Revolution and Modernity in Nazim Hikmet’s “The Epic of Sheikh
Freedom of speech and freedom of thought are necessary to all nations. Their
existence gives the opportunity to different currents of thought to express
their ideas and notions so as to develop both the country and the individual.
Turkey witnessed huge changes in its strategies after the declaration of the
republic in 1923. Mustafa Kemal, who is known as Ataturk, drew the form and the
characteristics for the new Turkey. He changed it into a secular state and
orientated his country and people towards the western civilization. He directed
them to a new kind of power- the power of reason and knowledge. He imitated the
European model of modernity and especially the French model. This impressive
change in policy, form, content and orientation has made Turkey a great
country, and, absolutely, there is a positive transformation inside the Turkish
society. At the same time, such radical changes, had a bad consequence inside the new republic.
Repression, oppression and restriction on the freedom of speech and freedom of
thought were evident at that time in Turkey.
This essay argues that the poem “The Epic
of Sheikh Bedridden” by the Turkish Marxist communist poet Nazim Hikmet
expresses a political unconsciousness of modernity by embodying and adopting
rebellious, revolutionary and modernist ideas in his poem both in content and form. It looks back to the past as
a source of inspiration in order to excite the Turks to rebel and revolt
against the repression imposed by authority upon them. Also, it looks forward
to free them from the shackles which restrict their ability to invent and
generate new ideas for Turkey in order to make it better than before and improve
its picture worldwide.
present paper adopts the Marxist method of analyzing the literary text which
states that the text has an overt (surface) meaning and as well as a covert (hidden)
meaning. The covert meaning is the crucial one because it is related to basic
Marxist themes of class struggle, or the progression of society through
different historical stages, such as the transformation from feudalism to
bourgeois. Nazim Hikmet was born in January 15, 1902
in Salonika, the same city where Attaturk had been born twenty years earlier.
He was eager to compose poetry at an early age and had his first poems
published when he was seventeen. Unlike Ataturk he came from a prosperous family. When his illness forced
him to leave the naval academy, he chose to follow his other passion, poetry.
He joined the Communist party after his visit to Moscow in 1922. He saw no
contradiction between his love of Turkey and his Marxist convictions, but the
authorities did. His talent proved no defence against persecution, and he spent
the rest of his life in trouble with the law.
After receiving early recognition for his patriotic poems in syllabic meter, he
abandoned traditional forms while attempting to depoetize poetry, that’s why he is considered the first
modern Turkish poet. most of his works have been translated into English,
including Human Landscapes
from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse (2009), Things I Didn’t Know I Loved (1975), The Day Before Tomorrow (1972). Hikmet died of a heart attack
in Moscow in 1963.
It is necessary to give a concise summary
of Bedreddin’s life and the story of Hikmet’s
epic. Bedreddin was born in 1364 AD. His studies eventually led him to Cairo,
where he taught the son of Sultan Barquq. During the interregnum following the
defeat of Beyazit I, by Timur, Sheikh Bederddin served Beyazit’s son Musa in Rumelia as a high legal counselor.
When another son, Mehmet, defeated Musa in 1413, he reunited the Ottoman
Empire. Bederddin was banished to Iznik.
In spite of his exile, he persisted to
write in order to prepare for the uprising. His writing suggests a substitute religious and social doctrine.
It presupposes socialist, progressive and enlightened notions. It states that ownership
is to be shared publicly, and the differences among Muslims, Christians and
Jews are to be erased and considered as valueless.
of 1416 is thought to have begun near Karaburun under the command of Borkluce
Mustafa. Bederddin then went to
Wallachia (known in Hikmet’s epic by the regional names of Deliorman and
Agacdeniz), where he led a rebellion. He was captivated and executed in Serres
in December of 1416 or in 1420, but his followers known as Bederddinlis or Simvanis, endured for several
centuries and were viewed warily by the Ottoman Empire.