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As modernity, that hopeful age of man and reason, broke from the inside out –– with World War 2, with Holocaust, with totalitarian attempts at modernization across the globe –– many frustrated artists turned their attention to dissecting and criticizing it, if not abandoning it wholly for something better. One specific focus of this pushback has been how modernity perceived daily and historical time, its philosophical arms-supplier being Henri Bergson, the fin-de-siecle French thinker on time. Here I read two 1950s novels, one from authoritarian-capitalist Turkey and the other from communist East Germany, as philosophical novels inspired by Bergson –– Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s The Time Regulation Institute and Uwe Johnson’s Speculations about Jakob –– and catalogue the many intriguing ways in which they criticize the abstract time of hours and seconds and the linear and teleological understanding of history. In the end arises a cross-national upholding of Bergsonian duration, an understanding of time as movement instead of a series of moments, both in the life of the individual and that of political peoples, from which blooms a recognition of human freedom.
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Ak, Artun, "After Bergson: Temporal Countermoves in Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar's The Time Regulation Institute and Uwe Johnson's Speculations about Jakob" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 320.
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