtaza to the ideal citizen
status are his ideas. His manners against two different classes are
(naturally) his reason to exist. With his behaviors against the poor,
the people from his own neighborhood, with his own words the ‘the tricky
citizens’, and against the “beloved servants of God”, he is someone who
‘knows his place’. The citizen he wants to be is actually the citizen
type that the rich want him to be, so to say, like someone who
appreciate them and does not want anything from them and does not need
to question them…
These citations that show the
subconscious of Mourtaza are at the same time ideas that make him a
‘type’. He is not such a special and rare person; he is just like
anybody. We can see how he perceives himself. He shows the most respect
to his elder ‘the elder that he has been trained by and learned virtue
from’ that he serves. His individualistic reason for existence, as much
as ‘being trained’ and ‘virtue’, in other words as much as authority and
duty is Captain Hasan. But he is unable to evaluate the conditions of
his uncle and come to a conclusion. He only takes what’s given and
applies them; he does not and can not produce anything.
As a matter of fact, we know
that he protects the ‘neighborhood of his elder’ from the ‘the tricky
citizens’. But another important point is that he put it on the top of
his list/book to protect the neighborhood from the animals as much as
from the poor and lazy people.
His apprehension pattern other than the
elder and the superiors is certain. He hates the guise of the poor like
the neighborhoods. He does not only do his watchman’s duty in the rich
neighborhoods; since he looks from the eyes of the rich, (with a
consciousness as in the Lukacs meaning ‘a tragic consciousness’), he
sees for them too. It is natural that the one who he questions and has
power to defeat is always the poor.
The public and community that have gathered
against Mourtaza always seem as lacking quality. Mourtaza is sort of ‘an
alien’ in that environment, since he is a rational citizen who has
returned the bribe offer rigidly, does his job according to the laws and
is a government employee. He is ‘estranged’ according to the others,
since he is out of the traditional watchman-civil servant mentality; he
is separated from the comprehension and functioning of the society that
does not work legally. But the irony here is an irony which can always
be reversed. While the rational and legal Mourtaza is ‘bad’ and left
alone, the crowded public draws a portrait of irrational but ‘good’.
This is reflection of social functioning and subconscious.
While Mourtaza is only the
applier of the laws, he struggles against the crowd. What makes him a
negative but a rational hero is this attitude of him that does not
comply with everyone.
His absolute and steady
‘superior’ consciousness emerges at all the conditions that he faces.
Whatever happens he only thinks about the rules up to the limit of his
duty and status, he does not much care about the rest. Like the
authority wants him to be, he is an ideal man of his duty who does not
ask and most importantly and does not see a necessity to question.
While the author is describing
the neighborhood people (unqualified mass or the tricky citizens)
contrary to Mourtaza, he always uses the negative and lower
qualifications of the poor classes. This is not a coincidence; being
against Mourtaza, namely being against the government, the law, the
regulation, is qualitatively caused by making some of the deficiencies
Since the Free Political Party
event, the neighborhood people who has been acting individually and
living in tension become united against Mourtaza. This is an interesting
sign; it is remarkable in order to show the structure of the operation
and mentality. The thought which is here and all over the novel is,
besides Mourtaza being always lonely (although the people who use him
seems to support him), the rationality or everything lawful and bookish
is discussed by degrading to a humorous level. It can be humorous,
because the mentality of the majority is different and operates
differently. The reality of the society can only let Mourtaza (and his
mentality) exists in a humorous situation. What lies beneath the
authority hang-up and assimilation of Mourtaza is his aptness and
familiarity towards the bureaucratic mentality, so to say the rational
mechanism. The important thing for him is the institutes rather than the
people in the position. What is described above is the reflection of the
The author describes from which
social class Mourtaza comes and protects the interests of which class as
fought with many wrong things in the neighborhood, and made life very
hard for the outcasts and evil people. And this neighborhood does not
mean only the worn out houses which look like they have bended to their
sides, are sitting cross-legged and clinged while collapsing. The real
neighborhoods, rather the people who dominate the neighborhood, are the
owners of the big apartments on the main street. They were very pleased
with Mourtaza: they were saying “this neighborhood never had such a
watchman before.” “From the cars we park in front of our houses to the
trash cans everything we own is in security. And what’s most important
is that he protects and cares for our possessions and lives more than
us. What else can we ask for... ” (2003: 54,55)
The duty philosophy
that brings him into existance is now his life:
“-He said, on duty
you will not even keep your child apart. You will not protect him or
her. You will not say my child, my beloved. Why? Because any duty is
more sacred than any child! (...) A good civil servant does not feel
sorry for the public. His eyes do not see his child. Why? Because the
qualification of a good civil servant is to keep the superior happy.
