This article compares the portrayal of the intellectual in two social realist novels from two different countries: Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine (1936) from Italy and Rıfat Ilgaz’s Karartma Geceleri (1974, Blackout Nights) from Turkey. It focuses on spatial settings as domains of interaction (or lack thereof) and the ways in which they define the identities, realities, and responsibilities of the protagonists, Pietro Spina and Mustafa Ural. The discussion is constructed on the concept of the intellectual and societal engagement as theorised by Antonio Gramsci, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Edward Said along the lines of political involvement and its consequences. It examines actual and metaphorical exile, isolation, and imprisonment in their varying manifestations. How narration, setting, and imagery create an oppressive atmosphere is scrutinised in order to highlight the ways in which literary texts reveal affinities among the intellectuals’ relation to the broader society, despite the differences in their temporal and cultural contexts.