oud mokum logo

A new Nazim Hikmet documentary



On the occasion of his 100th birthday
Nâzim Hikmet became during his life time the best-known Turkish poet in the world, and his works were translated into several languages. However, in his home country Hikmet was condemned for his commitment to Marxism and remained decades after his death a controversial figure. His writings were filled social criticism and he was the only major writer to speak out against the Armenian massacres in 1915 and 1922.

For the 100th anniversary of his birthday MokumTV broadcast a new documentary, made by Mohamed el-Fers in association with Türkevi Amsterdam, to be broadcasted on the Amsterdam Channel on January the 14, 15 and 17 february (showed simultanous with the UNESCO celebration of Hikmet's 100st birthday in Paris, France).

The inauguration of the Unesco-celebration will be held on the 15th January 2002 together with a photograph exhibition of Nazim Hikmet, from 15th to 18th January 2002 at the UNSECO Headquarters, Fontenoy building, Paris – France. In this the UNESCO is associated with the Ministry of Culture of Turkey and the Nazim Hikmet Foundation.Turkey fights over memory of exiled poet

Nationalists are resisting demands to restore the late Nazim Hikmet's citizenship

Chris Morris in Istanbul
Thursday February 22, 2001
The Guardian

Rightwing politicians in Turkey are fighting a rearguard action to head off a campaign to restore citizenship to the country's most famous 20th century poet, Nazim Hikmet, who died in exile in Moscow in 1963.
The culture ministry is keen to reinstate Hikmet's citizenship in time for the centenary of his birth next year, which the ministry wants to celebrate in conjunction with Unesco.

Many Turks would be embarrassed to see their greatest poet still treated as an outcast.

Hikmet was a committed socialist who revolutionised Turkish poetry in the 1930s by overturning Ottoman literary traditions and introducing free verse and colloquial diction. The subjects of his poetry ranged from universal themes of war and suffering to intensely personal romanticism.

Leftwing groups have gathered half a million signatures in support of their campaign, and they have made a successful appeal for help to the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, himself a poet and translator.

But some nationalist politicians are adamant that they will not be persuaded. Ministers from the rightwing Nationalist Action party (MHP), which is part of a coalition government, are refusing to sign a decree restoring citizenship. The decree has to be approved by every member of the cabinet if it is to become law.

"There would be trouble from our party supporters if I signed this decree," said the communications minister, Enis Oksuz. "He [Hikmet] was anti-Ataturk [the founder of modern Turkey] and anti-state. I will not give back citizenship to someone who was a traitor."

The MHP fought street battles against the Turkish left in the 1970s, and although it is now in government and trying to present a more moderate image, the party is still distrusted by its opponents.

In terms of political ideology, nationalist antipathy to Hikmet is not surprising, but as a poet he was also a patriot who had a deep attachment to Turkey and its people.

"I love my country..", one of his poems runs. "I swung in its lofty trees, I lay in its prisons. Nothing relieves my depression like the songs and tobacco of my country."

Hikmet produced a vast body of literature during his life, much of it from exile or from a prison cell. He was jailed for a second time in 1938 for promoting rebellion among military cadets who were reading his verse.

Eleven years later an international committee including Jean-Paul Sartre and Pablo Picasso was established to campaign for his release and in 1950, after a change of government, he was freed as part of a general amnesty.

As a prominent critic of the system Hikmet was still in danger, however, and there were several threats to his life. He fled into exile on a freighter bound for Romania, leaving his family behind him.

He remarried in the Soviet Union but never forgot his roots. He died in a Moscow hospital in 1963, having spent much of his life deprived of real liberty.

Hikmet's poems often sided with the dispossessed and the politically exploited. He also explored themes of personal loss and separation, as in this extract from a poem written to his wife while he languished in a Turkish prison:

"You say: 'If they hang you, if I lose you, I'll die!' You'll live, my dear, my memory will vanish like black smoke in the wind. Of course you'll live, red-haired lady of my heart: in the 20th century grief lasts at most a year."

"Nazim's importance cannot be overstated," said one of Turkey's leading poets, Ataol Behramoglu. "He was the person who brought modernism to Turkish literature, and I find it hard to forgive the caveman mentality of parts of the MHP."

Hikmet's supporters are now considering how they might get round the nationalist veto. Many of them would like to bring his remains home and fulfil his wish to be buried in an Anatolian village.

His poetry has been translated into 50 languages, but it was neither published nor publicly sold in his home country between 1938 and 1965. He was stripped of his citizenship and condemned as a traitor in 1959.

His admirers say rehabilitation is long overdue. They believe it would be an important sign that, after three military coups between 1960 and 1980, Turkey can overcome the bitter political divisions of the past.

"Nazim is known around the world," Ataol Behramoglu said. "He doesn't need this recognition, but the Turkish republic does".

Last Will and Testament

Comrades, if I don't live to see the day - I mean if I die before freedom comes - take me away and bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia.

The worker Osman whom Hassan Bey ordered shot can lie on one side of me, and on the other side the martyr Aysha, who gave birth in the rye and died within 40 days.

Tractors and songs can pass below the cemetery - in the dawn light, new people, the smell of burnt gasoline, fields held in common, water in canals, no drought or fear of the police.

