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MEHMED RAUF (1875-1931)

Mehmed Rauf, born in Istanbul on August 24th 1875 was one of the writers of the period in Turkish literature known as the “Servet-i Fünun.” Much to the dismay of his father who was a government clerk, the young Mehmed was quite fond of literature and drama. In order to keep him away from all this, in 1888, his father sent him to naval academy-Mekteb-i Bahriye. He was eventually dismissed from the academy, because his published story Zambak was deemed to undermine the morals of society. Thereafter, Rauf had to earn his living by writing, and he came to be associated with the Servet-i Fünun (literally “Scientific Wealth”) group by virtue of a letter he wrote to Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, one of the prominent men of letters of the era. Following this initial communication, which was essentially a fan letter, his exchanges with Uşaklıgil began, and he eventually became part of the Servet-i Fünun group. 

The members of the Servet-i Fünun were unable to freely pursue their literary careers because of the oppressive “İstibdat” (repressive) period of the Ottoman regime at that time and the pressure it exerted on writers. Hence, the literature of this era was marred with introversion and seclusion, and the only fiction written was non-political of nature. For writers who did not want to give up their craft in this climate of oppression, the only solution was to create works that did not pose a critique on the government or even social issues. The strength of the repressive policies forced writers to remain in their cocoons, pushing them to take up non-social issues. Political pressures impeded both the efforts of creating an eastern - western synthesis and of developing a new understanding of the novel in its proper context. In this time, Turkish literature was overshadowed by French literature, and the inclination was to create voiceless and superficial work that did not bear witness to the social realities and the situations of the day. However, as a result of the introversion that this pressure brought, the literature of this era concentrated on portraying internal conflicts, on questioning human nature and behaviour in depth and created characters that were also introverted and shaped by psychological forces.

Hence, it is not a coincidence that Eylül, the first “psychological novel” of Turkish literature was written in this era. Rauf, who had first-hand experience with both paternal and military pressure, was probably the writer best adapted to the repressive agenda of his time. The internal conflict that can often be seen in Rauf’s fiction developed as the complexities in his private life were compounded by repression.

The novel Eylül is unprecedented in terms of the detail of character analysis. The psychological states of the characters are conveyed via interior monologues and descriptions of personality; and this determines how they will behave before and after the dramatic events in the novel. The novel Eylül, rather than being a mouthpiece of the period it was written, is a work that is structured with the descriptions of a hidden emotional life. This “emotional life that is not open to the outside” is valid for both the characters of the novel, and the writer himself. In the persona of the narrator, the writer has exposed the internal realm of his characters, and shared with his reader both his lifestyle and his thinking. The main character of the novel Eylül is passionately in love with a married woman, and he starts experiencing this love in a chronic and health-threatening fashion. The reader is able to witness the psychology of the character through the conflict that he experiences between staying and leaving, and between loving and dying, his interior monologues, his life, and his perspective on life. This is the reason why Eylül was described as a “psychological novel.” Eylül, which was first published in 1900, is considered to be one of the most prominent works of the Servet-i Fünun period chiefly because of the novelty that it brought. The month of Eylül (September) symbolizes the death of the summer season, and appropriately Rauf lets his two most important characters live until the end of the month. Eylül is considered more important than all of Rauf’s output, and it is a rather successful creation for a writer who will be remembered mainly with a single novel.

Rauf married a few times, and he constantly experienced unhappy and convoluted relationships. Just like his novels, Rauf’s stories also carry the introversion, the internal settling of scores, the immobility that comes with not knowing what to do, the profound depression that threatens health, the disillusionment, and the despair. Just as the novel Eylül, almost all of Rauf’s stories portray hopeless love and disappointment. Rauf’s characters are ready to succumb to a deep depression, and in fact they are almost looking for an excuse to do so. They are introverted yet vulnerable to the changes that take place in nature - this however, is almost always a pretext to feel even more desperate. Rauf suffered a stroke in 1928 and became bed-ridden until his death on December 25, 1931.

Mehmed Rauf’s complete works:

Novels: Eylül (September 1900), Serap (Mirage 1909), Bir Zambak’ın Hikayesi (The Story of a Lily 1910), Ferda-yı Garam (1913), Genç Kız Kalbi (Young Girl’s Heart 1914), Menekşe (Violet 1915), Karanfil ve Yasemen (Carnation and Jasmin 1924), Böğürtlen (Blackberry 1926), Son Yıldız (The Ultimate Star 1927), Define (Burried Treasure 1927), Kan Damlası (Drop of Blood 1928), and Halas (1929).

Stories: İhtizar (Agony 1909), Öşıkhane (House of Love 1909), Son Emel (The Last Goal 1913), Hanımlar Arasında (Among Ladies 1914), Bir Aşkın Tarihi (The History of a Love 1915), Kadın İsterse (If the Woman Wills 1919), Öç Hikaye (Three Stories 1919), Safo ve Karmen (Sappho and Carmen 1920), Pervaneler Gibi (Just like Helices 1920), İlk Temas İlk Zevk (First Touch, First Pleasure 1922), Aşk Kadını (A Woman of Love 1923), Gözlerin Aşkı (The Love of Eyes 1924), and Eski Aşk Geceleri (Olden Nights of Love 1927).

Prose poetry: Siyah İnciler (Black Pearls 1901).

Plays: Ferdi ve şürekası (1909, adapted form Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil’s novel of the same title), Pençe (1909), Yağmurdan Doluya (From Rain to Hail 1919), Sansar (The Marten 1920), and Yara (The Wound 1935).

Sources: Tarım, Rahim. Mehmed Raud Hayatı ve Hikayeleri Özerine Bir Araştırma. Akçağ Yayınevi, 2000. Tekin, Mehmet. Roman Sanatı I Romanın Unsurları. Ötüken Yayınları, 2001.

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

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