This essay examines the relationship between the centre and the periphery in the context of the construction of a literary and national subject within the development of Turkish literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Focusing on the figure of the expatriate, who, from the periphery (the Ottoman Empire and afterwards Republican Turkey), travels to those places which he considers the centres of the dominant modernity of his time, it analyses and compares works by two authors. The first of them is Yahya Kemal, who fled from Istanbul to Paris and committed himself to the construction of an idea of Turkishness, able to define itself as reliably modern and capable of relating on an equal basis with European literature and high culture of enlightened progressivism. He found the key of this claim to equality in a historiographical presentation of the modern Turkish people as a composite Anatolian ethno-cultural mosaic and therefore, through the filter of Muslim mysticism, as the direct continuation of the Hellenic heritage so dear to the European conscience. The second author, Nazım Hikmet, was an exile who left the periphery on account of his political convictions which looked to a new centre, Moscow, the centre of a universalist-communist project in the first decades of the 20th century. He described the relation between the centre and periphery not in terms of emulation and the construction of a nationalist project but rather in the elaboration of a different idea of Turkishness, focused on the humble social figures at the heart of a poetics of communist universalism.
centre-periphery; Turkishness; Yahya Kemal; Nazım Hikmet; poetics