But I sang those songs before they were written, I smelled the burnt gasoline before the blueprints for the tractors were drawn.

As for my neighbours, the worker Osman and the martyr Aysha, they felt the great longing while alive, maybe without even knowing it.

Comrades, if I die before that day - and it's looking more and more likely - bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia, and if there's one handy, a plane tree could stand at my head, I wouldn't need a stone or anything.

• Nazim Hikmet, 27 April 1953, Moscow

1902 : He was born in Salonica on 15th January.
1913 : He writes his first poem titled "Feryad-i Vatan". He starts to attend school at Galatasaray Sultani.
1914 : He passes to Nisantasi Sultani because of economic reasons.
1917 : He enters the Naval School.
1918 : One of his poems is published for the first time. This first poem of him published in Yeni Mecmua has the title "Hâlâ Servilerde Agliyorlar mi".
1920 : He has to leave several months prior to his graduation from the Naval School for health reasons. Istanbul is under military occupation. He secretly goes to Anatolia together with his friend Vâ-lâ Nurettin. He is assigned to Bolu as a teacher by Ankara Government.
1921 : He goes to Moscow via Azerbaijan. He witnesses the first years of revolution. He studies economy-politics. He participates in artistic studies.
1924 : His first poetry book published in Moscow, "28 Kânunisani" is staged. This performance takes place in Pravda with admiration on 12th March. He returns to Turkey and starts to work at Aydinlik magazine.
1925 : He is prosecuted in his default in Ankara Tribunal of Independence with the charge that he is a member of a secret organization and sentenced to "fifteen years of rowing". This leads to his leaving the country. He goes to Moscow.
1926 : He passes to Vienna and attends the "party" meeting, which becomes the subject of his accusation in the future. The penalty of "rowing" is abandoned upon the enforcement of Turkish Penal Code.
1927 : He is prosecuted in Istanbul Penal Court in his default because of the "Vienna Conference" that he had attended. He is sentenced to three months of imprisonment.
1928 : He applies to the Embassy at Moscow to return home. He wants to take a passport. However, he does not receive a reply and then although he crosses the border secretly, he is seized at Hopa. He is taken to Ankara via Istanbul. The judgements previously made in his default are repeated in Ankara Penal Court. He is sentenced to three months of imprisonment. He is released through the consideration of the period that he remained in prison previously.
1929 : He works at Resimli Ay magazine. His first poetry book "835 Satir" is published. Others follow it.
1930 : A lawsuit is lodged against his poem "Sesini Kaybeden Sehir". He is acquitted by the Court of Appeal.
1931 : Once more a lawsuit is lodged against his books "Sesini Kaybeden Sehir" and "Varan 2" with "1+1=1", "835 Satir" and "Jokond Si-Ya-U". He is acquitted from all.
1932 : His play "Kafatasi" is staged at Istanbul City Theatre.
1933 : He is prosecuted because of his poem "Gece Gelen Telgraf". He is sentenced to six months and three days of imprisonment. His father died after an accident. He writes the poem "Hiciv Vadisinde Bir Tecrübei Kalemiye" upon his death. A lawsuit is lodged against him with the carge that he intimidated Süreyya Pasa, the employer of his father, in the poem. He is sentenced to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 200 liras. Meanwhile, he is prosecuted with the claim of sentence of death in a Separate case lodged in Bursa Penal Court with the indictment that he established a "secret organization". He is sentenced to four years of imprisonment with hard labor.
1934 : He benefits from the amnesty law introduced because of the 10th year of the Republic. He is released.
1936 : he is prosecuted with the charge of establishing and managing a secret organization and is acquitted.
1937 : His "Simavne Kadisi Oglu Seyh Bedrettin Destani" is published.
1938 : "Navy" lawsuits are lodged with the accusation that he encouraged the military students for revolting. He is sentenced to totally 28 years and 4 months of imprisonment with hard labor.
1941 : He starts writing "Memleketimden Insan Manzaralari" in Bursa.
1943 : His prison colleague Orhan Kemal is released. He assists the painting studies of Balaban, provides his training.
1944 : His liver and heart diseases start.
1949 : Writings on his unjust imprisonment start to increase in the press. Ahmet Emin Yalman attracts attention to the unjust imprisonment of Nâzim by publishing an article with the title "Tevfik Fikret ve Nâzim Hikmet" in Vatan newspaper.
1950 : "Campaigns for Freedom for Nâzim" are launched by various institutions at home and abroad. Upon the closing of the parliament without introducing the Amnesty Law in its agenda, Nâzim commences a hunger strike on 8th April. On the same day, he is taken to Istanbul Pasakapisi Prison from Bursa. He temporarily ceases his strike on 23rd April upon the request of his counsels. He is seriously ill, the doctors state that he should be treated in a hospital during three months. However, as there is no change in his status, he restarts the strike on 2nd May. The hunger strike causes great reaction of people. Signature campaigns are launched. A magazine called "Nâzim Hikmet" is published. His mother Celile Hanim commences a hunger strike on 9th May and poets Orhan Veli, Melih Cevdet and Oktay Rifat commence it on 10th May. Upon the new situation that occurs upon the elections on 14th May, the strike is discontinued on 19th May. He is released through the General Amnesty Law. On 22nd November, it is announced by the World Council of Peace that he is entitled to receive the "International Piece Award" together with Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, Wanda Jakubowska and Pablo Neruda. Neruda would receive his award in the ceremony that he can not attend.
1951 : His son Memed is born. He is called for military service, he is 49 and ill. Moreover, the periods that he passed in the military school as a student should substitute military service according to the law. He leaves the country because of the threats against his life. It is announced on 15th August in the official journal that he is "dismissed from citizenship". He receives the "International Peace Award" that the World Council on Peace had awarded to him one year ago with a ceremony held in Prague.
1952 : He goes to China. However, he has to discontinue his journey when he gets ill. He had a coronary thrombosis. He lays ill during four months. His life will pass under the supervision of physicians after then.
1953 : He continues to attend international meetings. His play "Bir Ask Masali" is staged in Moscow. The staging of his other plays follow.
1958 : He goes to Paris. He meets many writers and artists including Aragon and Picasso.
1962 : His 60th birthday is celebrated by the Soviet Writers' Union. A second meeting is held at the Polytechnic Museum for his readers on the day following the night arranged at the Writers' House. Ilya Ehrenburg coordinates the night.
1963 : He goes to Africa, Tanganica. He writes his poem "Cenaze Merasimim" (My Funeral) (April). He dies in his house on the morning of 3rd June.

