The Heart of Desolation
Issızlığın Ortasında is a story of disappointment, traumas, and the aftermath of war, narrated in the first person by the protagonist, Ayhan İlyasoğlu, who fought and killed people in the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation. The plot proceeds through flashbacks, as Ayhan not only survived the trauma of armed conflict but also earlier traumas from his lonely and inert childhood in the boarding school and his politically oriented past. Before the action in Cyprus, Ayhan was searching for his childhood friend, Zafer, a political activist who disappeared in 1971 after the coup. For Ayhan, who also experienced maltreatment and torture following the coup, his search for Zafer, who was his only connection with the outer world, his protector and role model, becomes a central part of his life. With all the pain of his past, Ayhan attempts suicide but fails to kill himself. He is taken under medical care in a hospital in Girne (Kyrenia). He returns to Ankara once the war is over. In Ankara, Ayhan falls in love with Ferda, but he remains troubled and is unable to express himself. He decides to commit suicide again but learns from a friend that Zafer is still alive, which puts him, once again, in a search for Zafer. This search, now turned into Ayhan’s search for himself, is developed as Ayhan compares and contrasts himself with Zafer.
As a witness to the period himself, Eroğlu utilizes his experiences to elaborate upon a generation traumatized under the military government. Critic Fethi Naci deems the work a “first novel success.” He asserts that Eroğlu “knows about the novel” and shows “mastery” in technique, likening the work to a detective novel in its well-structured plot. In Türkiye’de Popüler Kültür (Popular Culture in Turkey), Ahmet Oktay highlights the Freudian and Dostoevskian characteristics of the novel’s protagonist. In his July 1984 review in Sanat Olayı (Art Event), Attilâ İlhan placed Eroğlu with writers such as Latife Tekin and Orhan Pamuk as pioneers of a new generation of contemporary Turkish novelists.