Hikmet (RAN) (1902-1963)
He was born in
Salonica (1902). He completed his primary education in İstanbul at Göztepe Taşmektep,
primary section of Galatasaray High School (1914) and Nişantaşı Numune School,
and received his secondary education at Heybeliada Naval School (1918) where
he attended upon the recommendation of Naval Forces Commander Cemal Paşa, who
listened and very much admired his poem "The Words of a Naval Officer" that
he wrote when he was only 12. After graduating from the Naval School, Nâzım
Hikmet was assigned to Hamidiye Cruiser as a trainee deck officer, he caught
cold and pleurisy during a night watch (1919), and as he could not recover his
health, he was discharged from military as disabled (1920).
After leaving military,
being very sorry about the occupation of İstanbul, Nâzım Hikmet went to Anatolia
to participate in the National Struggle and served as a teacher at Bolu High
School for a short time (1921). The poet, interested in the Russian revolution,
went to Moscow from Batum after some time and studied economy and social science
at the Easter University (1922-1924). He joined Aydınlık magazine after his
return home, passed to Russia again when he was informed that a verdict of sentence
"in default" was given against him because of his poems published there, returned
to Turkey upon the enforcement of amnesty and kept under detention at Hopa prison
for sometime (1928).
Nâzım Hikmet then
settled in İstanbul, worked at various newspapers and magazines and film studios,
published his first poetry books and wrote his plays (1928-1932). Meanwhile,
he was arrested again and gained his freedom upon the amnesty law that was put
into effect due to the 10th year of the Republic. He worked as an
article writer and editor at Akşam, Son Posta and Tan newspapers with Orhan
Selim nickname (1933).
He was prosecuted
with the indictment that he made propaganda among the students of Army War Academy
and sentenced to 15 years by the Military Court of War Academy and subsequently
to 20 years by the Military Court of Naval Command, so as to be totally 35 years
and his sentence was reduced to 28 years and four months under articles 68 and
77 of Turkish Penal Code (1938). Following the great campaign launched by the
intellectuals to include him within the scope of the amnesty law introduced
after the Democrat Party came to power (1950), the jurists made recourse to
legal remedies and meanwhile, Nâzım Hikmet commenced a hunger strike in the
prison. Eventually, the remaining sentence of Nâzım Hikmet was excused and the
poet gained his freedom after 13 years of imprisonment.
A decree for military
service was taken for the poet, who could not find work and publish books after
being released, and Nâzım Hikmet, 50 years old and ill, was in a very hard condition.
Very afraid of being killed, the poet accepted the recommendation of Refik Erduran
(reputed playwright and journalist of later times) and left Turkey by getting
on a Romanian-flag vessel navigating in the Black Sea via a motorboat by his
Nâzım Hikmet died
in Moscow (3rd June 1963).
Nâzım Hikmet published his first poems that he wrote with syllabic meter in
magazines such as Yeni Mecmua, İnci, Ümit and Birinci Kitap, İkinci Kitap, etc.
published by Celal Sahir (Erozan). He won the first prize in the contest held
by Alemdar newspaper with his poem "Bir Dakika" (1920). Writing subsequently
in magazines such as Aydınlık, Resimli Ay, Hareket, Resimli Herşey and Her Ay,
Nâzım Hikmet could not publish anything after going to prison. However, during
1940s, some of his poems were published in socialist magazines such as Yeni
Edebiyat, Ses, Gün, Yürüyüş, Yığın, Baştan and Barış with the nicknames İbrahim
Sabri and Mazhar Lütfi or without signature. His Kuvâyı Milliye Destanı was
published in feuilletons in Havadis newspaper in İzmir (1949). Yön magazine
published that work (1965), reestablishing communication between Nâzım Hikmet
and his readers and broke the ring placed on the work of the poet.
835 Satır (1929), Jokond ile Si-Ya-U (1929), Varan 3 (1930), 1+1=1 (1930-with
Nail V.), Sesini Kaybeden Şehir (1931), Benerci Kendini Niçin Öldürdü (1932),
Gece Gelen Telgraf (1932), Taranta Babu'ya Mektuplar (1935), Simavna Kadısı
Oğlu Şeyh Bedrettin Destanı (1936), Kurtuluş Savaşı Destanı (1965), Saat 21-22
Şiirleri (1965-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları (1966-1967-Pub.