Nâzim Hikmet Ran (1902-1963)
One of the most important figures in the 20th century Turkish literature and one of the first Turkish poets to use more or less free verse.

Hikmet proclaimed in the early 1930s that "the artist is the engineer of the human soul." Hikmet spent some 17 years in prisons and called poetry "the bloodiest of the arts." His poem 'Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison' reflected his will to survive.

"To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advice weaving
and making mirrors."
(from 'Some Advice', 1949)

Nazim Hikmet was born in Salonica, Ottoman Empire (now Thessaloniki) and had the most impeccable bourgeois antecedents. His grandfather had been the governor of Salonica and his father consul at Hamburg. His father, Nazim Hikmet bey, was a civil servant, and his mother, Aisha Dshalila, was a painter. He studied briefly at the French-language Galatasary Lycée in Istanbul and was enrolled at the Naval Academy but after five years he suffered repeated bouts of pleurisy and was given a medical discharge.

During the Nationalist struggle he went to Anatolia and taught school in in Bolu; Nationalist territory but swiftly became disillusioned and went on to Batum in 1921. The next year he left for Moscow, together with Ahmed Vâlâ Nûreddin (Vâ-Nû,: Born in Beyruth 1901, died in Istanbul 1967; journalist and writer; and friend since they studied at the French-speaking Galatasaray Lyceum in Istanbul. In 1965 his reminiscences of Nazim Hikmet, 'Bu Dünyadan Nazim Geçti', were published.

Nazim Hikmet was in 1921 accepted into the Department of Economic and Social Studies at the Kommunisticeskij Universitet Trudjašcichsja Vostoka (Communist University of the Workers of the East) of Moscow where he remained until 1924, coming under the influence of the Futurist poet Mayakowski and into contact with Vera, Piraia and the other women who inspired some of his poetry and prose. He studied sociology and economics at the University of Moscow (1921-28) and joined Turkish Communist Party in the 1920s.

After his return to Turkey in 1928 without a visa Hikmet wrote articles for newspapers and periodicals, film scripts and plays. From the age of 14 he had written poems. Because of his unauthorized reentry, he was sentenced to a prison term but pardoned in 1935 in a general amnesty. In 1938 the author was condemned to prison for 28 years and four months for anti-Nazi and anti-Franco activities. Hikmet spent the following 12 years in different prisons.

In the Hikmet Kivilcimli papers (partly in old Turkish handwriting): personal notes on the trial against Turkish naval cadets, Nazim Hikmet and Hikmet Kivilcimli in 1938;

During this period he married Münevver Andac - it was his second marriage. Hikmet was released in 1950 because of international protests and escaped in a small boat from his home country due to fear of an attempt on his life. His wife and his son, Memet, were not allowed to leave the country.

After losing his Turkish citizenship, lived in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

In 1950 he shared with Pablo Neruda the Soviet Union's International Peace Prize.

Hikmet became a Polish citizen and lived from 1951 his remaining days in Sofia, Warsaw, and finally in Moscow. In spite of his heart disease and warnings of his doctors and he also travelled in Africa, China, Cuba, and spent time in Paris, Rome, and Prague. In Moscow he married the third time. Many of Hikmet's poems, written during the years of exile, are nostalgic.

In Warsaw in 1958 he wrote about platans, "white houses" and "an autumn morning in a wine yard" - there are no wine yards in Warsaw and the city is not white. A poem about Donau from the same year brings his thoughts to Istanbul.

Broken in heath, he died on June 3, 1963 in Moscow. Just a few months before his death Hikmet had written a poem, in which he bids his farewell to his neighbors in his Moscow apartment building and ponders over how his coffin is transported down from the fourth floor.

"I mean you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you will plat olives -
and not so they'll be left for your children either,
but because even though you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weights heavier."
(from 'On Living')


Yasamak sakaya gelmez,
buyuk bir ciddiyetle yasayacaksin
bir sincap gibi mesela,
yani, yasamanin disinda ve otesinde hicbir sey beklemeden,
yani butun isin gucun yasamak olacak

Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.