What does the ignorant public understand from self interest? I want to
see each as steel chest and bronze fist. But they can not appreciate
these fine points; they had no training, no firm education!” (2003:
In the neighborhood, by making a complaint
on Mourtaza who does what is necessary for everyone elses
job-excessively-, it is thought to move him from being a watchman and
appoint him somewhere else. For Mourtaza the government and authority,
as in the meaning of ‘duty’ can be in a non-official establishment, not
only in an official place.
It is always possible to talk about a
conformity and familiarity between the rich and the official employees.
In this sense, the reason of Mourtaza being more on the side of the rich
citizens instead of the poor ‘tricky’ ones can be understood. Because
the relationships of the official government employees and the local
wealthy class is easy and the other wealthy ‘elders’ are aware of
Mourtaza. When we pay attention to the terms as duty, discipline,
homeland, classes, money, poverty, superior-order, we can face an
‘acceptable Turk’ situation that has fallen into daily life from the
first term lecture books.
While everybody is two-faced against
Mourtaza, he is honest. One of the elements that complete the paradox
here is this characteristic of him. There is not even the littlest
tension between his stand and attitude. He does what he thinks and
thinks the way he acts. It is natural that honesty bears ‘stupidity’,
insanity and being exploited in the conditions and social relationships
of those days.
His guide in his private life the martyr
Uncle Captain Hasan is not a simple image. Captain Hasan is at the same
time the one that creates him within the novel, (non) ‘imaginary’,
‘existent’. For Mourtaza, as mentioned before, it is a mythological
character peculiar to tragedies. He is the symbol of homeland sympathy,
honesty and sacrifice. He is the ideal guide for ideal citizen Mourtaza.
On the other hand, for even the ones who do not care much about
Mourtaza, he exists as an image they use while defining Mourtaza. This
is the source that brings him into existence. He never starts out with a
straight logic from his own family history, he makes selections. (He
didn’t even cry when his mother died!) He idealizes the homeland,
transforms it into mythos. When we look at the social-historical
actuality era of the novel where the Mourtaza is being described, we see
that, such an idealization, (the citizen definition where the homeland
and the nation is in the center) is not a new reference. This
intellectual situation is an intellectual reality that composes to be
From his watchman’s duty in the
neighborhood, he is send to the fabric-knitting factory as a night
watchman. There will not be a different environment from the
neighborhood in the sense of mentality.
For everyone Mourtaza is “insane” or
“freak” but the assignment to correct all the distorted operations is
given to him. He is a civilian soldier, where the seriousness is
engraved to every moment and every cell of his life. He is submission
without any questioning. With these features, he has a “fascist”
individual mentality; he defends the government and the power without
any question and zeros the individual.
There is not much of an important character
in the novel other than Mourtaza. Everyone as opposite of Mourtaza,
other than the class differences, are identical with each other. Only
Mourtaza and his uncle Captain Hasan are discrete. One of them does not
exist; and the other is an “insane” who does not want to accept that he
does not exist.
