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AHMET MİDHAT EFENDİ

Journalist, storywriter and novelist (b. 1844, İstanbul - d. 28 December 1912). He used the pen names Coşkun and Mehmet Cevdet as well. In his life he always encountered financial difficulties starting from his childhood when he lost his father. He completed his primary and secondary education in Vidin and Niş, where his elder brother worked as a civil servant. He improved his French in Ruse, started writing in Tuna newspaper and was promoted as a chief writer in a short time (1869). With his articles he drew the attention of the Governor of the Danube, Mithat Paşa who became his benefactor. When Mithat Paşa was appointed as the Governor of Baghdad, he took Ahmed Midhat with him.
When Ahmet Midhat was in Baghdad, he worked as the director of Zevra newspaper and wrote Hâce-i Evvel and Kıssadan Hisse, which were his first works. He returned to İstanbul in 1871 upon the death of his elder brother who was working as the Governor of Basra. He had to work hard to support his large family. He converted a room in his house in Tahtakale to a printing office. He published his articles in Ceride-i Havadis newspaper; meanwhile he printed his new books in this printing office with the help of his family. He was exiled to Rhodes (1873) because of an article he wrote in the review he published called Dağarcık (1873). He worked as the editor of Takvim-i Vakayi newspaper and as the director of the State Printing House in 1877.

In 1877, he started publishing Tercüman-ı Hakikat newspaper, which was one of the most long-published newspapers of the Turkish press. He wrote a lot of novels and plays in Rhodes where he stayed for three years. He returned to İstanbul when Sultan Abdülaziz, who exiled him, was taken down off the throne. He refrained from writing political articles that would provoke the government during the period of Abdülhamid II. With this attitude, he received support from the palace. He became Chief Clerk of the Quarantine Office in 1885 and second chairman of the Board of Health Affairs in 1895. He worked as a university lecturer of history, the history of religion and philosophy after 1909.

Midhat Efendi wrote more than two hundred works comprising stories, novels, plays and research. That he tried to give information on every subject was criticized, but that he could give pleasure to his readers was appreciated. Ahmet Midhat, who was of the opinion that in literary works it was possible to attain original discourse by starting to imitate the West, wrote works which defended Islam against Christianity and which criticized the opinions of western philosophers. Ahmet Midhat’s novel Müşâhedat (Witness), as well as Nabızade Nazım’s story called Karabibik (Karabibik) is one of the first naturalist essays. However, Ahmet Midhat also criticized the naturalism of Zola severely. He did not criticize the naturalist attitude but the lack of morality, of which he never lost his concern. He prioritized being didactic in his works. For instance, he described the characteristics of women that should be predominant in society with the names of four female characters in his book called Felsefe-i Zenân (Philosophy of Women): Akıle (Intellectual), Fazıla (Virtuous), Kamile (Mature) and Zekiye (Clever).

WORKS:

SHORT STORY: Kıssadan Hisse (From Tale to Moral, 1870), Letâif-i Rivâyât (The Tradition of Anecdotes, 25 articles and 30 stories, 1870-94), Durûb-ı Emsâl-i Osmaniye Hikemiyatını Tasvir (Describing The Reasons of Ottoman Proverbs, 1872).

NOVEL: Hasan Mellah (Hasan Mellah, 1874), Dünyaya İkinci Geliş (The Second Coming into The World, 1874), Hüseyin Fellah (Hüseyin Fellah, 1875), Felatun Bey'le Rakım Efendi (Felatun Bey and Rakım Efendi 1875-1906), Karı Koca Masalı (The Tale of a Wife and Husband, 1875), Paris'te Bir Türk (A Turk in Paris, 1876), Süleyman Musli (Süleyman Musli, simplified with the name Süleyman Musul, 1971), Çengi (Public Dancing Girl, 1877; new edition by Mustafa Miyasoğlu, 2003), Yeryüzünde Bir Melek (An Angel on the World, 1878), Henüz On Yedi Yaşında (Just Seventeen, 1880), Karnaval (Carnival, 1880), Vah (What a Pity, 1881), Acâîb-i Âlem (Stranger of the World, 1881), Dürdâne Hanım (Dürdane Hanım, 1881), Cellat (The Executioner, 1883), Esrâr-ı Cinâyât (The Secret of Murders, 1883), Hayret (Astonishment, 1884), Haydut Montori (The Bandit Montori, 1887), Arnavutlar-Solyatlar (The Albanian-The Soliats, 1887), Demir Bey (Demir Bey, 1887), Gürcü Kızı (The Georgian Girl, 1888), Müşahedât (Witnesses, 1890), Papazdaki Esrar (Mystery of the Priest, 1890), Hayal ve Hakikat (Imagination and Reality, 1891), Ahmed Metin ve Şirzad (Ahmed Metin and Şirzad, 1890), Taaffüf (Morality, 1895), Gönüllü (The Volunteer, 1896), Eski Mektuplar (Old Letters, 1897), Jön Türk (Young Turk, 1908).

PLAY: Açıkbaş (Bareheaded, 1874), Ahz-i SârYâhut Avrupa'nın Eski Medeniyeti (Revenge or the Old Civilization of Europe, 1874), Hükm-i Dil (The Decision of the Heart, 1874), Zuhur-i Osmaniyan (The Ascend of the Ottomans, 1877), Çerkes Özdenleri (Ciracassian Pendants, 1883), Eyvah (Oh My God!, 1884).

THOUGHT-RESEARCH: Kâinat (The Universe, world history, 15 books, 1871-81), Üss-i İnkılap (Revolution Base, about the time of Abdülaziz, 3 volumes, 1877-78), Ekonomi Politik (Economy Politics, 1887), Müntehâbât-ı Tercüman-ı Hakikat (Selections from Tercüman-ı Hakikat, articles, 3 volumes, 1893), Müdafaa (Protection, the protection of Islam against Christianity, 3 volumes, 1883-85), Mufassal Osmanlı Tarihi (Detailed History of the Ottomans, 3 volumes, 1885-87), Şopenhavr'ın Hikmet-i Cedîdesi (Philosophy of Schopenhauer, a criticism of western philosophy, 1887), Volter (Voltaire, 1887), Beşir Fuad (Beşir Fuad, 1887), Müntehâbât-ı Ahmet Midhat (Last Works of Ahmet Midhat, articles, 3 volumes, 1888-89), Avrupa'da Bir Cevelan (Observations in Europe, 1889), İstibşar (Good News, 1892), Muhaberât ve Muhaverât (Communication and Interview, 1893), Beşâir (Good Tidings, 1895), Niza-ı İlmü Din (Conflict in Religion, 4 volumes, 1895-1910), Tarih-i Umûmî (General History, 2 volumes, 1910), Tarih-i Edyân (History of Religions, 1911), Kadınların Felsefesi (Philosophy of Women, new edition by Handan İnci, 1998), Felsefe Metinleri (Philosophical Texts, new edition by Erdoğan Erbay and Ali Utku, 2002).

MEMOIR: Menfâ (The Exile, autobiography, 1883; exile memories in Rhodes, 1876; new edition, 2002).

In addition, Ahmet Midhat Efendi wrote text books, encyclopedic works and translations. His 14 books were published by the Turkish Language Association in 2000 in the series of “Collected Works”.