Hikmet's first poems appeared in the 1920s.

In 1936 appeared The Epic of Sheik Dedreddin, which depicted a 15th century revolutionary religious leader in Anatolia.

Among his later works is the five-volume MEMLEKETIMDEN INSAN MANZARALARI (1966-67), a 20 000 line epic.

In his early poems Hikmet showed the influence of Mayakovsky, although he never used completely free verse. Hikmet had met the Russian writer in Moscow and worked with his at the satirical Metla theater. Typical for Hikmet's poems was change of metre and unregular use of rhymes. Hikmet combined Turkish traditional poetry with avant-gardist trends, and influenced deeply Turkish literature in the 1920s and 1930s.

As a playwright Hikmet applied the techniques of Brecht's epic theater. His Marxist-inspired dramas enjoyed success in the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Hikmet's first published play,

In 1932 he made a strong impact with his innovative play KAFATAS. Hikmet's dramatic works that year include The House of the Deceased (1932) and By the Fireside (1932), a verse drama about a poet's love.

He consolidated his reputation with UNUTULAN ADAM (1935), which demonstrated the dubiousness of fame and the frequent discrepancy between one's success in the world and one's unhappiness in private life.

Ferhad and Sirin (wr. 1945) was based on a Persian love legend. It was adapted into a three-act ballet and the story was filmed as a Turco-Russian coproduction. IVAN IVANOVIC VAR MIYDI YOK MUYDU (1956) was written shortly after Stalin's death and attacked the cult of personality and the new hierarchy that replaced the old. The play was first time performed Moscow and compared to Mayakovsky's The Bedbug. Sword of Damocles (1974) depicted the threat of nuclear holocaust, and SABAHAT (1977) revealed the exploitation of the hardworking people by the civic leaders.

In France and Greece, Hikmet's poetry and plays gained a wide popularity, and in 1970 he received critical praise from some prominent American poets. In Turkey the ban on Hikmet's works was lifted in 1964. A.vast numbers of books and articles about the author and his work were published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The multivolume complete works project, started in 1968, has remained incomplete by early 1980s. The only complete edition of his poems have appeared in Bulgaria in the 1960s.

Hikmet did not consider his theater works to be of major importance, but during the years in Moscow he met such Russian theater geniuses as Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Vachtangov and Tairov. The main themes in his plays are loneliness, betrayal and the evils of capitalism. Also many of his poems have been dramatized and staged. In 1972 Paris's Théâtre de la Liberté offered a production called Légendes à Venir, which was a mixture of the author's poems and Aziz Nesin's short stories.

Hikmet's novels do not compare in quality to his poetry and plays. His collection of tales, SEWVDALI BULUT (1968), and his anthology of newspaper columns, IT ÜRÜR KERVAN YÜRÜR (1965), represent his better production. Hikmet's three volumes of collected letters, posthumously published, reveal the author as a master letter writer.

For further reading: Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999, vol. 2); Modern Turkish Poetry, ed. by Feyyaz Kayacan Fergar (1992); Contemporary Turkish Writers by Louis Mitler (1988); McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama, ed. by Stanley Hochman (1984); Contemporary Turkish Literature, ed. by Talat S. Halman (1982); The Poetry of Nazim Hikmet by M. Dohan (1975, in Lotus: Afro-Asian Writing, 26) - Turkin kirjallisuus, toim. Mervi Nousiainen (1997) - Other famous Turkish writers: Yashar Kemal, Melih Cevdet Anday, Haldun Taner, Aziz Nesin, Oktay Akbal, Fakir Baykurt. - Suom.: Hikmetiltä on myös suomenettu runovalikoima Punainen omena (1972) ja Puut kasvavat vielä (1978). - For futher information: Nazim Hikmet - (web site created by Saime Göksu and Edward Timms)

Selected works:
Works of Nazim Hikmet:


835 Satir (835 verses) 1929
Jokand ile Si-Ya-U (Mona Lisa and Si-Ya-U) 1929 (Fr., La Jaconde et
Si Ya Ou, Paris, Temps Actuel, 1978)
Varan 3 (That makes 3) 1930
1 + 1 = bir (1+1=one) 1930
Sesini kaybeden sehir (The city that lost its voice) 1931
Gece gelen telgraf (The telgram that came at night) 1932
Benerci kendini nicin o"ldu"rdu"? (Why did Banarji kill himself?) 1932
(Fr., Pourquoi Benerji s'est-il suicide'? Paris, Minuit, 1980)
Taranta Babu'ya mektuplar (Letters to Taranta Babu) 1935
Portreler (Portraits) 1935
Simnavna Kadisi Oglu Seyh Bedrettin destani (The legend of Sheykh
Bedrettin, son of the Judge of Simnavna) 1936
Kurtulus Savasi destani (The legend of the War of Independence) 1965
Saat 21-22 siirleri (Poems of 9-10 o'clock) 1965
S_u 1941 yilinda (In this year of 1941) 1965 (A seperate edition of
vol. 3 of the above collection)
Dort hapishaneden (From four prisons) 1966
Rubailer (Quatrains) 1966
Yeni siirler (New poems) 1966
Memleketimden insan manzaralari (Human panaromas from my country) 1966-67
Son siirleri (Last poems) 1970
The Moscow Symphony and other poems. Chicago, Swallow Press, 1971
The day before tomorrow. South Hinskey, England, Carcanet Press, 1972
That wall, London. Socialist Artists, 1973
Your hands, London. Socialist Artists, 1973
Things I didn't know I loved. New York, Persea Books, 1973
Un e'trange voyage. Paris, Maspero, 1980
Anthologie poetique. Paris, Temps Actuels, 1982
Human landscapes. New York, Persea Series of Poetry in Translation,
Les romantiques. Paris, Temps Actuels, 1982


