ÖMER SEYFETTİN (1884-1920)

Ömer Seyfettin was born in 1884 in Gönen. He wrote under various aliases such as Ayas, Camsâp, C. Nazmi, C. Nizami, Ç. Kemal, F. Nezihi, Feridun Perviz, Kâf-ı Farsî, Kaygusuz, M. Enver, M. Enver Perviz, Ömer Perviz, Süheyl Feridun, Tarhan, and Tekin. Just like his father, Ömer Seyfettin was educated at the Kuleli Military Academy, and it was in this school that his love for literature bloomed. Some poems that he wrote during this period appeared in the publications Kadın and Bahçe. Following the declaration of the second constitutional monarchy, he was assigned to Thessalonica, and witnessed the awakening of nationalistic feelings among Balkan tribes. This experience helped shape the development of his nationalistic feelings. At the same time, he became disappointed with the military because of its failings in protecting the territories on the Empire. His interest in literature increased and, using various pseudonyms, he started writing in magazines such as Kadın, Bahçe, Hüsn ve Şiir, Aşiyan, Zekâ, and Musavver Hale.

Another prominent writer of the era, Ziya Gökalp provided the financial compensation that Ömer Seyfettin needed to leave the armed forces. However, as the Balkan War broke out, Seyfettin had to rejoin the army, fought on the western front and was captured by the Greek army in 1913. During his captivity, he continued writing. After his release, he came back to Istanbul, and took up a position as an instructor of literature at the Kabataş Erkek Lisesi. The loss of his mother dragged him into deep depression, which he tried to escape into an ultimately unhappy marriage that ended in 1918. Seyfettin sought consolation on long journeys through Anatolia. During the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the author was financially and spiritually shattered. He explained the difficult conditions under which he kept on writing; “The Italian War, the Balkan War… One year as a prisoner in Greece... my mother’s death, just as I arrived in Istanbul and was about to pull myself together... then the world war... For four years, we have been living the terrible crisis of this disastrous war. Who would worry about literature when half a loaf of bread is sold for thirty kurushes? I certainly did.”

Against all odds, Ömer Seyfettin tried to complete at least one story each week, and unlike his predecessors, he drew his topics not from Istanbul, but mainly from Balkan cities and towns, and other remote places of the Empire. The author, who was considered a guiding light during the depressive times of the period, chose his characters come from all walks of life. His stories generally criticized the superstitious beliefs of ordinary people and the intellectuals who had lost touch with their own identity through their heavy exposure to foreign cultures. Most of Seyfettin’s characters are folk heroes who are honorable and dignified, brave and honest; heroes who would not mind dying for their homeland. Although Ömer Seyfettin is best known in Turkish literature as a short story writer, he also composed other genres such as humorous anecdotes, articles, conversations, and poems.  Ömer Seyfettin died on March 6, 1920 in Istanbul.
Ömer Seyfettin's Works:

Novel: Ashab-ı Kehfimiz (Our Ashab-ı Kehf, 1918), Efruz Bey (Efruz Bey, 1919).

Novella: Harem (Harem, 1918).

Short Story: Efruz Bey (Efruz Bey, 1970), Kahramanlar (Heroes, 1970), Bomba (Bomb, 1970), Harem (Harem, 1970), Yüksek Ökçeler (High Heels, 1970), Kurumuş Ağaçlar (Dead Trees, 1971), Yalnız Efe (Lonely Hector, 1971), Falaka (Bastinado, 1971), Aşk Dalgası (Wave of Love), Beyaz Lale (The White Tulip), Gizli Mabed (Secret Temple).
Poetry: Ömer Seyfettin'in Şiirleri (Poems by Ömer Seyfettin, 1972).

Essay: Dil Konusunda Yazıları (Articles on Language, 1989), Sanat ve Edebiyat Yazıları (Articles on Art and Literature, 1990), Olup Bitenler, Toplumsal Yazılar (What Happens, Social Articles, 1992), Türklük ve Türkçecilik Yazıları (Articles on Being Turkish and Defending the Turkish Language, 1993).

Research: Türk Masalları (Turkish Fairytales, 1906), Vatan, Yalnız Vatan (Motherland, Only Motherland, 1911), Millî Tarihimizden Çıkarılmış Ameli Siyaset (Applied Politics from Our National History, 1914), Turan Devleti (The Turan State, 1914), Yazmak Sanatı (The Art of Writing, 1919).
 * Biographical information concerning Ömer Seyfettin has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.
Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation.
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