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The Fall of an Empire, the Birth of a Nation's Friend: The Turkish Reception of Pierre Loti

Yüce, Can Bahadır

Pierre Loti's novel Aziyadé (1879), which tells the story of an affair between a Western soldier and a married Muslim woman, is a celebrated work of the nineteenth-century French Orientalism. The novel has been translated into Turkish several times and the name “Pierre Loti” has become a part of Turkish collective memory. Despite Aziyadé's Orientalistic and stereotypical portrayal of the Ottoman culture, the author has been described as a “beloved friend” of Turks. This paper proposes to discuss the reasons behind the positive reception of Loti's Orientalism by the Turkish literati. I argue that this transnational encounter should be understood in the context of the Ottoman decline and anxiety of imperial collapse. The Turkish reception of Pierre Loti’s work is a significant case that shows how politics and national anxieties may lead to a misreading of a novel and shape intellectual scene.

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