Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler by Nazım Hikmet

I have recently read/listened Nazım Hikmet’s Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler which lead me to write this post.

It’s a poetry book of Nazım Hikmet in Turkish and it comes with a CD. I remember buying it from Turkey during one of my trips.

Nazım Hikmet

There is an interesting story behind the book and its recording. Since you cannot get the book in English, I thought I would write about it for English speaking Nazım Hikmet fans out there. Kathryn Stripling Byer in particular who was one of the judges of Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival in North Carolina.

The CD contains real recording of Nazım’s voice, reading out his own poems. There are two poems in the recording which are new to Nazım’s fans one way or another. One of them has never been published before, neither in Turkish nor in Russian. The other one was published in Russian but not in Turkish.

The Story of the Tape Recording
Nazım Hikmet and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (another famous Turkish poet) got together in Paris, perhaps in 1961 to record Nazim’s voice, reading out his own poems. At the time, everything about Nazım Hikmet was banned. As a precaution, Eyüboğlu starts reading one of his own poems, Mor (Purple) in the beginning to make it sound like it’s him all the way through, not Nazım Hikmet.

The book and the CD contain fifty-eight poems by Nazım Hikmet. I must admit, his voice is nothing like I expected to a degree that I’m now struggling to match his face to his voice.

Hiding the Recording
Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu constantly changed the hiding place of the recording in his home as the place was raided and searched by the police regularly. Eventually, after Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s death, Mehmet Eyüboğlu (his son) and Hughette Eyüboğlu (daughter-in-law) inherited the reel. However, it was after Mehmet Eyüboğlu’s death, his wife decided that it was time for the recording to be published.

Because the recording was always well hidden, when Hughette Eyüboğlu finally decided that it was time to hand it over to Eyüboğlu’s publisher (İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları), it took her a week to locate it within the house. She was also looking for something else: Nazım’s portrait done by his mother, Cemile. Nazım had given it to Badri Rahmi Eyüboğlu years ago (see photo below). Now, it’s in the inner cover of this book, protecting the CD.

Nazım Hikmet

Copyright Issues
After the famous ‘Nazım Hikmet’ ban was lifted, all of his poetry was published by Yapı Kredi Yayınları. On the other hand, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s publisher was İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. Since there are poems in the book which have been published before, you would expect some copyright issues here, wouldn’t you? However, through a unique collaboration between the heirs and the publishers, it wasn’t a problem. Everyone seemed to have focused on getting the book out unconditionally. And for that reason, the book has two publishers.

Nazım Hikmet may not have been able to return to Turkey or even burried there but because of this unique book/CD, at least his voice returned to his beloved country. It just took some fifty years, that’s all.

My Favourite Authors: Nazım Hikmet Ran

Nazım HikmetNazım Hikmet Ran –commonly known as Nazım Hikmet—was a Turkish poet, playwright, and novelist. He was recognized and revered throughout the world as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.

In his homeland however he was treated differently by more than one government because of his social criticism and commitment to communism. Basically, Nazim Hikmet was branded as a traitor and imprisoned for over a decade. A. Kadir, another Turkish poet who is a distant relative of mine was arrested together with Nazim Hikmet and served time in prison in 1934. My relative has a book based on his reflection of the time which is still in print. In the end, Nazim Hikmet had no choice but to leave the country. He took a small boat and went to Moscow via Romania. In his home country he left behind, his books were banned and eventually, in July 25 1951, his Turkish citizenship was cancelled. Forty-six years after his demise, he regained his citizenship. No wonder why he called poetry “the bloodiest of the arts.”

I don’t remember ever having Nazim Hikmet books on the shelves of our home library and I have a feeling that my father might have burnt them because they were considered as subversive material at the time. It was simply too dangerous to own such books. Because of that, I have never been able to keep track of which one of his books I read. Here’s the silver lining though… There was this unspoken arrangement between my parents and their communist/teacher friends. Every time we visited those “comrades,” my parents were taken into the living room, I to their home library. I was overly fond of those stolen moments spent on borrowed books. Who knows how many personal libraries I had been through…

Nazım Hikmet

Nazım Hikmet’s Work

In his poetry, the main themes of hope, his women (mainly Vera), his love and longing for his country, hope for social justice and struggles of common man frequently occur.

Many of Nazim’s work have been translated into more than fifty languages. I have put together a list of English translations. They can be purchased through Amazon or eBay.

  • Human Landscapes from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse (2009)
  • Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: Selected Poems
  • The Day Before Tomorrow
  • The Moscow Symphony
  • Selected Poems
  • The Epic of Shayk Bedreddin

Last time I was in Turkey, his complete works, all in one volume was out. It is a leather-bound, Bible looking book –only slightly thicker—and I am so kicking myself for not buying it. Because of the recent increase in shipping charges to Australia, it is incredibly expensive to buy books from Turkey these days. Well, next time I guess.

International Peace Prize

In 1950, Nazim Hikmet received International Peace Prize and was immortalised with Neruda’s lines in his acceptance speech: “Thanks for what you were and for the fire / which your song left forever burning.” Same year, Pablo Neruda, Wanda Jacubowska, Pablo Picasso and Paul Robeson received the same prize.

Nazım Hikmet

On June 3 in 1963, Nazim Hikmet died of a heart attack in Moscow. Fifty-three years ago, today, to be precise. It is true that he had said he wished to be buried in Turkey. I recently read an article about Nazim Hikmet’s adopted son Cengiz Ferecov who stated that Nazim’s greatest wish was to be able to go back to Turkey. He had said: “If that doesn’t happen, being buried there is enough for me.” Hikmet also mentioned the very same wish in his poem called Vasiyet (Testament) which I translated for you (above). Despite his wish, he is buried in Novodevichy Cemetery today. If any consolation, he is buried in the most famous cemetery in Moscow and sharing the same graveyard with Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bulgakov.

I mean you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you will plant 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, weighs heavier.
(from On Living, 1948)

Kız Çocuğu by Nazim Hikmet

Kız Çocuğu (translated as I Come and Stand at Every Door or The Little Girl) is a one of Nazim Hikmet’s poems. The literal translation of it is The Girl Child. The poem is about a seven-year-old girl who was killed during the bombing of Hiroshima. My primary school teacher was communist so she taught us the song  Kız Çocuğu composed by Zülfü Livaneli as part of his 1978 Nazım Türküsü album using Nazim’s poems. This particular version was sung by many international singers around the world including Joan Baez.

Later on, Fazıl Say, a Turkish pianist and composer wrote Nazım Oratorio (link below).

As you can read the English translations in the video above, the little girl who died in Hiroshima conveys a plea for peace by knocking on every door and asking people to sign a petition so that the children in the future wouldn’t be killed by bombs.

There is no doubt that Nazim Hikmet is the most-loved poet in Turkey. How do I know? Because, people celebrate Nazim’s birthday with carnations at the very spot where he took the boat to escape after receiving death threats. Because, people write his name on their walls with lights. The photo below was taken last year in Istanbul. The name of the place is Franz Kafka Bistro and Bar.

Nazım Hikmet

Additional Information About Nazim Hikmet

There is a movie about Nazim Hikmet’s life called Mavi Gözlü Dev (Blue Eyed Giant) and you can find IMBD information about the movie here.

Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival
For those poets out there, this annual festival is for you. Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival is organised by the American Turkish Association of North Carolina, supported by a major grant from the Turkish Cultural Foundation and hosted by Town of Cary.

Nazim Hikmet’s biography on Wikipedia
Nazim Hikmets biography on poets.org.