Maria Puder is Dead! Every work of literature that leaves more to think about than to write about has within itself an incurable soul. The real question is whether revealing that soul would be reciprocated. Madonna in a Fur Coat is like an auto-portrait that makes us stop and think for hours under the influence of the precise moment he enters the Atlantic*, that can take place in as many cities as it is read in, from Ankara all the way to Berlin, and one in which the soul of the protagonist becomes more important than their identity. What we have to say about this novel, considered one of Sabahatttin Ali’s masterpieces, that each reader embraces as if the story is their own and perhaps finds an opportunity to take a closer look through the words will not stop the protagonist to be reproduced again and again today.
Author: Asya Tuğçe Yaldız
Illustration: Ethem Onur Bilgiç
Sabahattin Ali’s Madonna in a Fur Coat – since it was published in installments in the Hakikat Daily Newspaper in 1940 – does not come across to the reader as an ordinary romance novel; in fact the representation of love guides the individual within the social dynamics of the era toward explorations that would leave the individual “on the brink of all that is possible”. The reason for why the book continues to have such an influence on the reader ever since might be explained by how that representation affects our souls. In Sabahattin Ali’s Madonna in a Fur Coat the existence of the individual is important in and of itself as a fundamental way of journeying inward that shines in all the societal reality. Among the depictions of people and the city that seem to just pass like ordinary images, and beyond the mundane, the story of the individual that should be pursued also coincides with the story of the reader that easily finds him/herself a place in it.
Chasing after the existence of Mr. Raif is to deny blindness and to muster up the courage to get to know someone beyond all coincidences. And chasing after the soul of Mr. Raif rather than who he is means that we pursue the story and what is revealed when reciprocated. Within all the alienation that makes Maria Puder possible lies the meaning attributed to the individual and beyond. An idealist order seems quite evident in the personas that blend realism and romanticism in Sabahattin Ali’s characters. And it is precisely for this reason that the reader is pulled into the story without the need to be convinced about how realistic it could be. As everyone strives to reach their own possibilities that they continue to question within, they occasionally see their own images in the mirror of the storyteller or in the inner reproaches of Mr. Raif. The fact that we all have a Maria Puder whose tracks we have lost or a Maria Puder within us that grapples to believe Mr. Raif is the product of that realism.
What Sabahattin Ali depicts in Mr. Raif is in fact the reader that connects to fictional characters like Mr. Raif with incurable bonds. A person that can fall in love with the portrayal of a woman before the real one, is a person that is both aware of the art’s power of representation and more than that also capable of building a realistic relationship with it. Maria Puder may be a woman that everyone can fall in love with but only Mr. Raif can fall in love with the Madonna in a Fur Coat. Even if the note with the words “Maria Puder did not die like that” found on the dead body of Sabahattin Ali point to clues about the plot being a true story or to romantic links established with a symbolic character that is still kept alive for many people, Maria Puder has killed herself the moment she created her own portrayal in Madonna in a Fur Coat, and assumed a representation.
Maria Puder, the woman that found herself a place as the representation that Mr. Raif fell in love with, is dead. Madonna in a Fur Coat on the other hand still lives on as the protagonist of a story that remains clearly in the imagination of the reader, among the outstanding literary works, in a windowsill in Kadıköy, in the attic of a house on the shores of Büyükdere and anywhere by the side of souls seeking to be requited with love. And so does Sabahattin Ali...