Culture, Life

Namik Kemal: Turkey's poet of homeland and freedom

Namik Kemal, also a journalist, playwright, and statesman, inspired Turkish nationalism

Fatih Turkyilmaz and Omer Ural   | 02.12.2019
Namik Kemal: Turkey's poet of homeland and freedom


Renowned Turkish poet and intellectual Namik Kemal was remembered Monday on the 131st anniversary of his death.

Namik Kemal, who was also an author, journalist, playwright and statesman, inspired Turkish nationalism. He is known as the poet of homeland and freedom and became one of the most important intellectuals of the period.

Namik Kemal was born in northwestern Turkey's Tekirdag province on Dec. 21, 1840, the son of Mustafa Asim Bey and Fatma Zehra.

His childhood years were spent with his grandfather, Koniceli Abdullatif Pasha, the governor of Tekirdag.

He then moved to Istanbul with his family and began attending school.

He received a good education and learned Arabic, Persian and French.

Namik Kemal started to form his ideas in the 1860s.

He traveled with his grandfather throughout the Ottoman Empire as he got new posts and duties.

During the journeys, he continued his education and also rgot training in hunting, shooting, and javelin throwing.

His mentor Vaissade Seyyid Efendi in northeastern Turkey's Kars province encouraged him to write poetry.

He settled in Bulgaria in 1855 when his grandfather became governor of the Sofia province and married Nesime Hanim, the daughter of the judge of Nis, Serbia.

He then started working at a translation bureau in Istanbul and began meeting with intellectuals.

He began learning Western literature upon meeting with Ibrahim Sinasi, one of the leading figures of the Westernization process in Turkish literature.

He embraced the Western style of poetry instead of the traditional style of Turkish poetry, which is known as Divan.

The idea of civilization and progress were the most important issues for him.

Namik Kemal embraced the understanding which supports that art is for people.

In 1865, he started to write opinion columns for Tasvir-i Efkar, a newspaper, and in 1872 started the newspaper Ibret with Ebuzziya Tevfik Bey.

In 1873, he became interested in Turkish theatre. He staged Vatan Yahut Silistre, one of his most famous literary works, on April 1, 1873.

Due to the play, he was arrested along with many of his colleagues and exiled.

Despite this, he became one of the most important intellectuals, statesmen, and poets of the period.

After his exile, he returned to Istanbul and became a member of the Council of State and took part in the committee that prepared the Ottoman Constitution.

After that, he was appointed district governor of Lesbos in 1879, of Rhodes in 1884, and of Chios in 1887.

He passed away in Chios on Dec. 2, 1888 due to pneumonia.

Some of his famous novels are Intibah Yahut Serguzest-i Ali Bey (Awakening or Ali Bey's Experiences) and Cezmi, a historical novel.

Some of his well-known plays are Vatan Yahut Silistre, Akif Bey, Gulnihal, Kara Bela, Zavalli Cocuk and Celaleddin Harzemsah.

His iconic poetry includes Vaveyla, Murabba and Vatan Mersiyesi.

*Writing by Fahri Aksut

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