Gender and Nation as Feminist Melodrama in Yade Kara’s Selam Berlin (2003)
Sunka Simon (Swarthmore College) [BIO]
In Yade Kara’s first coming-of-age novel Selam Berlin (Zürich: Diogenes, 2003), the protagonist is a male college-age Turkish/German student, who is mourning the collapse of the wall as the material and tactile disappearance of his childhood. The wall had stabilized not only his parents’ troubled marriage, but also his family’s, and his own, torn loyalty between East and West, North and South, living as a German in Istanbul and as a Turk in Berlin. After 1989, Kara shows how intricately supposedly inner-German issues are connected to and affecting the lives of its immigrants, and how the East/West divide is projected onto the wall as a historical screen, a screen that simultaneously shields from the knowledge of state and family secrets as it broadcasts them. “National identity” becomes a spectacle that is haunted by the specter of gender and sexuality, a spectacle that, I argue, shares its codes with cinematic melodrama.
In reading her text as feminist melodrama, I hope to make an intervention in the ongoing debate over Migrantenkultur as popular German culture. Melodrama is a genre that self-consciously and ironically performs nostalgia, mourning, aggression, ecstasy, and self-righteousness, and it also requires a high level of popular culture enjoyment and media literacy to pull off convincingly. Not only Kara, but also directors like Aysel Polat (En Garde, 2004), have been avid and active consumers of globalized popular culture. Their works attest to a confident, feminist-inspired adaptation practice that employs “both memory and change, persistence and variation” (Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, 2006) in order to open the German and Turkish pasts (as history and archive) to a cross-cultural re-reading.