For Samuel Johnson, the purpose of writing became “to permit the readers better to revel in life, or better to undergo it”. Özgür Mumcu’s The Peace Machine does each: it’s far as a lot a rollicking Ottoman steampunk adventure – full of wit, tongue-twisters and roguish escapism – as it’s far a carnivalesque take on cutting-edge politics.
Mumcu – a Turkish journalist, educational, loose-speech activist, now novelist and generally rushing polymath – includes a lightness in his prose that runs counter to the burden of his life. Its burdens started out whilst he was a teenager with the assassination of his journalist father. Turkey currently ranks 157th (out of one hundred eighty countries) at the World Press Freedom index and Mumcu has accompanied his father into journalism and fearlessly adversarial with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He faced four years in prison for a newspaper column he wrote approximately the president, however, became acquitted of defamation expenses in 2016 – the complete affair a daunting experience that he now coolly dismisses. (“Compared with the nation of the affairs in Turkey,” he says, “my lawsuit became an unimportant incident.”) He’s established a Right Livelihood award (from time to time referred to as the “alternative Nobel prize”) on behalf of Cumhuriyet, the Turkish newspaper he writes for. In a country where writing is a dangerous career, Mumcu is now a bestseller.
The Peace Machine follows Celal, a street urchin turned aesthete and erotic creator. A duel forces him to go away Istanbul for France, wherein he comes upon plans for a device that may convey peace to the sector with the aid of producing electromagnetic waves and vibrations that “have an impact on the human body”. Celal will become embroiled in a conspiracy to prompt the device, which entails inciting a revolution in Serbia the usage of a circus as the cowl. The forty-one-year-old author is posing a provocative question, which he puts to me: “Would we want a gadget that could deliver peace on the fee of our free will if thousands and thousands of lives will be spared?”
Conspiracy theories and populism are like poisonous barrels poisoning the general public democratic debate
Mumcu isn’t sure if his father’s demise motivated his writing – “but I am sure he had a massive effect on my manner of thinking.” Uğur Mumcu turned into a distinguished investigative journalist and secularist and is now widely revered in Turkey. On 24 January 1993, when Özgür became 15, Uğur became killed through a vehicle bomb outdoor their circle of relatives domestic in Ankara. “Some Islamist militants have been sentenced,” Özgür says, “however their whole community and its ties have been by no means nicely investigated.” Uğur’s studies went to the coronary heart of Turkey’s turbulent political machine. Everyone from the CIA and Mossad to a Turkish deep kingdom had been suspected of being in the back of the attack. To nowadays, hundreds of humans collect in Ankara on the anniversary of his loss of life; to nowadays, people are.
“A trauma of that importance made me want to apprehend the human nature and the origins of violence,” says Mumcu. “It also pressured me to continuously seek how we can all have peaceful lifestyles.”
What would possibly wonder a few is that the book’s heroes need to replace The Peace Machine on, instead of break it; a distinguished defender of personal liberties has written a heroic tale of striving for peace – but through authoritarian means. His novel, but, is as a lot a concept test as it is a cautionary tale of rhetoric.
“Electromagnetism,” begins one of the e book’s characters, “is perhaps the maximum democratic pressure inside the world. It exists anywhere in each unmarried moment.” This agile eloquence tries to justify authoritarian era, the novel’s apparently mild style having a seductive effect: risk lurks in words, and in records. At a time when fake information and historical revisionism are rife each in Turkey and the English talking global, it’s difficult no longer study Mumcu’s e-book – which offers a mystery, the alternate reason behind real-international events – as an exploded, the critical example of those ideological narratives.
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But Mumcu denies having any of that in thoughts: he knew he could write a singular, finally, and this is just the tale that got here to him. But he concedes that conspiracy theories and fake news are “a completely efficient weapon for people who want to promote an authoritarian agenda through presenting easy causes and pushing people toward a black–and–white fallacy. Conspiracy theories and populism are like poisonous barrels poisoning the general public democratic debate.”
However, he changed into consciously making a comparison between now and the era before the first international war. “Both periods are marked by way of technological traits and inventions,” he says. “It is likewise a duration in which the vintage international is set to die … We live in an age of inventions and of a technological eruption. Technological modifications ship silent shockwaves to societies. These shockwaves shake the fundaments that had been thought unshakeable. The socio-monetary order is likewise not tenable. It can be a touch painful to live in such times but I find such intervals of time serve as a really perfect historical past for storytelling.”
With all the current communicate of “late-degree capitalism” and the impact of technology on politics, Mumcu may additionally have a point. But he is likewise wise to keep away from direct allegory within the ebook. Instead, he touches on a trendy feeling shared with the aid of many: that we’re coming to the give up of something.
In the English-speaking world, free speech has grown to be a purpose celebrate for rightwing pundits. Everyone from US legal professional widespread Jeff Sessions on your lawn-range internet troll is complaining that political correctness is stifling it. But this argument is often a smokescreen used, ironically, to silence opposing views. “The English-speaker world and maximum different components of the sector are challenged via the ascent of the populist authoritarian inclinations or regimes,” Mumcu says. “What’s a tremendously new phenomenon for you is antique information for us.” He is a writer in a rustic that “is dominated by a single birthday party and its chief’s speeches and pics. [Erdoğan’s] critics are seeking to make their voices heard below the hazard of getting fired, prosecuted or placed in jail.” And Mumcu fears that, if this rise in authoritarianism is going unchecked then, even in reputedly settled democracies, it’ll be the left defending unfastened speech yet again – from a danger some distance more menacing than scholar protesters.
Shortly after The Peace Machine became first published, Mumcu determined a piece of writing he’d written, aged 12, for a school newspaper. Its title changed to Is Peace a Dream?
Almost 3 decades later, he says: “It is viable to mention that with this ebook I have finished that article.” Decades of concept and motion – all below extremely good stress – have gone into Mumcu’s debut. But as a whole lot as the unconventional is a reflection of modern-day Turkey, it’s also approximately something near-customary: how the joys of humor and journey persist, even in the most detrimental occasions.
The Peace Machine with the aid of Özgür Mumcu, translated by Mark David Wyers, is published through Pushkin Press, priced £12.99. It is to be had from the Guardian book place for £eleven.04, including unfastened UK p&p.
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