Prep. M. Fuat, 5 Volumes), Rubailer (1966-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Dört Hapishaneden
(1966-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Yeni Şiirler (1966-Pub. Prep. Dost Yayınevi), Son
Şiirleri (Pub. Prep. Habora Kitabevi), Tüm Eserleri (All Works) (1980-Pub. Prep.
A. Bezirci, 8 Volumes).
Kafatası (1943), Bir Ölü Evi Yahut Merhumun Hanesi (1932), Unutulan Adam (1935),
İnek (1965), Ferhat ile Şirin (1965), Enayi (1965), Sabahat (1966), Yusuf ile
Menofis (1967), İvan İvanoviç Var mıydı, Yok muydu (1985).
Kan Konuşmaz (1965), Yeşil Elmalar (1965), Yaşamak Güzel Şey Be Kardeşim (1966).
İt Ürür Kervan Yürür (1936-with Osman Selim nickname), Alman Faşizmi ve Irkçılığı
(1936), Milli Gurur (1936), Sovyet Demokrasisi (1936).
Kemal Tahir'e Hapishaneden Mektuplar (1968), Cezaevinden Memet Fuat'a Mektuplar
(1968), Bursa Cezaevinden Vâ-Nû'lara Mektuplar (1970), Nâzım'ın Bilinmeyen Mektupları
(1986-Letters with Adalet Cimcoz, Prep. Ş. Kurdakul), Piraye'ye Mektuplar (1988).
La Fontaine'den Masallar (1949-with the name Ahmet Oğuz Saruhan), Sevdalı Bulut
Nâzım Hikmet, who started writing poems at a very young age, wrote his first
poem on 3rd July 1913, when he was only 11: "Feryâd-ı Vatan". The
subject of this poem is the victory of Balkan War and the progress of the enemy
up to Çatalca. Stating that in the poems of Nâzım Hikmet written between 1913-1920
mostly personal subjects are handled, Asım Bezirci writes that particularly
the theme of love is dominant and they have a "melancholic air".
Vâ-Nû states that
Yahya Kemal, who was his instructor at Naval School and had sympathy to his
mother Celile Hanım, revised some of his early youth poems. The first published
poem of the poet is "Hâlâ Servilerde Ağlıyorlar mı?" published in the Yeni Mecmua
dated 3 October 1918 with the signature of Mehmet Nâzım. This poem was later
published in Ümid magazine with the same name and signature.
and loyalty to the historical past, these poems also demonstrate that the poet
started to become a master, did not have difficulty using the meter and was
tending to use a more pure Turkish.
TOWARDS A NEW
After going to
Anatolia and meeting with the problems of war on one hand and those of people
on the other and the realities that he could not differentiate sufficiently
until then, Nâzım Hikmet understood that he could not be contended with syllabic
and prosody meters and that he should lead towards a new poetry, a different
poetry. "I went to Anatolia. The people were skinny and combating against the
Greek armies with ancient weapons, with their hunger and their louse. I discovered
the people and their war. I was surprised, afraid, I loved them and perceived
that all these should be written. I perceived that new things, things that were
not expressed until then should be expressed through poetry. In this sense,
I was first interested in finding a new form for this new essence. I started
from the meter. I tried meter not at the end of lines, but one at the end and
one at the beginning."
Nâzım Hikmet had
gained a new world vision in Russia and his attitude towards events and human
relations had changed radically. The poet was engaged to Marxism and he had
adopted dialectic and historical materialism. However, he could not yet completely
save himself from the old shapes. For example, his poem called "Kitâb-ı Mukaddes"
published in Yeni Hayat magazine in 1922 criticizes the religions and thus gives
clue about transformation of content. An attempt to surpass syllabic meter is
also observed in this poem. Nâzım Hikmet says that he wrote the poem with lines
consisting of 7 and 14 syllables.
