In This Review

Turkey: A Past Against History
Turkey: A Past Against History
By Christine M. Philliou
294 pp, University of California Press, 2021

Refik Halid Karay was a journalist who figured among the dissidents in virtually every era of the tumultuous history of Ottoman and republican Turkey between the turn of the twentieth century and his death in 1965. In this biography, Philliou offers a subtle and revealing history of the meaning of opposition. Karay, born to a family of midlevel Ottoman bureaucrats, seems to have been both constitutionally contrarian and faithful to his upbringing and class: the ideal candidate for what nineteenth-century Europeans had come to know as “the loyal opposition.” But for much of the first half of the twentieth century, there was no room for such a figure in Ottoman or Turkish politics. In both the despotic empire and the authoritarian republic, opposition was treason. Often writing under the wonderful pen name “the Porcupine,” Karay was sent into internal exile in Anatolia by the imperial authorities and banished to Beirut and Aleppo by the republican government. He always made his way back into the outer reaches of the inner circle, however, and by the time multiparty politics appeared in the 1950s, Karay, “elder statesman of the dissidents,” had begun to carve out a novel, albeit precarious, space for the notion of the loyal opposition.