Nazım Hikmet is Turkey’s most internationally-known literary figure. He was writing profusely in the sixties and seventies and had to flee Turkey in order to continue to write and died in the former Soviet Union in 1963.
For now, enjoy his own words about himself.
Photo: Young Hikmet in a Turkish prison. He is the one with the mustache on the right.
I was born in 1902 I never once went back to my birthplace I don't like to turn back at three I served as a pasha's grandson in Aleppo at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party's guest and I've been a poet since I was fourteen some people know all about plants some about fish I know separation some people know the names of the stars by heart I recite absences I've slept in prisons and in grand hotels I've known hunger even a hunger strike and there's almost no food I haven't tasted at thirty they wanted to hang me at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize which they did at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in '24 in '61 the tomb I visit is his books they tried to tear me away from my party it didn't work nor was I crushed under the falling idols in '51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death in '52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart waiting to die I was jealous of the women I loved I didn't envy Charlie Chaplin one bit I deceived my women I never talked my friends' backs I drank but not every day I earned my bread money honestly what happiness out of embarrassment for others I lied I lied so as not to hurt someone else but I also lied for no reason at all I've ridden in trains planes and cars most people don't get the chance I went to opera most people haven't even heard of the opera and since '21 I haven't gone to the places most people visit mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers but I've had my coffee grounds read my writings are published in thirty or forty languages in my Turkey in my Turkish they're banned cancer hasn't caught up with me yet and nothing says it will I'll never be a prime minister or anything like that and I wouldn't want such a life nor did I go to war or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night and I never had to take to the road under diving planes but I fell in love at almost sixty in short comrades even if today in Berlin I'm croaking of grief I can say I've lived like a human being and who knows how much longer I'll live what else will happen to me This autobiography was written in east Berlin on 11 September 1961