Desiring to form
a new poetry, Nâzım Hikmet saw a poem of Maiakowski in a newspaper at Batum
and was enchanted from the form of this poem that he could not understand the
content of, as he did not know Russian. Nâzım Hikmet tells the story of "Açların
Gözbebekleri", his first poem written with free verse as follows: "We passed
from the starvation area while coming to Moscow from Batum. What I have seen
touched me much. But I wanted to scream that even such a starvation could not
destroy the revolution. In Moscow, I attempted to write a poem on starvation
with syllabic meter and various syllable combinations of this meter; I could
not succeed. Then the form of the poem that I had seen in Batum appeared before
my eyes. I decided that this could not be French free verse that I knew very
well, I considered that this was a brand-new thing and the poet thought in this
way as waves, and I wrote 'Açların Gözbebekleri'." This poem is a very different
poem with its different use of letters and its order of broken lines.
Although it was
asserted that Nâzım Hikmet directly imitated Maiakowski's poem, the seriousness
of such allegations is disputable. In fact Nâzım Hikmet himself states that
he saw Maiakowski's poem, but this was only seeing in these years. He tells
the followings: "In the beginning I did not understand anything from it, because
my Russian was bad. I can not say that I now understand it completely. But I
was imitating his lines in the form of steps. The common aspects of Maiakowski's
poem and mine: Firstly, poetry and prose; secondly, surpassing the gap between
various kinds (lyrical, critical, etc.); third, introduction of political discourse
in poetry. On the other hand, we are using different forms with him. Maiakowski
is my mentor, but I am not writing like he does."
He writes more
interesting things in a letter that he sent to Kemal Tahir: "I found the poems
of Maiakowski published in 940 and gathered in one single volume. I am reading
them. I shall confess to you, but let this remain a secret between us, that
I am getting to know Maiakowski new. I mean, except one or two poems that I
listened from himself, I am reading his published poems for the first time.
And unfortunately I assure you that I am seeing his views on art also for the
first time. However, the rule that similar conditions give rise to similar ideas
was realized here with its rough lines. We had made the same thing with Maiakowski.
of course he made it better than me in many aspects, but there is no need to
be modest; in some aspects I made it better. This is so."
INSTRUMENT TO ORCHESTRA
Nâzım Hikmet proves
that he actually founded a modernist poetry with 835 Satır, his first book that
he published after returning to Turkey from Russia (1929). There are obviously
the influences of Russian futurists and constructivists on the poems in this
book. This influence is seen at first sight in his poem "San'at Telakkisi".
The basic elements
of futurist art, such as admiration of technology and speed, externalization
of sensitivity and appraisal of the chaos of the city and crowd are also defended
in his poem "Orkestra".
the machine, or technology, if I express it with a more extensive word, is also
stated in his poem "Makinalaşmak".
The formal characteristics
of the poems of Nâzım Hikmet belonging to this period may be taken under several
1- Visual Characteristics:
Nâzım has completely demolished the traditional line structure. The poems illustrate
a step structure. Words are cut in the middle and sometimes reduced to one syllable.
The poet writes
some part of his poems in upper case letters and uses different letters and
fonts. Therefore, the page setting itself appears as a structure. The page has
gained an almost independent entity with words, letters and lines. The appearance/form
rather than the meaning of the poem is highlighted.
However, one point
should particularly be stressed: Nâzım Hikmet does not use visual elements merely
for a game purpose. The fiction of the poem is always adjusted to the essence:
Because the literature understanding of Nâzım finds its simplest expression
in the principle "the essence determines the form". For this reason, both the
form and the selected words of for example the poem "Makinalaşmak" were selected
according to the content. The words "trrrum, trak, tiki tak" are aimed at apprehending
the mechanical sound. The greatest difference between him and Ercümend Behzad,
who used the same methods to some extent, can be observed here. Because, as
Ercümend Behzad can not sufficiently ensure unity of form/content, his poetry
is always lacking at the level of either content or form. Moreover, as I will
mention later, Nâzım Hikmet succeeds in giving a direction to its poetry, but
the poetry of Ercümend Behzad does not have any direction. The poet does not
find anything at the end of the experience; everything is always in the state
of a Potential power in that poetry.