Kafatasi (The skull) 1932
Bir o"lu" evi (The house of a dead man) 1932
Unutulan adam (The forgotten man) 1935
Ferhad ile Sirin (Ferhat and Shirin) 1965
Sabahat, 1965
Inek (The cow) 1965
Ocakbasinda ve Yolcu (By the fire and The traveller) 1966 (two works)
Yusuf ile Menofis (Joseph and Menophis) 1967


Kan konusmaz (Blood doesn't tell) 1965
Yasamak guzel sey, be kardesim (It's great to be alive, brother) 1967
Demokles'in kilici (The sword of Damocles) 1959

Anecdotes, stories:

It u"ru"r, kervan yu"ru"r (The dog barks but the karavan walks on) 1965
Sevdali bulut (The melancholy cloud) 1963 (Fr., Le nuage amoreux, Paris,
Maspero, 1979)
Kemal Tahir'e mapushaneden mektuplar (Letters to Kemal Tahir from
Prison) 1968 (De l'espoir a` vous faire pleurer de rage; lettres
de prison a` Kemal Tahir, Paris, F. Maspero, 1973)
Oglum, canim, evladim Memedim (My son, my life, my child, Mehmet) 1968
Va-Nu^`lara mektuplar (Letters to the Vala Nurettin family) 1970
Nazim ile Piraye (Nazim and Piraia) 1976

Collected works:

Tum eserleri (Nazim Hikmet series) vol.1 Selected Poems; done into
English by Taner Baybars, London, Cape, 1967

About Nazim Hikmet:

Va-Nu^. Bu dunyadan Nazim gecti (Nazim passed through this world) 1965
Orhan Kemal. Nazim Hikmet'le u"c_ bucuk yil (Three and half years with
Nazim Hikmet) 1965
A. Kadir. 1938 Harpokul olayi ve Nazim Hikmet (The 1938 Military
Academy Incident and Nazim Hikmet) 1966
Kemal Sulker. Nazim Hikmet dosyasi (The file on Nazim Hikmet) 1967
Hilmi Yucebas. Nazim Hikmet Turk basininda (Nazim Hikmet in the Turkish
Press) 1967
Kemal Sulker. Nazim Hikmet'in polemikleri (Polemics of Nazim Hikmet)
Cetin Yetkin. Siyasal iktiday sanata karsi (Political power against art)
1970 In commemoration of Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963). London, Union of
Socialist Artists, 1975.

Comtemporary Turkish Writers - A Critical Bio-Bibliography
Louis Mitler - Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, 1988.

Another bio 2
Portrays a writer who combined political courage with artistic creativity, even under prison conditions.

Born in Salonika in 1902, he was descended from a cosmopolitan Ottoman family. It was the turmoil of the First World War and the Allied occupation of Istanbul that inspired him to start writing poetry. After escaping to Ankara at the age of nineteen to join the anti-imperialist resistance, he was advised by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) to write 'poetry with a purpose'. But it was in Moscow during the 1920s that he found his mission, drawing inspiration from the artistic experiments of Mayakovsky and Meyerhold as well as the political vision of Lenin.

Returning to Istanbul in 1928. he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish avant-garde, publishing an exhilarating series of poems, polemics and plays. He was not only a communist committed to revolution, but a romantic who was passionately in love: with his country and his people, with nature and the women to whom he dedicates his finest poetry. Repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs, he was sentenced in 1938 to twenty-eight years imprisonment on trumped-up charges of organizing a revolt in the armed forces. His epic poem Human Landscapes was written during a ten-year period in Bursa Prison.

From 1949, an international campaign centred in Paris helped to secure Nazim's release under an amnesty in July 1950. In November 1950, at a congress in Warsaw, he was officially awarded a peace prize, which he shared with Paul Robeson and Pablo Neruda. Since he was not permitted to leave Turkey to attend the conference, Neruda received the prize on Nazim's behalf.

Nazim's position during this period is summed up by a poem ironically entitled 'A Sad State of freedom'. The Turkish people, he wrote with bitter irony, are free to see their country turned into an American air base, free to be drafted to fight in Korea. He himself was under constant police surveillance. And although he was now forty-eight years old and in poor health, the authorities decided to conscript him to military service.

Having failed to persuade the authorities to be exempt from the military service and the anti-Communist climate of the Cold War led him to fear further imprisonment, he fled to the Soviet Union in 1951, and during the following decade he used his literary prestige to campaign against the spread of nuclear weapons, He became a prominent member of the World Peace Council sharing a platform with Sartre and Picasso, Neruda, Ehrenburg and Aragon.

