Turkey, Education

Turkey remembers 'philosopher' author Cemil Meric

Meric devoted his life to improving knowledge, wisdom of Turks

Hilal Ustuk   | 12.06.2019
Turkey remembers 'philosopher' author Cemil Meric

ISTANBUL

Turkey commemorated Cemil Meric, an eminent man of letters known for his contributions to Turkish literature who passed away 32 years ago Wednesday.

His book, Jurnal, refers to himself as a “loner” and “curious” individual who devoted his life to improving Turks’ wisdom.

There are various fields to which he contributed, such as history, literature, philosophy, sociology and particularly language.

Born Dec. 12, 1916, in Reyhanli in the southern province of Hatay, Meric studied Arabic, French, the Quran, and moral education in his primary and secondary years.

He moved to the Antakya district of Hatay -- then under French administration -- to complete his high school education where he received private lessons from French and Turkish lecturers. Meanwhile, Meric discovered divan literature, one of the leading literary activities of the Ottoman Period in which Turkish, Arabic and Persian languages were predominantly used.

Meric was forced to leave high school a year before his graduation because he criticized teachers in one of his writings.

In 1939, he was arrested on charges of seeking to oust the administration in Hatay. He was put on trial with prosecutors demanding the death penalty, however, he was acquitted after two months. Then, Hatay became a Turkish province.

He started to study philosophy at Istanbul University in 1940 but failed to complete. But he earned a scholarship in the same university’s school of foreign languages and was graduated in French philology department in 1944.

Meric’s first translation book, French author Honore de Balzac’s Girl with Golden Eyes, was published in 1943; he worked as a teacher in various schools between 1944 and 1974.

As his eyesight declined in 1954, he went under the knife to improve his vision but became completely blind following ineffective surgeries.

Despite losing his eyesight, Meric was still productive. He wrote Hint Edebiyati (Indian literature) in 1964, a book compiled in four years which aimed to break down the prejudices against Eastern civilization.

With a view to shedding light on one of the significant aspects of Western thinking, he wrote a book about Saint Simon in 1967, who he addressed as the first socialist and sociologist.

In 1974, his top-notch book titled Bu Ulke (This Country) was published. Meric once said he felt that he was born to write it.

His book, Kirk Ambar was awarded by National Culture Association of Turkey in 1980. Meric was selected as the Author of the Year by Writers Union of Turkey in 1981.

Meric lost his wife, Fevziye Hanim, in 1983. He experienced cerebral hemorrhaging the same year and his left side became paralyzed. He lost his life on June 13, 1987 at the age of 71.

Throughout his career, Meric, known for his unique and vivid Turkish, wrote various books, articles and a number of book translations, reaching millions across Turkey and improving their knowledge and wisdom – which was his goal in life.

In 2015, Meric was awarded Turkey’s Presidential Culture and Art Grand prize.

Today, the house where he was born in Hatay, operates as a museum.

Using East-West conflict as the backbone of his thinking and labeling orientalism as a reconnaissance step in the direction of exploitation, Meric said: “The Ottoman [Empire] is wisdom, Europe is culture.”

* Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

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