Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan was born on January 2nd 1852, in Istanbul. Because he came from a family of civil servants, he traveled extensively during his childhood,  preventing him from getting a regular education. After 1865, he followed suit and worked for various governmental organizations. The play entitled Nesteren that he wrote in 1878 during his appointment to Paris caused him to be expelled from his government position. After losing his beloved wife to tuberculosis in 1885, he was profoundly depressed and started composing Makber, which is considered one of his masterpieces. In the mean time, he was reinstated into civil service, only to be banned once more because of his play Zeynep and Finten were deemed to be satires of the government. On many occasions during Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan’s life, this cycle of being expelled and readmitted into service would repeat itself; it was typically through his influential associations that he managed to get reappointed.

Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan’s plays have not been staged much because they were considered to be dramatically impractical. To illustrate, Târık, one of the five plays of the sequence known as “Endülüs Oyunları,” required a cast of at least 47 actors.  This play dealt with the cultural conflicts that occurred between the Moorish invaders, and the Spanish monarchy and military during the conquest of Andalusia. It is both a testimony of a historical event and the portrayal of the emergence of cultural conflict as a byproduct of war. The play takes an inventory of the differing perspectives of two separate societies, and deals with the implementation of tradition, the understanding of justice of the invaders, and the perception of struggle, love, death and pride during that particular historical period. In essence, the play’s themes are universal,valid for the day it was written, as well as today.

However, Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan’s true success remains in the innovations that he brought to the poetry of his period. Tarhan broke away from many of the cliché forms that existed before him, and he added his own forms to the traditional aruz meter that was commonly used in the poetry of the era. He preferred to write in the syllabic meter, in long uninterrupted lines that did not always rhyme. In general, these poems are characterized by an adherence to eastern mysticism and to pantheistic, spiritualistic concepts of western origin, and by an uninhibited, somewhat undisciplined imagination. Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan’s literary works also displayed influences of Western Romanticism. He took up a wide variety of topics, was quite prolific, and was not really scrupulous about using a sound poetic language. It is probably because of his disorganized approach that the extraordinary and the commonplace appear side by side in poems. Since his childhood, Tarhan was known to speak and think in disorganized fashion, where the origins of the confused nature of his works may lie.

Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan died on April 13, 1937 in Istanbul.
Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan’s Works:
Poetry: Sahra (The Desert, 1879), Makber (The Grave, 1885), Ölü (The Corpse, 1885), Hacle (Hacle, 1886), Bunlar Odur (These are Her, 1885), Divaneliklerim Yahut Belde (My Madness or the Town, 1885), Bir Sefirenin Hasbihali, (Chat With an Ambassadress, 1886), Bala’dan Bir Ses (A Voice from Bala, 1912), Validem (My Mother, 1913), İlham-ı Vatan (Inspiration of the Motherland, 1916), Tayflar Geçidi (The Parade of Spectrums, 1917), Ruhlar (The Spirits, 1922), Garam (My Passion, 1923).

Plays-Other Works: Mektuplar (Letters, collected by Süleyman Nazif, two volumes, 1916), Hatırat (Memories, serials in the newspapers İkdam and Vakit, 1924-25) Macera-yı Aşk (Love Affair, 1873/1910), Sabr-u Sebat (Perseverance in Patience, 1875, staged at İstanbul City Theatres in 1961), İçli Kız (The Oversensitive Girl, 1875), Duhter-i Hindu (The Girl of India, 1876), Nazife (Nazife, 1876/1917), Nesteren (Dog Rose, 1878), Tarık Yahut Endülüs’ün Fethi (Tarık or The Conquest of Spain, 1879/1962), Tezer Yahut Abdurrahman-ı Salis (Tezer or Abdurrahman III., 1880), Eşber (Eşber, 1880), Zeynep (Zeynep, 1908), İlhan (İlhan, 1913), Liberte (Freedom, 1913), Finten (Finten, 1916), İbn-i Musa Yahut Zadülcemal (İbn-i Musa or Zadülcemal, 1917), Sardanapal (Sardanapal, 1917), Abdüllahi’s Sa�?ir (Little Abdullah, 1917), Yadigar-ı Harb (The Souvenir of The War, 1917), Hakan (Hakan, 1935), Cünun-ı Aşk (Insanity of Love, 1917), Kanuni’nin Vicdan Azabı (Remorse of Süleyman The Magnificent, 1937, not published).

* Biographical information concerning Abdülhak Hâmid Tarhan has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.

Sources: Bilkent University, Turkish Literature Department, Class Notes.

Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation.


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