Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar was born on August 17, 1864 in Istanbul. He lost his mother when he was only three, and spent all of his childhood in a mansion with his grandmother. After attending various schools, in 1878 Huseyin Rahmi Gürpınar was admitted to the Mülkiye Mektebi, but he had to quit this institution in 1880 due to sickness. After this event, he never received formal schooling but was educated at home by private tutors. In 1887, he was invited to try writing for the Tercüman-ı Hakikat newspaper, and he was eventually admitted to the permanent staff of the paper and later on wrote articles for various other newspapers. His  novels were published in installment form on Tercüman-ı Hakikat, İkdam, Zaman, Âtî, İleri, Son Telgraf, Tevhid-i Efkâr, Vakit, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet and Yeni Sabah, all  newspapers that he wrote for

Gürpınar’s novels were written with a refined sense of black humor. Just like the realist and naturalist writers of the West, he saw literature and especially the novel genre as a mirror of the society that he lived in. He chose to write in a style that would appeal to the masses, and used a language that was much simpler than that of his contemporaries. His novels generally dealt with the relationship between men and women, the misinterpretation of religion by the majority of the society, and superstitions. He criticized injustice, and continually proposed rational solutions that would eliminate the wrongs of the existing order. He also did not hesitate to criticize the lifestyle, behavior and values of society by using black humor. In this context, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar’s works such as Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir İzdivaç, Gulyabani are worth reading. Using black humor with finesse, these novels convey the state of the confused individual, who is unable to decide whether to favor superstitious beliefs or the realities of science. This dilemma is rendered with such success and farce that his novels could be considered masterpieces of literary humor even today.

Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar’s novels pay meticulous attention to the lifestyles of the people of Istanbul; their clothing, conversations, thoughts, habits, and traditions. This renders his novels the value of historical documents. While they feature a humorous popular language, they rest on sound philosophical foundations. In Gürpınar’s novels one can find traces of the old Istanbul lifestyle; details such as horse drawn streetcars, drinking binges, neighborhood fights, and Ramadan nights are abundantly featured. Dialogues, which are rich components of folk language, hold an important place in Gürpınar’s novels. Conversations on commuter ferries and streetcars, or window-to-window exchanges that take place in the neighborhood, and the quarrels that emerge from these, constitute an important part of Gürpınar’s novels and provide them with fluidity. As the understanding of the Turkish novel changed in the 1950s, more serious novels that were rich in abstract imagery gained acceptance, and critics declared that Gürpınar’s novels had little or no literary value. However, because the storylines and the characters were so true to life, and because these novels lend themselves to be a social historical records of the time, Gürpınar remains one of the most outstanding novelists of Turkish literature.

Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar died on March 8, 1944 in Istanbul.

Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar's Works:

Novels: Şık (Elegant, 1989), İffet (Chastity, 1896), Mutallâka (Divorced Wife, 1898), Mürebbiye (Governess, 1899), Bir Muâdele-i Sevda (A Love Endorsement, 1899), Metres (Mistress, 1899), Tesadüf (Serendipity, 1900), NimetŞinas (Blessing, 1910), Şıpsevdi (Quick Lover, 1911), Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir İzdivaç (A Marriage under a Comet, 1912), Gulyabani (The Ogre, 1912), Hakka Sığındık (We Took Refuge in God, 1919), Sevda Peşinde (Chasing after Love, 1912), Cadı (The Witch, 1914), Hayattan Sayfalar (Pages from Life,1919), Toraman (Untamed, 1919), Son Arzu (The Last Desire,1922), Tebessüm-i Elem (1923), Cehennemlik (Hellish, 1924), Efsuncu Baba (Father the Magician, 1924), Meyhanede Hanımlar (Ladies in the Bar, 1924), Ben Deli miyim? (Am I Crazy?, 1925), Tutuşmuş Gönüller (Blazing Hearts, 1926), Billur Kalb (The Crystal Heart, 1926), Evlere Şenlik Kaynanam Nasıl Kudurdu? (How Did My Awful Mother-in-law Go Mad?, 1927), Muhabbet Tılsımı (The Talisman of Love, 1928), Mezarından Kalkan Şehit (The Martyr who Rose from His Grave, 1928), Kokotlar Mektebi (The School of Loose Women, 1928), Şeytan İşi (The Devil’s Work, 1933), Utanmaz Adam (The Shameless Man, 1934), Eşkıya İninde (In the Cave of the Bandit, 1935), Kesik Baş (The Cut-Off Head, 1942), Gönül Bir Yeldeğirmenidir Sevda Öğütür (The Heart is a Windmill It Grinds Love,1943), Ölüm Bir Kurtuluş Mudur? (Is Death a Salvation?, 1945), Dirilen İskelet (The Living Skeleton, 1946), Dünyanın Mihveri Kadın mı, Para mı? (Is the Axis of the World Women or Money?, 1949), Deli Filozof (The Crazy Philosopher, 1964), Kaderin Cilvesi (The Irony of Fate,1964), Can Pazarı (A Matter of Life and Death, 1968), İnsanlar Maymun muydu? (Were Human Beings Primates?, 1968), Ölüler Yaşıyor mu? (Do The Dead Live?, 1973), Namuslu Kokotlar (The Honorable Loose Women, 1973).

* Biographical information concerning Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar’s has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.

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

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