Keywords: Return, transformation, repetition, discontents of civilization, uncanny, Sigmund Freud, Cemil Kavukçu, Gamba


Cemil Kavukçu, one of the most prolific writers of contemporary Turkish literature, published his novel Gamba in 2005. The novel revolves around four characters who set off a trip into nature on their bikes to emancipate themselves from the burdens of their prosaic lives, but end up “returning” to their ordinary life spaces after a little while. The theme of “return,” which can be traced in many works of Kavukçu, finds its reflection in Gamba in three movements of (re) turning that can be treated both thematically and figuratively: the turning of bicycle wheels; after many years, the return of Gamba, a creature that used to haunt a character’s dreams in his childhood; and finally the characters’ fast return to their pre-journey lives. Analyzing psychological and social dynamics of these movements, this article suggests that Gamba can also be considered a stage which may help us understand Kavukçu’s cycle stories. The article approaches the themes of loneliness and alienation, which have often been emphasized by Kavukçu scholars, from a psychoanalytic perspective. It relates these three movements, which represent not only the characters’ individual histories, but also the “discontents of civilization,” to the feeling of distress. Kavukçu regards this sense as the source of literary production in his essay, “Yazma Sıkıntısı” (“The Distress of Writing”). In this context, the psychic life staged in Gamba and explored by Freud through such concepts as “the return of the repressed,” “repetitive compulsion,” and “uncanny,” may explain the dynamics of the moment of writing pictured by Kavukçu. As a result, the article suggests that both Kavukçu’s repetitive returns to similar characters, settings and themes and the (re)turns in Gamba may be considered in similar frameworks. Accordingly, in both of them the only way to survive in a circle, which hardly lets anybody out, is to push its limits from within.