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MELIH CEVDET ANDAY (1915-2002)

Melih Cevdet Anday was born in Istanbul in 1915. In 1936, he started attending the Faculty of Letters and History-Geography. In 1938, he went to Belgium to study sociology, however, upon breakout of World War II in 1940, he had to return to his homeland. Between 1942 and 1951, he worked as a publication consultant for the Department of Publications of the Turkish Ministry of National Education, and subsequently he was employed as librarian for the Ankara Library. In 1951, he returned to Istanbul and did reporting for the Aksam newspaper. During this period, he wrote short features and essays for Tercüman, Büyük Gazete, Tanin and Cumhuriyet newspapers. He was also in charge of the art and literature sections of the same papers. From 1954 onwards, he taught phonetics and diction courses in the Department of Drama of the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory. Between 1964 and 1969, Anday served as a member of the Turkish Radio Television’s Board of Directors. When he retired from his position in the Conservatory in 1977, Anday was assigned to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris as Cultural Attaché. Later on, due to a change in government he was called back to Turkey. He wrote essays for the Cumhuriyet newspaper regularly from 1960 to 1990, and occasionally from 1990 to 2000.

Beginning in the 1960s, Melih Cevdet Anday also wrote plays and novels. His play entitled Mikado’nun Çöpleri (Mikado’s Trash) ,earned him several awards: the Most Successful Playwright of the 1967 - 1968 Drama Season Prize, the Ilhan Iskender Prize, and the Best Playwright Prize of the Ankara Art Lovers Foundation in 1971 – 1972. His novel entitled , Gizli Emir (The Secret Command) was awarded the 1970 TRT Art Competition Success Prize, his translation of Ice Castle earned him the 1973 Turkish Language Foundation Translation Award, his book entitled Teknenin ÿlümü (Death of the Boat) got him the 1978 Sedat Simavi Foundation Literature Prize, his volume of poetry Ölümsüzlük Ardinda Gilgamis (Gilgamesh Beyond Death) earned him the 1981 Türkiye Is Bankasi Prize, and his play Ölümsüzler ya da Bir Cinayetin Söylencesi (The Immortals or the Legend of a Murder) earned him the 1980 Enka Art Prize. In addition, he received the 1991 TÜYAP Honour Prize and the 2000 Aydin Dogan Foundation’s Literature Award.

Melih Cevdet Anday’s poetry has been published under various titles: Garip (Odd, 1941), Rahati Kaçan Agaç (The Disturbed Tree, 1946), Telgrafhane (The Telegram House, 1952), Yan Yana (Side-by-Side, 1956), Kollari Bagli Odysseus (Odysseus Bound, 1963), Göçebe Denizin ÿstünde (On the Nomad Sea, 1970), Teknenin ÿlümü (The Death of the Boat, 1975), Sözcükler (Words, 1978), Ölümsüzlük Ardinda Gilgamis (Gilgamesh Beyond Death, 1981), Tanidik Dünya (Familiar World, 1984), Güneste (In the Sun, 1989), Yagmurun Altinda (Under the Rain, 1995) and Seçme Siirler (Selected Poetry, 1997).

Melih Cevdet Anday’s plays have appeared under various compilations: Içerdekiler (Insiders, 1965); Mikado’nun Çöpleri (Mikado’s Trash, 1967); Dört Oyun: Yarin Baska Koruda, Dikkat Köpek Var, Ölüler Konusmak Isterler ve Müfettisler (Four Plays: Tomorrow in a Different Grove, Beware of the Dog, The Dead Want to Speak, and Inspectors 1972); Ölümsüzler: Toplu Oyunlari I, Yarin Baska Koruda, Dikkat Köpek Var, Ölüler Konusmak Isterler, Müfettisler, Mikado’nun Çöpleri, Ölümsüzler ya da Bir Cinayetin Söylencesi (The Immortals: Complete Plays I, Tomorrow in a Different Grove, Beware of the Dog, The Dead Want to Speak, Inspectors, Mikado’s Trash, The Immortals or the Legend of a Murder, 1981); Içerdekiler: Toplu Oyunlari II, Içerdekiler, Yilanlar, Babalar ve Ogullar (Insiders: Complete Plays II, Insiders, Snakes, Fathers and Sons, 1981).