With his most poignant poem 'Japanese fisherman' he protested against the testing of the Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll in 1954. He remained remarkably creative, becoming involved in the theatre and broadcasting and entering into further relationships which find their echo in poignant lyrics and love letters, as well as political poetry of great imaginative power. His work, although banned in Turkey, was translated into many other languages. In exile he became the poet laureate of the Soviet-backed peace movement, which reflected his lifelong commitment to internationalism. His satire on Stalinism, Ivan Ivanovich, which was banned by the Soviet authorities, led Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, to identify him with 'romantic communism'. His poetry celebrates the vitality of struggle rather than the authority of any system, and his writings retain their vitality precisely because they challenge the historical determinism of his day.

Approaching the age of sixty, he fell in love and married again, but his health had been undermined by long years in prison, and his late poetry is permeated by intimations of death and longing for his country. He died in Moscow in June 1963.

Another bio 3

where his father was in the foreign service, Hikmet grew up in Istanbul. His mother was an artist, and his pasha grandfather wrote poetry; through their circle of friends Hikmet was introduced to poetry early; publishing first poems at seventeen. He attended the Turkish naval academy, but during the Allied occupation of Istanbul following the First World War, he left to teach in eastern Turkey. In 1922, after a brief first marriage ended in annulment, he crossed the border and made his way to Moscow, attracted by the Russian Revolution and its promise of social justice. At Moscow Univ- ersity he got to know students and artists from all over the world. Hikmet returned to Turkey in 1924, after the Turkish War of Independence, but was soon arrested for working on a leftist magazine. In 1926 he managed to escape to Russia, where he continued writing poetry and plays, met Mayakovsky, and worked with Meyerhold. A general amnesty allowed him to return to Turkey in 1928. Since the Communist Party had been outlawed by then, he found himself under constant surveillance by the secret police and spent five of the next ten years in prison on a variety of trumped-up charges. In 1933, for example, he was jailed for putting illegal posters, but when his case came to trial, it was thrown out of court for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, between 1929 and 1936 he published nine books - five collections and four long poems- that revolutionized Turkish poetry, flout- ing Ottoman literary conventions and introducing free verse and colloquial diction. While these poems established him as a new major poet, he also published several plays and novels and worked as a bookbinder, proofreader, journalist, translator, and screenwriter to support an extended family that included his second wife, her two children, and his widowed mother.

Then, in January 1938 he was arrested for inciting the Turkish armed forces to revolt and sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison on the grounds that military cadets were reading his poems, particularly ``The Epic of Sheik Bedrettin.'' Published in 1936, this long poem based on a fifteenth-century peasant rebellion against Ottoman rule was his last book to appear in Turkey during his lifetime. His friend Pablo Neruda relates Hikmet's account of how he was treated after his arrest: ``Accused of attempting to incite the Turkish navy into rebellion, Nazim was condemned to the punishments of hell. The trial was held on a warship. He told me he was foced to walk on the ship's bridge until he was too weak to stay on his feet, then they stuck him into a section of the latrines where the excrement rose half a meter above the floor. My brother poet felt his strength failing him: my tormentors are keeping an eye on me, they want to watch me suffer. His strength came back with pride. He began to sing, low at first, then louder, and finally at the top of his lungs. He sang all the songs, all the love poems he could remeber, his own poems, the ballads of the peasants, the people's battle hymns. He sang everything he knew. Ans so he vanquished the filth and his torturers.*'' In prison, Hikmet's Futurist-inspired, often topical early poetry gave way to poems with a more direct manner and a more serious tone. Enclosed in letters to his family and friends, these poems were subsequently circulated in manuscript. He not only composed some of his greatest lyrics in prison, but produced, between 1941 and 1945, his epic masterpiece, Human Landscapes. He also learned such crafts as weaving and woodworking in order to support himself and his family. In the late Forties, while still in prison, he divorced his second wife and married for a third time. In 1949 an international committee, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, and Jean Paul Sartre, was formed in Paris to campaign for Hikmet's release, and in 1950 he was awarded the World Peace Prize. The same year, he went on an eighteen-day hunger strike, despite a recent heart attack, and when Turkey's first democratically elected government came to power, he was released in a general amnesty.

Within a year, however, his persecution had resumed full force. Simone de Beauvoir recalls him describing the events of that time: ``He told me how a year after he came out of prison there were two attempts to murder him (with cars, in the narrow streets of Istanbul) And then they tried to make him do the military service on the Russian frontier: he was fifty. The doctor, a major, said to him: ``Half an hour standing in the sun and you're a dead man. But I shall give you a certificate of health.'' So then he escaped, across the Bosphorus in a tiny motorboat on a stormy night -when it was calm the straits were too well guarded. He wanted to reach Bulgaria, but it was impossible with a high sea running. He passed a Rumanian cargo ship, he began to circle it, shouting his name. They saluted him, they waived handkerchiefs, but they didn't stop. He followed them and went on circling them in the height of the storm; after two hours they stopped, but without picking him up. His motor stalled, he thought he was done for. At last they hauled him aboard; they had been telephoning to Bucharest for instructions. Exhausted, half dead, he staggered into the officers' cabin; there was an enormous photograph of him with the caption: SAVE NAZIM HIKMET. The most ironical part, he added, was that he had already been at liberty for a year.**''

