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The limits of Westernization

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‘The Limits of Westernization: A Cultural History of America in Turkey’ by Perin E. Gürel (Columbia University Press, 273 pages, $49)

One of the most significant Ottoman novels of the 19th century, Ahmet Rifki’s “Felatun Bey and Rakim Efendi,” appeared in a new English edition in 2016. First published in 1875, the story centers on two stereotypical characters in Istanbul, dramatizing the question of modernization and Westernization. Felatun Bey is a spendthrift, feckless, effete Istanbul dandy who passively mimicks Western mores. Rakim Efendi is hard-working, grounded and disciplined, familiar with European culture but respectful of local Ottoman heritage – carefully balancing innovation and tradition.

The genre of the novel itself was long seen in Turkey as a symbol of Westernization. As a European product of bourgeois society, the novel appealed to generations of reformers in the 19th century for its apparent realism, empiricism and........

© Hürriyet Daily News