Nazim Hikmet Biography


(World Poets and Poetry)

On January 20, 1902, Nazim Hikmet was born in Salonika, the port city in Thrace that was then part of the Ottoman Empire. His father was a physician who had held government appointments; his mother was a painter, and his grandfather, Nazim Paa, was a poet and critic of some note. As a boy, Hikmet was introduced to local literary circles. His first poems were written when he was about seventeen. He was educated in Istanbul, at the French-language Galatasaray Lycée and at the Turkish Naval Academy. Although poor health precluded a military career, he went oxn to Moscow during the early period of Soviet-Turkish friendship; between 1922 and 1924, he studied at the University of the Workers of the East. He derived inspiration from the events of the Russian Revolution and probably was influenced as well by the bold new literary ventures of Soviet poets such asSergei Esenin andVladimir Mayakovsky. Upon his return to his native country, Hikmet joined the Turkish Communist Party, which by then had been forced into a clandestine existence; in Izmir, he worked for a left-wing publication and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He fled to the Soviet Union and returned only after a general amnesty was proclaimed in 1928. By that time, his first book-length collection of poems had been published in Soviet Azerbaijan. In Turkey, the Communist Party had been formally outlawed, and Hikmet was arrested forthwith. Nevertheless, Turkish publishers brought out verse collections such as 835 sat r (835 lines) and others; his works were deemed inflammatory by the authorities, who claimed that they incited workers against the government. He was imprisoned twice and later was able to find work mainly as a proofreader, translator, and scriptwriter. Indeed, some of his early poems refer to the tedious routine of his daily work, to which he was effectively restricted because of his political convictions. Although his plays won critical recognition and some acclaim for their introduction of new, unconventional dramatic forms—here Hikmet may in some ways have followed the technical innovations of Bertolt Brecht—political writings and newspaper columns had to be published under a pseudonym. He turned to historical topics, which nevertheless allowed...

(The entire section is 916 words.)