The contradiction of social
reality with Mourtaza is not only at the outlook. As another part of the
mechanism, despite his behaviours that are seen as absurd , Mourtaza
keeps their inner feelings like submission, obedience and fear of
authority alive. He activates the submission potential that exist
secretly in every individual of the society against the militaristic
The ones that fool with Mourtaza or the
ones that tease him all the time have a serious insecurity and fear of
authority. (A theme similar to this one is brought to life in the
“Müfettiþler Müfettiþi” novel of the author with the “Kudret Yanardað”
character.) Here we face a ‘fascist’ individual mentality, incarnated in
the figure of Mourtaza. Terms like submission, government, order are
blended and compose Mourtaza and his ‘mass’. Individuals with a steady
and gratuitous loyalty to the government authority, indisputable
submission to the orders, and individuals who follow the rules without
commenting or seeing a neccessity to comment on them, individuals who
are lined up to one level...These apparent features do not seem much
possible with the strong opposition and resistance of the poor but this
secret may come up even with an ‘order’ scene similar to the one in the
coffee house. In the government citizen relationship that Mourtaza
represents, the individual is devoted to the government in every aspect,
lives for the government. Secret service tracings, follow-up,
government employees in disguise.... All of these are built on the
After being moved to the factory, the
wealthy or the superiors continued to use Mourtaza for the discipline
and order. The Science Manager of the factory asks him to control the
workers and watch the materials that are stolen from the factory and
resold. The basic idea that sends him to search for imaginary enemies
and makes him a Don Quixote is the passion of duty and discipline. A
steady submission to the superiors serves well for the Science Manager
in the factory.
Everybody seems like fooling
with Mourtaza, but if there is a ‘self-interest’, everybody moves to his
side immediately. Mourtaza does not go anywhere, he does not change. His
own ideas are extremely strong. The main problem is the immediate move
of the ones that do not like Mourtaza and fool with him to his side
(even for just using him). Mourtaza applies the wisdom and the orders
not for self-interest, but in reality just for it is the rule and the
duty and he completes with it. In this sense, he is the most honest
character of the novel.
What isolates Mourtaza and
transforms him into a ‘weird’ character is derived from him trying to
apply the duty, the discipline and the wisdom in a completely bookish
way in a social reality or place where everything functions
The view of the Factory Science
Manager to the situation is pragmatist. And this reflects the mentality
of the ones that use the capital at the time that Mourtaza lived,
besides the fellow citizen relationships.
The traditional functioning and thinking
style shows itself in every area of life like in people, settings and in
the use of symbols. The pictures on the wall of a tea house in Anatolia
have meanings that reflect the reflection forms of the tradition to us.
the factory that Mourtaza is hired, it is possible to see the results of
the social change on throwing the individuals to different positions. In
the new social order, we see the personalities of the individuals in the
new conditions that tried to live by holding on to the nobility and the
history of the family. Kontrol Nuh is a good representative of the
Arnavut Kâtip and the other workers become
the other characters. In the new social situation, the emphasis and
references made towards the past do not work much. The hardship of the
physical conditions erases and sweeps the longing towards the past which
is still strong in the memories of the old Ottoman civil servants. It is
possible to meet the ‘fallen’ characters in Orhan Kemal like the types
in Balzac novels.
The employee portraits like
Sarý Ýbrahim, Yassý Bekir, Ensiz Necip in the factory are types that we
meet frequently in Orhan Kemal novels, who lack employee consciousness,
continue their acts with traditional craftiness relationships. Therefore
they reflect daily self-interests. Their view to Mourtaza is in this
direction. For the most of the employees, the rotten meals do not mean
anything and they have no other thought than settling with what they
have. In the factory environment, with this work and job ethics, the job
that was given to Mourtaza is the encounter of the two different values
system and philosophy. Nuh and other employees represent a traditional,
Anatolian employee behavior and working culture. Mourtaza is modern,
rational (definitely industrial intellect) and bookish. He is a
bureaucratic type. The factory becomes the battle field of these two
different mentalities. The mechanism that the workers can not comprehend
is: the capital or the representatives of it will use the traditional
relationships and the loyalty (!) as long as it will work for them, even
it is craftily. After a point, the reality is that the boss who is
conscious of the capital, namely his benefit (truely), has moved/ will
move the undeveloped consciousness level of the worker to his advantage.
We witness that the conditions as countrymanship, relationships or the
familiarity are used quite intensely in Chukurova factories. The author
reflects this mechanism quite openly. This is a realistic condition.
