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Magdalena Koch & Biljana Dojcinovic

Turkish in Cyrillic: The Serbian Writer Jelena Dimitrijevic on Turkish Harems


This presentation will be about early works by Jelena Dimitrijevi? (1862-1945) in which she described Turkish harems. It will also introduce the content of the Serbian data base on women authors, Knjiženstvo.

The works by Jelena Dimitrijevi? which will be discussed are Letters from Niš on Harems (1897), Letters from Salonika (first published 1908) and the novel Nove (1912). In the first collection of letters, Jelena Dimitrijevi? was informing her friend on the wedding customs in the harems in Niš. One third of these Letters was written in Turkish language, transliterated in Cyrillic, which graphically pointed to a specific mixture of knowledge and emotions. Letters from Salonika were written as a kind of report from the Young Turks revolution and author’s interest in the new women. These letters include a long interview with a prominent Young Turk woman, as well as a lot of local color. These letters were the basis of Nove. The novel is about the Turkish girls in Salonika and the tragic effects the combination of European education and the old time customs had on their lives.

The most important trait of Jelena Dimitrijevi?’s works on harems is that they were written with the strong empathy and completely non-orientalising. The issue of colonialism and colonized is intersected with the gender issue, which makes the categorization unstable and non-definitive. This is the reason why the works of this prolific writer, reporter and world traveller, should be known not only in Serbian culture but also in other cultures she was so deeply interested in – primary, the Turkish one.

Ask, September 2012

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