Melih Cevdet Anday’s essays appeared under various compilations; Dogu-Bati (East-West, 1961), Konusarak (Speaking 1964), Gelisen Komedya (Developing Comedy, 1965), Yeni Tanrilar (The New Gods, 1974), Sosyalist Bir Dünya (A Socialist World, 1975), Dilimiz ÿstüne Konusmalar (Discussions about our Language, 1975), Maddecilik ve ÿlkücülük (Materialism and Idealism, 1977), Yasak (The Ban, 1978), Paris Yazilari (Paris Writings, 1982), Açikliga Dogru (Towards Openness, 1984), Sevismenin Güdüklügü ve Yüceligi (On the Deficiency and Loftiness of Love-Making, 1990), Yiten Söz (The Vanishing Word, 1992), Aldanma ki... (Be Not fooled… 1992), Imge Ormanlari (The Forests of Images, 1994), and Gelecegi Yasamak (Living the Future, 1994).

Melih Cevdet Anday’in novels are entitles Aylaklar (The Vagabonds, 1965), Gizli Emir (The Secret Command, 1970), Isa’nin Güncesi (The Diary of Christ, 1974), Raziye (1975), Yagmurlu Sokak (Rainy Street, 1991), Meryem Gibi (Like Mary, 1991), and Birbirimizi Anlayamayiz (We Cannot Understand each other, 1992). Melih Cevdet Anday has also produced compilations of memoirs; Akan Zaman Duran Zaman (Time which Flows, Time which Stops, 1984) and travelogues; Sovyet Rusya, Azerbaycan, Özbekistan, Bulgaristan, Macaristan (Soviet Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Hungary; 1965). Melih Cevdet Anday, who was also a prolific translator of many works, died in Istanbul in 2002. * In his 1987 article entitled “Sanat Güzelligine Yaklasmak” (“Approaching Artistic Beauty”) which appears in the compilation Sevismenin Güdüklügü ve Yüceligi (Deficiency and Loftiness of Love-Making) Melih Cevdet Anday, has this to say:

“It is neither possible nor is it necessary to halt the change and the modernisation that are taking place in the arts. We will adapt to them. Hence, we need to commit all necessary efforts if we want to become people fit for our age. If we should hesitate in doing this, they will dehumanise us through corrupt art, we will be reduced to sheep, we will be enslaved.”

In his works, Anday did not only report the crises and the troubles of the period, the political and social changes that the country was going through but also dealt with the problems that these conditions brought about in the individual, and he tried to find appropriate remedies.

In his undated article “Siir Yasantisi” (“The Experience of Poetry”) appearing in Aldanma ki... (Be Not fooled…) Anday states: “The poet surprises us even as he says the simplest clearest of utterances, and makes us love our world… love the world that we are tired of, that we want changed” says Anday, and uses this device to change the world: He seeks the reasons which drive his characters to be “bad”, and when he does find these, he makes his characters confront these reasons, and through a process of purification, saves them from the pressure of the “bad.” Hence, Anday establishes poetic justice through an encoding strategy that was unheard of until his time. Anday’s works emphasize the world that justice dreams of and they seek for the way to reach this world through poetic justice. Evil no longer exists for the individual who is freed from pressure, ambition and fears, and only good remains. In “Aldanma ki...” (“Be not fooled…”), Anday explains how Aristoteles’ classical poetic justice embodied in the maxim “Art reflect not what is, but what should be” applies to his own thought discipline: “A lie is bad when uttered with the intention of tricking someone; the bard on the other hand wants to trick no one, but he does take his readers into a paradise of words. This paradise is, of course a lie, but there is no paradise which is not deceitful” (Aldanma ki...) Hence the bard will no longer be urged to trick anyone, for the individual who is freed of pressure, ambition and fears will no longer require an artificial world to take refuge in. Hence according to Anday, there will be no need to force reality into a form of perfection, and no need to create a false paradise as a result.

An adherent of Dialectics, Anday tended to present each thought and each situation alongside its opposite, and he placed his fictional characters in stressful situations and locations. These works deal with the purification processes of characters who have lost their chance to exist under their own identities. Created at the modern, decisive moment where the distinction between good and bad vanishes, these characters get an opportunity to know themselves by the end of the work. Thanks to this acknowledgment, the characters discover means of establishing communication, and they purify themselves hence serving the writer’s purpose of creating “a better world.”

* Biographical information about Melih Cevdet Anday has been compiled from the work entitled Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçilar Ansiklopedisi.

Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation, photograph courtesy of Ara Guler.

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