Because as in the other novels of Orhan Kemal where he describes the
rural characters of the industry workers, even in a novel, we do not see
a consciousness quite often. For the employees, who work in the same
factory for some time in the 1930s and 1940s, to become ‘conscious’ and
recognize the interests of their own class, not as a result of the
objective conditions of life, but as a speculative conclusion, is going
to be an esthetic reflection far away from the historical reality. The
author does not exhibit consciousness (“Bildungsroman”) in his novel. He
is more loyal to the actual mechanism.
In such an ambient, Mourtaza
appears to be a rational but a tragic character with all his actuality.
Despite of this duty
consciousness and normatily of Mourtaza, the jobs in the factory are
more close to the traditional mechanism because of the reasons we
mentioned above. What is determinative here is the self-interest
As in the sense of another
social class and values, the character that is ‘left from the Ottoman
times’ is “Azgýn Aða” who works as a toilet watchman in the factory. He
is a character which is sunken in every aspect, but tries to hold on to
life with his past. He is irrational and naturally against Mourtaza. He
is someone who carries and lives the ideas like traditionalism and
nativeness the clearest. We again face some values like “Turkishness”,
“Purity”, “Islamism” in his opinions.
When we look at the terms and
values “migration” phenomenon is a situation that is not accepted fully
in the society yet. It is easily highlighted especially in the simple
self-interest struggle between the workers. It is put forward as a
In the social life formed or envisioned to
be formed, there is a secret competition between the immigrants who came
from old “Ottoman property” and the locals. This competition can be seen
easier especially in tension times. Even though the circumstances
experienced have left the workers to make a living with their own labor,
we see that there is an environment that feeds these tensions. It
resembles the one in the ‘cobbler’s shop’, the past image of “Azgýn Aða”
and the local-immigrant discrimination is an expression of a tense
memory in the physical social life. The ones, who were altruistic in
Ottoman times or at the ‘Liberation War’, have been convicted to
poverty. Who had profited in this era can be described as the ones who
did not go to war, the war riches, (except for Mourtaza) the immigrants
or the ones who got a hold of the possessions of the ones who have
migrated away. But despite all these (traditional and simple
discrimination as local-immigrant), none of them are important for
Mourtaza. He never looks at the job he does or the society he lives in
from a traditional window. For him, rationally, there is only duty and
orders. He does not comment. He approaches both to the immigrants or the
locals with the same scale: the degree of them doing their job.
Therefore Mourtaza is a lonely man. In reality, neither the immigrants,
nor the locals like him. And he is aware of his isolation.
The separation of old-new does not only
emerge in conditions about the immigrants. The Republic era and the
Ottoman era also become as facts that are compared in the novels. But
these transform into an East fable, by the transformation form in the
traditional memory as far as possible from reality. Like the
consciousness level of the workers for their objective realities, the
close political, economical and the historical past of the country
breaks in this mirror of consciousness, changes and wraps into a
As mentioned before with the
before and after of “Mourtaza” fact happening through the II. World War
times, brings us to make a connection in between the two. Furthermore we
see that many facts like the discipline, race, motherland, job, labor,
government, strong leadership that the ‘German’ symbolizes are reflected
here. And Mourtaza is already a German admirer (he is a “Alamancý”).
Although towards the end of the war he has gotten out of the axis of
Germany in a fast way, because of the historical dimension, where its
roots are reaching to the decline of Ottoman, the effect did not change
easily at the public level. The resemblances between the elements that
compose Mourtaza and the qualities of Germany are both surprising and
also not a coincidental result. Although the ‘German’ favor of Mourtaza
is because his ‘superiors’ so to say the government administrators are
in that direction. Later, Mourtaza will to wait for his ‘superiors’
political decisions to determine his route. It is very clear that not
only Mourtaza, but everybody in the society has been confused towards
the end of the war. What was expected to happen and what has happened is
a result that like many people Mourtaza and his environment had not
Eventually, Mourtaza receives
another job and responsibility: “The Factory Sport Liable
This job is the most suitable one for
Mourtaza’s personality until now. The factory which had a lot of units
from the band sets to the other sport utilities, this job which has
turned Mourtaza into a ‘ceremonial’ identity, serves him to be more
The situation of the worker
neighborhood before the 1950s, has a complementary role in the picture.
