“To live! Like a tree alone and free
Like a forest in brotherhood”
Today, on the 3rd of June, we commemorate Nazım Hikmet (15 January 1902 – 3 June 1963) with all respect in the 56th anniversary of his death. Nazım Hikmet Ran (commonly known as Nazım Hikmet) was a Turkish poet. However, in addition to his poetries, he was very productive in many other fields of literature, too, -such as novelist, playwright, director, screenwriter and memoirist. As one of the most influential characters and a milestone of Turkish literature, Nazım Hikmet became the name of a free verse of Turkish poetry. He was commonly described as “romantic communist”, and “romantic revolutionary” by considering his political ideas. And therefore, he was repeatedly accused guilty and arrested for his political acts and writings. Moreover, he spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. Nazım Hikmet’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages from all over the world.
Nazım Hikmet Ran was born in Salonica, Ottoman Empire (today Thessaloniki, Greece) on 15 January 1902. In 1905, his father was obliged to resign from his position at the foreign service and it meant an adventure for the family. For a period, they lived in Aleppo for a new beginning, but it wasn’t a good one as they planned. After returning to Istanbul, Nazım’s father started a new business, but it didn’t go well either and he went bankrupt. Meanwhile, from the very beginning of his early ages, Nazım Hikmet had already begun to write poems.
Nazım Hikmet Ran completed his primary and junior high school education in Istanbul. And then continued his education at Ottoman Naval School and graduated. No matter how successful he was there, he was exempted from naval service in 1920 just because of his serious illness.
Soon after, he wrote a lampoon about the British and became involved with his friends in gun smuggling to Mustafa Kemal. During the War of Turkey’s Independence, Hikmet went to Anatolia in order to join Atatürk and then worked as a teacher at a school in Bolu. He studied sociology and economics at the University of Moscow between 1921 and 1928 and joined in the 1920s the Turkish Communist Party. In Turkey, he was sentenced in prison in absentia. While in the Soviet Union, Hikmet had a short-lived marriage to Nüzhet Nazim, a student, and then he lived together with Ludmilla Yurchenko in a second-floor flat in Tverskaya Boulevard. Ludmilla was a dentist, Hikmet referred to her as Dr Lena.
After he returned to Turkey, was sentenced to prison. Sadly, he spent more than 10 years in several prisons in several cities in Turkey. Being constantly under the surveillance of the police and in fear of an attempt on his life, Hikmet eventually escaped from Turkey in a small boat in 1950. His wife and his son, Memet, were not allowed to travel abroad.
He spent his last 13 years in abroad by longing for his country. Ironically, his books were not allowed to publish in his own country in his own language, while has been translated into more than 40 languages. As if he knew what is going to happen in the future, he wrote that in Tahir and Zühre;
“… Just because you love the apples, does an apple have to love you back?”
Preparing the potential list of a “Nazım’s Bests” is very hard. Because there will always be a better one! So any list prepared will be insufficient. So please leave your best as a comment below…
1- Things I Didn’t Know I Loved (19 April 1962)
I never knew I loved the sun even when setting cherry-red as now in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors but you aren't about to paint it that way I didn't know I loved the sea except the Sea of Azov or how much
2- On Living
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. Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so much so and to such a degree that, for example, your hands tied behind your back, your back to the wall,
3- Letters From A Man in Solitary
... And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls, the glass of the barred window catches fire, and it's night outside, a cloudless spring night... And inside this is spring's darkest hour. In short, the demon called freedom, with its glittering scales and fiery eyes, possesses the man inside especially in spring... I know this from experience, my dear wife, from experience...
4- The Stranger Creature on Earth
You're like a scorpion, my brother, you live in cowardly darkness like a scorpion. You're like a sparrow, my brother, always in a sparrow's flutter. You're like a clam, my brother, closed like a clam, content, And you're frightening, my brother, like the mouth of an extinct volcano.
5- Letter to My Wife
11-11-1933 Bursa Prison My one and only! Your last letter says: "My head is throbbing, my heart is stunned!" 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 twentieth century grief lasts at most a year.
6- Optimistic Man
as a child he never plucked the wings off flies he didn't tie tin cans to cats' tails or lock beetles in matchboxes or stomp anthills he grew up and all those things were done to him I was at his bedside when he died he said read me a poem about the sun and the sea about nuclear reactors and satellites about the greatness of humanity
7- A Sad State of Freedom
The moment you're born they plant around you mills that grind lies lies to last you a lifetime. You keep thinking in your great freedom a finger on your temple free to have a free conscience.
8- Blue-Eyed Giant
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...
9- Hymn To Life
Tonight my hand can't read or write. Neither loving nor unloving... It's the tongue of a leopard at a spring, a grape leaf, a wolf's paw. To move, breathe, eat, drink. My hand is like a seed splitting open underground.