Taken to Moscow, he was given a house in the writer's colony of Peredelkino outside the city; the Turkish government denied his wife and child permission to join him. Although he suffered a second heart attack in 1952, Hikmet traveled widely during his exile, visiting not only Eastern Europe but Rome, Paris, Havana, Peking, and Tanganyika: ``I traveled through Europe, Asia, and Africa with my dream / only the Americans didn't give me the visa.'' Stripped of his Turkish citizenship in 1959, he chose to become a the citizen of Poland, explaining he had inherited his blue eyes and red hair from a Polish ancestor who was a seventeenth-century revolutionary. In 1959 he also remarried again. The increasingly breathless pace of his late poems -often unpunctuated and, toward the end, impatient even with line divisions- conveys a sense of time accelerating as he grows older and travels faster and farther than ever before in his life. During his exile his poems were regularly printed abroad, his ``Selected Poems'' was published in Bulgaria in 1954, and generous translations of his work subsequently appeared there and in Greece, Germany, Italy, and the USSR. He died of a heart attack in Moscow in June 1963.

After his death, Hikmet's books began to reappear in Turkey; in 1965 and 1966, for example, more than twenty of his books were published there, some of them reprints of earlier volumes and others works appearing for the first time. The next fifteen years saw the grdual publication of his eight volume ``Collected Poems,'' along with his plays, novels, letters, and even children's stories. At the same time, various selections of his poems went through multiple printings, and numerous biographies and critical studies of his poetry were published. But except for brief periods between 1965 and 1980, his work has been suppressed in his native country for the past half century. Since his death, major translations of his poetry hae continued to appear in England, France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain, and the United States; for example, Yannis Ritsos's Greek versions had gone through eight printings a of 1977, and Philippe Soupault's 1964 ``anthology'' was reissued in France as recently as 1982. And in 1983 alone, new translations of Hikmet's poems were published in French, German, and Russian. A collection of Hikmet's finest shorter poems in English translation, this book brings together for the first time -in substantially revised new versions- the better part of two earlier selections, the long-out-of-print ``Things I didn't know I loved'' and ``The Epic of Sheik Bedrettin,'' as well as a number of important lyrics previously published in magazines buthitherto uncollected.

Like Whitman, Hikmet speaks of himself, his country, and the world in the same breath. At once personal and public, his poetry records his life without reducing it to self-conciousness; he affirms reality of facts at the same time that he insists in the validity of his feelings. His human presence or the controlling figure of his personality - playful, optimistic, and capable of childlike joy- keeps his poems open, public, and committed to social and artistic change. And in the perfect oneness of his life and art, Hikmet emerges as a heroic figure. His early poems proclaim this unity as a faith: art is an event, he maintains, in social as well as literary history, and a poet's bearing in art is inseparable from his bearing in life. The rest of Hikmet's life gave him ample opportunity to act upon this faith and, in fact to deepen it. As Terrence Des Pres observes, Hikmet's ``exemplary life'' and ``special vision'' -``at once historical and timeless, Marxist and mystical'' - had unique consequences for his art: ``Simply because in his art and in his person Hikmet opposes the enemies of the human spirit in harmony with itself and the earth, he can speak casually and yet with a seriousness that most modern American poets never dream of attempting.***'' In a sense, Hikmet's prosecutors honored him by beieving a book of poems could incite the military to revolt; indeed, the fact that he was persecuted attests to the credibility of his belief in the vital importance of his art. Yet, the suffering his faith cost him -he never compromised in this life or art- is only secondary to the suffering that must have gone into keeping that faith. The circumstances of Hikmet's life are very much to the point, not only because he continually chose to remain faithful to his vision, but also because his life and art form a dramatic whole. Sartre remarked that Hikmet conceived of a human being as something to be created. In ihs life no less than in his art, Hikmet forged this new kind of person, whi was heroic by virtue of being a creator. This conception of the artist as a hero and of the hero as a creator saves art from becoming a frivolous activity in the modern world; as Hikmet's career dramatizes, poetry is a matter of life and death.

Mutlu Konuk 1993

(*) Memoirs, trans. Hardie St. Martin (New York; Penguin, 1978), pp. 195-196.
(**) Force of circumstance, trans. Richard Howard (New York; Putnam's, 1965), pp. 390-91.
(***) ``Poetry and Politics: The example of Nazim Hikmet,'' Parnassus 6 (Spring/ Summer 1978); 12,23.

Another bio 4

Nazim Hikmet (RAN)
Poet, playwright, novelist, memoirist
b., 1902 Salonica; d., June 3, 1963, Moscow
A fervent nationalist patriot, a socialist whose humanistic views tran- scended barriers of race and country, Nazim Hikmet is considered one of Turkey's very foremost modern poets . . . and yet for many years his works were banned in his native country and he himself suffered long exile.