Since we can not talk about a full establishment of institutions, the
grocery shop assembles the functions of many institutions at itself: it
performs functions like shopping, lending out money, gathering,
communication. Another function is that it is a small ‘market’ where
different ethnical and cultural structure of the neighborhood meets. It
is an element that completes the factory.
We meet with Recep again, the
brother of Mourtaza who had a different path. But this time, since Recep
has separated from Mourtaza and made his “way”, he has made money. He
had profit, because he did not obey the wisdom and honesty in other
words his brother Mourtaza. As a dramatic reality, this is a meaning
that flows parallel to the novel. The dialogue that he has with his
brother shows Mourtaza’s personality clearer. He is never someone naive
who does not know anything. The poverty and isolation he has is because
of the endless loyalty he has to the wisdom, law and duty.
The description of the factory
that Mourtaza works in is the description of the industry in the 1940s.
This is an industry functioning established solely on exploitation of
the cheap labor, namely the woman and the children who do not have any
security. This theme always exists in many novels of Orhan Kemal. The
workers being unconscious, hundreds of thousands of cheap labor waiting
(ready) in the line are some of the factors that complete our picture.
The working conditions, the condition of the industry, which is just
growing up besides the agriculture, are like the worker neighborhood.
These facts are the objective conditions that the author emphasizes
commonly in his different novels. As we will see later, many factors
that combine with cheap labor politics will direct and flow the people
in the cheap labor (wage) sea to the cities....
The sharpness, rationality, the
purification from all the traditional and emotional ties in the way
Mourtaza perceives duty, his actuality in the order-command functioning
emerges at his behavior towards his daughter at the factory. There is
not even the slightest protection or favoring. What’s important is the
rational functioning to proceed within the job frame, without being
questioned. The solidity he expects/requests (that he himself has) from
everyone in the factory, on their duty is far from any sensuality or
‘weakness’. In a bookish meaning, however one should be in the
bureaucratic functioning, however it is written, Mourtaza is like that.
There can be even a slightest deviation of him from the rules.
In the factory, when he saw his daughter
(yet a child) take a nap ‘while she was supposed to work’, we face one
of the most dramatic moments of the novel and the ‘Mourtaza’ fact. He
beats his daughter up to death and he emerges in front of his ‘superior’
(the factory manager).
The daughter of Mourtaza who he has beaten
up dies in a few days.
In the third part of the novel, the author
starts to narrate the events in a totally different social reality.
Towards the end of the World War II, while the discomforts from Ismet
Pasha, CHP or Germany are being expressed loudly, after the
establishment of DP, the fact becomes something totally different. Now
there is (real) politics; the ideas and the sides are changed without
even needing to hide like before. Mourtaza stays in all these
developments as a ’machineman’ who always keeps his line, never
changing, just functioning with duty and order. But the transforming
power of the facts isolates him even more. Because the quality of the
duty and the ones who assign the duty would start to change. However,
Mourtaza does not have the capacity to comprehend this process; or a
‘duty’ like that is not assigned to him by his ‘superiors’.
Political developments cause a
Ismet Pasha opposition, (even) with the immigrants. Mourtaza can not
accept this. Everyone takes their share from strong winds of change.
Mourtaza becomes isolated more and more. A very interesting resemblance
is the crossing paths of CHP and Mourtaza in the 1940s. Maybe, Mourtaza
is not a ‘party member’, but at that time, since everybody is
‘naturally’ accepted as a member of the party, there is a similarity in
the intellectual meaning too. He always perceived himself as the
representative of formality for a long time. The other workers have
identified him with the government. The Science Manager, who represents
the dominating power, namely the active political anxiety and economical
interest, smells the changes well. At last, the manager joins the DP as
it is the ‘fashion’ and Mourtaza is pushed to loneliness even more and
becomes a target. Because, the masses in the centers have found targets
and Mourtaza is the closest, the most reachable and beatable one of
As in “Gemile”, the wrong consciousness of
workers that do not hit the target comes out here too. Orhan Kemal uses
this consciousness reflection to reveal the thinking structure of social
reality. In reality, both the workers and Mourtaza have a wrong
consciousness. The quick changing lines of the representatives of the
dominating power and signing up to the new political party (DP) is a
very live fact. It is an indicator that the capital will always find a
place to use its power and influence. But, what is important here is the
distance of the workers to the consciousness of their real interests.
