Masks Or Souls?: Halide Edib's Politics and Her Pacifism as a Playwright

Özlem Ezer


In this article, I discuss Halide Edib's play Masks or Souls (MOS) as anti-war literature composed by a Turkish female intellectual and activist who lived between the two World Wars. The article provides a more complete portrayal of Edib, who has often been reduced to a nationalist novelist. I contextualize the play and present evidence from MOS that Edib became a pacifist on the eve of the Second World War. Another war Edib fought was against some of the ideas within the military and intellectual circles of Turkey led by Mustafa Kemal. Through the comments of several characters in the play, Edib criticizes the reforms and westernization processes that took place immediately after the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923. It was plausible for Edib to be a nationalist and pacifist simultaneously as in the case of Gandhi, with whom Edib met during her stay in India in 1935. I argue that MOS remains a contemporary text that deserves closer attention especially due to its questioning of Europeanness, racism and modernization of non-Western cultures so the disappearance of the play is a curious phenomenon. What Edib meant by “keeping the soul” of people in order to have a peaceful world is also significant. I counter the neglect this play has suffered from by calling into question some of the nation- and region-based hierarchies prevalent in literary studies.


Halide Edib Adivar, Turkish anti-war literature, Masks or Souls, Maske ve Ruh, Turkish women authors, Nasreddin Hoca/Hodja, peace-building plays

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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