Though he returned to Istanbul and began publishing his poetry in local journals, the Ankara Independence Tribunal sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor and exile ``in absentia'' in 1926 for one of his poems. Apprised of the sentence, Hikmet was able to flee to Russia, only to return in 1928, hoping to benefit from a general amnesty for political offenders. But immediately on his return he was emprisoned at Hopa and later sentenced to six years and six months of penal servitude. This sentence was shortened by a year and a half through another amnesty in 1933 on the tenth anniversary of the Republic. A period of freedom, publication and activity in local film studios was once more terminated by the decree of the Court of the Military Academy which sentenced Nazim Hikmet to 15 years for his supposed subversive activities among its student body while the Naval Academy Special Court added a sentence of 20 years for the same offense. Sentences delivered by the courts brought the total sentence to 61 years and 6 months. (Karaalioglu, Edebiyatimizda sair ve yazarlar, 1979, p.272)

On the accession of the Democratic Party in 1950, numerous lawyers and intellectuals petitioned the new goverment to include Nazim Hikmet's name in the political amnesty list. He was released from prison in 1950, but alarmed by threats against his life he fled once more, this time aboard a freighter bound for Rumania. He spent his remaining days as a political refugee in Poland, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, dying of a heart attack in Moscow where he is buried.

The influence of Nazim Hikmet on the young Turkish poets of his day was considerable both from an ideological perspective and from his blank verse and expressionistic poetry after the style of Mayakowski. In spite of the fact that none of his works were published or publicly sold between 1938 and the reestablishment of multi-party goverment in 1965, his poems printed outside the country have been circulated and read by the intervening generation.

Nazim Hikmet's plays, with the exception of ``Ferhad and Shirin'' which was revived in 1965, were rather less durable than his poetry and lacking in strong plot and characterizations.

His use of Turkish lyric, almost musical compositions, rescues his verse, even at its most didactic, from the level of propaganda.

The Japanese fisherman who was killed in the sea
By a cloud, was a young man.
From his friends, I heard this song
It was a bright yellow evening on the Pacific.

Forget me, my almond-eyed one.
Putrid, from a putrid egg
Would be the child you'd bear from me.
This ship is a black coffin.
This sea, a dead sea.
Oh, mankind, where are you?
Where are you?
(Japon Balikcisi [The Japanese Fisherman]. Secme Siirler, 1968)

Alongside of a universalism and compassion which finds its roots as much in Sufism as in ``socialist internationalism,'' Hikmet expressed a passionate love of his native country and ``sense of place,'' through a rare scheme of impressions evoking a land from which he was barred and in which he had been deprived of his liberty for much of his life.

I love my country . . .
I love my country . . .
I swung in its lofty trees, I lay in its prisons.
Nothing relieves my depression
Like the songs and tobacco of my country.
. . . and then my working, honest, brave people.
Ready to accept with the joy of a wondering child,
progressive, lovely, good,
half hungry, half full.
half slave . . .
(Memleketimi seviyorum [I love my country]. Secme Siirler, 1968)

Comtemporary Turkish Writers - A Critical Bio-Bibliography Louis Mitler - Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, 1988. p. 178-179.


If half my heart is here, doctor,
the other half is in China
with the army flowing
toward the Yellow River.
And, every morning, doctor,
every morning at sunrise my heart
is shot in Greece.
And every night, doctor,
when the prisoners are asleep and the infirmary is deserted,
my heart stops at a run-down old house
in Istanbul.
And then after ten years
I look at the night through the bars,
and despite the weight on my chest


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.

Yasamak sakaya gelmez,
buyuk bir ciddiyetle yasayacaksin
bir sincap gibi mesela,
yani, yasamanin disinda ve otesinde hicbir sey beklemeden,
yani butun isin gucun yasamak olacak.


He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman.
The woman's dream was of a miniature house
with a garden where honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house.

The giant loved like a giant,
and his hands were used to such big things
that the giant could not
make the building,
could not knock on the door
of the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
at that house.

He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman,
a mini miniature woman.
The woman was hungry for comfort
and tired of the giant's long strides.
And bye bye off she went to the embraces of a rich dwarf
with a garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house.

Now the blue-eyed giant realizes,
a giant isn't even a graveyard for love:
in the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house...

(translated by Richard McKane)

9-10 P.M. Poems

The most beautiful sea hasn't been crossed yet.
The most beautiful child hasn't grown up yet.
Our most beautiful days we haven't seen yet.
And the most beautiful words I wanted to tell you

Today is Sunday

Today is Sunday.
Today, for the first time,
they took me out into the sun
and for the first time in my life
I looked at the sky
amazed that it was so far
and so blue
and so wide.
I stood without moving
and then respectfully sat on the black earth,
pressed my back against the wall.
Now, not even a thought of dying,
not a thought of freedom, of my wife.
The earth, the sun and me ...
I am happy.

Lion in an Iron Cage

Look at the lion in the iron cage,
look deep into his eyes:
like two naked steel daggers
they sparkle with anger.
But he never loses his dignity
although his anger
comes and goes
goes and comes

You couldn't find a place for a collar
round his thick, furry mane.
Although the scars of a whip
still burn on his yellow back
his long legs
stretch and end
in the shape of two copper claws.
The hairs on his mane rise one by one
around his proud head.
His hatred
comes and goes
goes and comes ...

The shadow of my brother on the wall of the dungeon
up and down
up and down (1928)

click here for the MokumTV programm this week (in Dutch only)

MokumTV wordt niet gesubsidiëerd. Steun MokumTV voor het te laat is: Bankrekening tnv Stichting Mokum Plus Amsterdam.