The rebellion of the workers against
Mourtaza hits the ‘real consciousness’ wall of the capital. The factory
manager, who is a member of Democratic Party, refuses their request to
get Mourtaza, his best man, fired; what is important is to have someone
that useful. The Party is not important.
The consciousness of the
factory manager of his own interest shocks the workers who lack their
own consciousness, but this will not make a ‘revolution’ effect on them.
Such that, even with the littlest friction of the workers with each
other, the roots or some other ‘discriminators’ emerge.
The way that the Factory
Manager understands and uses Mourtaza is rational. He knows how to
manipulate everything for his own advantage. The crowds that flip and
rebel are only interested with the image, since they do not have any
information on what they are doing in reality. Mourtaza leaving the
factory is seen as the main intention. They are lacking a talent to
analyze the role of Mourtaza in the factory.
In some of the novels of Orhan Kemal, the
rise of DP is seen as a ‘salvation’ in the beginning for some of the
workers and the village people who has no land. But they face the
reality later. The “DP phenomenon” becomes determinative by the end of
the 1940s. The big land owners or as in here, the big capital owners
always act more active, and they are the ones who always win. Therefore
while the rise of DP takes place as an important fact for the
transformation of social structure in Orhan Kemal novels, the same
phenomenon, as experienced before, is described as far from providing
the necessary gains for the poor public sections and the workers.
The environment which brings Mourtaza as
the reflection of social fact is the events that we face with his
individual history. The ‘immigrant cobbler’ character in the “The
Cobbler and his Sons” shows us one of the results of the population
moves in the Republic era. Mourtaza also has a similar journey. But,
what make him different from the others are his features. Mourtaza is so
honest to the degree that it’s not worth anything. He finds it enough to
have come to Turkey. Although he came in the first years of the exchange,
he did not want anything. He kept the service for the government and
administration above everything. The only thing he wants is a uniform.
If we need to refer to again, the migration
to Anatolia, which has started long time before the Republic with the
combination of all the types of people that appear in Turkey takes an
important place in Orhan Kemal books. With immigrants or with locals, as
a result the citizen or individual type is emerged. Mourtaza is the most
important representative of this fact that has glided with an esthetic
creation from the reality of the novel . The conflicts of the interests
show itself in different ways, whether as possessing realty or as an
obligatory reflection of the fast changes. In the modernizing society,
the enforced individual (subject) type will emerge. But we do know that
this individual is determined by every society’s distinctive objective
conditions. In this sense, Mourtaza is a very distinct example. He is
like a perfectly functioning cogwheel that puts wisdom instead of
sensuality, and puts duty, responsibility and orders instead of
traditional loyalty. He does not question the connection of these duties
and orders with his ‘real interest’, he leaves that to the rationality
of the people who assigned him that duty. He is someone in the society,
who in the bureaucratic rationality sense is not interested in the
proportion or the monetary earnings of the duty assigned to him and is
an “ethical” type within these ambiances. He elevates the duty, the
authority, the government, the administration, the war and he has an
endless ‘faith’ against them- and if necessary to say it as a novel
reality, he is someone who stands very close to the general mentality of
the 1930s and 1940s Turkey, and in the world, he especially stands close
to the general understanding of Germany, politically (thus, directly
socially), culturally, economically does not care about and degrade the
individual- a ‘fascist’ subject. The unquestionable loyalty against the
duty, law, rule raises him to the status of the right ‘ideal citizen’
status in the eyes of the dominating, although he is mocked by the
In his own
meaning world Mourtaza is a rational and modern type. He is ridiculous.
He is right. But as a general mentality, he is someone who carries all
the lines of his own time. Mourtaza is a rational monument. His being so
contradictory to his own conditions is because he is an ideal that has