2- Sound Characters:
The poems of Nâzım Hikmet in the period between 1929-1932 are, as he himself
emphasizes, works based on the literal orchestration of the word. The length/shortness
of lines, ways of breaking of the words, choice of rhymes, repetitions and the
use of prosody and syllabic meters completely reflect the melodic structure
of a polyphonic piece of music.
Moreover, it should
be reminded that the visual elements and sound elements are used by Nâzım Hikmet
always together, in order to make the whole, the structure evident and a balance
is established between them. Let us consider the poem "Bahri Hazer": Here, a
boat just about to sink and the sailor struggling waves are described. This
poem also constitutes a competent first example of the cinematography method
that Nâzım Hikmet used in his masterpiece Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları as
well. Furthermore, that of talking film. Because here, the image has completed
unity with sound. The distance between the point that Nâzım Hikmet carried free
verse in terms of visual and sound effects and possibilities and the point that
Ercümend Behzad carried it is indisputably evident. Whatever the allegations
of Ercümend Behzad on this subject.
3- Complex Techniques:
A quotation from Nâzım Hikmet: "The thing that relatively differentiates
literature branches such as verse, novel, story, and others from each other
is content, air, depth, difference of scale, that is to say, their service in
the areas of thought and sense. (...) The composition and technique of new verse,
which is the urban verse, has become more complex." Stating that both poetry
and novel can handle the same content and event and that the composition of
poetry has become more complex, Nâzım Hikmet tells the following on the structure
of his own poetry: "Both melody and harmony. Both rhyme and rhymelessness, both
'master line' and 'whole'. Both solo violin and the orchestra. That is to say,
dynamic forms and scales suitable for the poetry that should reflect the reality
with its past, present and future and the active human in this reality in its
'internal' and 'external' world through all its complexity and motion."
As it is seen,
suggesting to give reality in the dimensions of past, present and future, Nâzım
Hikmet made use of complex techniques starting from his initial works: Namely,
of verse and prose, form of play and scenario, and novel fiction. For example,
in Jokond ile Si-Ya-U, the poet used section titles such as "Paris Telsizinin
Haberleri", "Muharririn Not Defterinden" and "Jokond'un Not Defterinden", and
placed sections of mutual dialogs and prose in Benerci Kendini Niçin Öldürdü.
These are the applications
that were neither seen nor thought of in the Turkish poetry until then. Ahmet
Haşim says the followings about 835 Satır: "The poet plays the strings of a
strange instrument which is really odd but the harmony of which is really unique,
standing against the blue of the sky as a form like a statue. Nâzım Hikmet Bey
did not invent his style himself, poems in this form are written all around
the world now. Nâzım Hikmet Bey is a great new poet of us who understood this
style, adapted it to Turkish and succeeded in making it take roots in the soil
of this climate." Yakup Kadri writes the followings: "835 Satır is the first
line of the revolution in Turkish poetry, even in Turkish language. Nâzım Hikmet
is running by yelling hot and strange words on a rearing up (Iron Horse) with
bolt upright manes by upsetting all the verse rules and meter systems that we
were accustomed to since even Aşık Paşa and by breaking the borders of Turkish
dictionary. He is not only a literature revolutionary who marked a new epoch
in Turkish poetry, but also a poet type that we are not accustomed to see at
Stating that the
Russian futurists like Maiakowski and Klebnikov have three major purposes of
"1- rescuing poetry from metaphysical abstractions and putting it into a state
to word the industrial and political realities of contemporary life, 2- abandoning
outmoded associations, images, senses, thoughts and forms acknowledged as 'beautiful'
in general, 3- creating a brand new language freed from crusted associations",
Selâhattin Hilâv writes: "Nâzım Hikmet is indirectly within the leading art
and poetry trends as regards his starting point. It is seen that the leading
poetry understandings of our century combine as opened to a certain direction
and as surpassed in his work bearing an unlimited richness."
Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları
This work of Nâzım Hikmet, published in five volumes, constitutes the peak
of his poetry. Breaking off from his old sectarian attitude, Nâzım can be said
to have almost accomplished in this work the targets that he declared in an
interview made with him after the publication of Şeyh Bedrettin: "I want to
reach a realism that gives the reality in poetry with all its complexity, its
past, present and future elements and in motion. The realism of many of my writings
is unilateral. Therefore, they most of the time have an attitude of a 'propaganda'
screaming in excess. My conceptions in terms of the reflection of the sight
and understanding of the world in the art rather than in terms of the sight
and understanding of the world are not much."
Aiming to present
the human/social view of Turkey during a certain period of time by relating
it with the international formation surrounding this specific geography as well,
Nâzım presents Manzaralar by reasonably saying "the book is not a poetry book"
and by saying "I will not write poems any more", he demonstrates how much the
new way that he found impressed him. Telling that he surpassed the "duality
of verse/prose" observed in his previous studies, in Jokond, Benerci, Taranta
Babu and Bedrettin, Nâzım states that the book is the "unity" of the elements
of verse, prose, drama and scenario, "these very contrast elements".
Nâzım Hikmet explains
his preplanning regarding this multi-form, multi-purpose and multi-meaning work
of him, which surpassed even the intellectual, fictional and narrative limits
of his book Aragon'un Paris Köylüsü, that was considered to have actually made
a revolution within the surrealist literature in those years, as follows: "1)
I wish the reader shall have passed a great crowd full of plenty of persons
after having finished 12.000 lines, 2) I wish the concrete expression of this
human crowd tells the reader the social status of Turkey during a certain historical
period by means of Turkish people in a certain period, who are members of various
classes, 3) I wish the state of the world surrounding Turkish society is understood
at a certain period on the background, 4) I wish the question of where we are
coming from, where we are now and where we are going to are replied to the maximum
possible extent within my field"
It is evident
that such a plan can not be realized through poetry or at the level of mere
poetic discourse. However, stating that even in the case of utilizing a multi-form
technique, this plan may face the danger of schematism, Nâzım Hikmet decided
to "put on the screen" around 300 primary and secondary characters as he suggested
in a way that "some remain till the end", within the framework of this besieging
1902 : He was born in Salonica on 15th January.
1913 : He writes his first poem titled "Feryad-ı Vatan". He starts to attend
school at Galatasaray Sultani.
1914 : He passes to Nişantaşı 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 Ağlıyorlar mı".
1920 : He has to leave several months prior to his graduation from the Naval
School for health reasons. İstanbul 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 Aydınlık 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 İstanbul Penal Court in his default because of the
"Vienna Conference" that he had attended. He is sentenced to three months of
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 İstanbul.
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 Satır" is
published. Others follow it.
1930 : A lawsuit is lodged against his poem "Sesini Kaybeden Şehir". He is acquitted
by the Court of Appeal.
1931 : Once more a lawsuit is lodged against his books "Sesini Kaybeden Şehir"
and "Varan 2" with "1+1=1", "835 Satır" and "Jokond Si-Ya-U". He is acquitted
1932 : His play "Kafatası" is staged at İstanbul 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 Paşa,
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 Kadısı Oğlu Şeyh Bedrettin Destanı" 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 İnsan Manzaraları" 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 Nâzım by publishing
an article with the title "Tevfik Fikret ve Nâzım Hikmet" in Vatan newspaper.
1950 : "Campaigns for Freedom for Nâzım" are launched by various institutions
at home and abroad. Upon the closing of the parliament without introducing the
Amnesty Law in its agenda, Nâzım commences a hunger strike on 8th
April. On the same day, he is taken to İstanbul Paşakapısı 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 "Nâzım
Hikmet" is published. His mother Celile Hanım commences a hunger strike on 9th
May and poets Orhan Veli, Melih Cevdet and Oktay Rıfat 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 Aşk Masalı"
is staged in Moscow. The staging of his other plays follow.
1958 : He goes to Paris. He meets many writers and artists including Aragon
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. İlya Ehrenburg coordinates
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.