Nazım Hikmet (1902-1963): A lover – of women and his country of birth

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At times, we believe what we want to believe, don’t we?  Similarly, we refuse to believe what others may claim?  Such as an attribute given to a well-known poet?  Just like I do, with Nazım (I don’t even want to refer to him with his full name – it feels so very alien and impersonal…), the world-renowned Turkish exile poet.  I never believed he was a traitor, as claimed by some officials of Turkey in the past (there was a retraction of such claims after Nazım’s death), nor a womanizer (but a lover of love, one woman at a time). When this most influential writer died (on exile, craving to be in his country of birth), I was a mere eight year-old.  My passionate engagement with his poetry and other writings have everything to do with the development and intensification of my own interest.  Not because of schooling on his persona and work, or parental introduction (on the contrary: I believe my father was also under the negative influence of one of Turkey’s population segment; my mother always remained neutral – she wouldn’t comment at all, I suspected she, too, liked him outside the norm…).  The more I actively read Nazım’s written word, the more drawn I became to everything he stood for.  Let’s call him my very first crush, okay?  Incredibly handsome, a stellar composer of poetry, the center of attention of the entire country – for this or that reason, immensely influential nationally as well as abroad: a timeless love, to admit.  For today, I have for us two examples from his poetry – not at all the most frequently cited ones, by the way.  Both works address his love for which he was known to have possessed an extraordinary passion: one, to a woman (“Ben senden önce ölmek isterim”, “I want to die before you”); the other (“Sen”, “You”), to Turkey, his country of birth – one among his numerous poems of homesickness.  It is not any time of anniversary for Nazım.  I am reminiscing him simply because during most of my awake times, he is in my heart and mind.  For, at this stage in my life, I finally am aware more of his value for and contributions to world literature – a subject matter of my special interest as far as my professional undertaking.  I hope you will enjoy this short journey in to a glorious past of the Turkish civilization of contemporary times – an aspect of the country that today is fading away fast and under the harshest possible forces.

 

Ben
senden önce ölmek isterim.
Gidenin arkasından gelen
gideni bulacak mı zannediyorsun?
Ben zannetmiyorum bunu.
İyisi mi, beni yaktırırsın,
odanda ocağın üstüne korsun
içinde bir kavanozun.
Kavanoz camdan olsun,
şeffaf, beyaz camdan olsun
ki içinde beni görebilesin…
Fedakârlığımı anlıyorsun :
vazgeçtim toprak olmaktan,
vazgeçtim çiçek olmaktan
senin yanında kalabilmek için.
Ve toz oluyorum
yaşıyorum yanında senin.
Sonra, sen de ölünce
kavanozuma gelirsin.
Ve orda beraber yaşarız
külümün içinde külün,
ta ki bir savruk gelin
yahut vefasız bir torun
bizi ordan atana kadar…
Ama biz
o zamana kadar
o kadar
karışacağız
ki birbirimize,
atıldığımız çöplükte bile zerrelerimiz
yan yana düşecek.
Toprağa beraber dalacağız.
Ve bir gün yabani bir çiçek
bu toprak parçasından nemlenip filizlenirse
sapında muhakkak
iki çiçek açacak :
biri sen
biri de ben.
Ben
daha ölümü düşünmüyorum.
Ben daha bir çocuk doğuracağım.
Hayat taşıyor içimden.
Kaynıyor kanım.
Yaşayacağım, ama çok, pek çok,
ama sen de beraber.
Ama ölüm de korkutmuyor beni.
Yalnız pek sevimsiz buluyorum
bizim cenaze şeklini.
Ben ölünceye kadar da
bu düzelir herhalde.
Hapisten çıkmak ihtimalin var mı bu günlerde?
İçimden bir şey :
belki diyor.

                                                                18 Şubat 1945
Piraye Nâzım Hikmet

 

My translations of both poems – in the hope that I do some justice to their magnificence:

I want to die before you (“Ben senden önce ölmek isterim”)

February 18, 1945 – To Piraye [It is also argued that this rare find was a poem Piraye wrote to Nazım, instead of Nazım to Piraye.]

 

I want to die before you

Do you think the one who comes after will find the one who is gone?

I don’t think so.

You’d better have me cremated,

you can place me atop the wood burner in your room inside a jar.

Let the jar be of glass,

transparent, white glass

so that you can see me inside…

You understand my sacrifice:

I give up becoming a piece of the soil,

I give up becoming a flower

just to be next to you.

And I turn to dust

living next to you.

Then, when you also die

you can join me in my jar.

And there, we will live together

your ashes, within my ashes,

until a careless daughter-in-law

or a disloyal grandchild

throws us out of there…

But we will intertwine in each other

until then, so that.

once thrown in to the garbage,

even there, our particles will fall next to one another.

We will dive in to the soil together.

And one day, if a wild flower

should find water and bloom out of this piece of soil

on its stem, two flowers will open:

one you

one I.

I don’t think of death yet.

I will give birth to one more child.

Life explodes out of me.

My blood boils.

I will live, and much, very much,

but you, also.

Considering,

death doesn’t scare me, either.

I just find our burial style too distasteful.

I assume that will correct itself until I die.

Is there a chance you will be let free [of imprisonment] these days?

Something inside me says: maybe.

 

 

nazmhikmet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sen (You)

You are my slavery and freedom,

my burning flesh – as it were a naked summer night,

you are my home.

You, green ripples in her hazel eyes,

you, big, beautiful and victorious

and my longing, the more unattainable whenever neared…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As always, I wish you all a wonderful Sunday and an equally wonderful week! I very much look forward to your visit next time.

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