REFİK HALİD KARAY (1888-1965)
The journalist, storywriter and novelist Refik Halid Karay was born on March 14, 1888 in Istanbul. Karay, who used various pennames such as Aydede, Dürenda, Kirpi, Nakş-ı Ber-âb, Rehak, Vakanüvis, came from a well-established family. In 1907, as he was a second year student at the Faculty of Law, and a civil servant at the Ministry of Finance, the Second Constitutional Monarchy was declared, and he left both his studies and his position to become a journalist. Publishing his first article in 1909 in the Servet-i Fünun group’s publication, Karay’s editorial columns and articles started appearing regularly in the newspaper Tercüman-ı Hakikat. However, Refik Halid Karay earned his fame through the humorous political articles that he wrote under the pseudonym Kirpi, for the humor magazines Kalem and Cem. Because of these highly critical pieces, he was exiled to Çorum in 1913, and later to Ankara and Burdur. The three years that he spent in exile would become a turning point in his literary career. It was during this period that Refik Halid Karay found ample opportunity to get acquainted with the people of Anatolia and to collect the material that would make up his Memleket Hikâyeleri. In 1917, Refik Halid Karay was granted clemency, returned to Istanbul and started writing in the newspapers Vakit, Tasvir-i Efkar, Alemdar, Peyam-ı Sabah and Zaman. Soon he was made the editor-in-chief of the Sabah newspaper.
During this period, Refik Halid Karay also began writing novels and short fiction; and he came to be known with his sharp mind as “the author who writes in the best Istanbul Turkish.” In his stories, he conveyed the reality of both Anatolia and Istanbul. He made extensive use of the observations that he made during his exile, and he portrayed the worlds and the concerns of people from all walks of life; shopkeepers, clerks, villagers, city dwellers, women, and men alike. Refik Halid Karay’s contemporaries agree that he was a meticulous observer who enjoyed capturing scenes from social life, and that his works were a true rendering of the environment that he lived in. The author professed: “My aim is to save the Turkish readers from insignificant works, and to produce something that is worth more, that will educate their taste by making them think.” Refik Halid Karay is an extraordinary literary figure, who was both a natural observer, and a writer with a unique command over the Turkish language.
In his popular novels, Karay chose to deal with social change and its impact on various levels of society, while comparing traditional and new values from different perspectives. Even though he belonged to an established Ottoman family, he embraced the changes that took place after the declaration of the Republic; he even used his exquisite language to criticize those who could not adapt to the revolutionary changes.
Refik Halid Karay died on July 18, 1965 in Istanbul.
REFİK HALİD KARAY’S WORKS:
SHORT STORY: Memleket Hikâyeleri (Hometown Stories, 1919), Gurbet Hikâyeleri (Exile Stories, 1940).
NOVEL: İstanbul’un İçyüzü (Inside İstanbul, 1920), Yezidin Kızı (Vermin’s Daughter, 1939), Çete (The Gang, 1939), Sürgün (Exile, 1941), Anahtar (The Key, 1947), Bu Bizim Hayatımız (This is Our Life, 1950), Nilgün (Nilgün, 1950), Yer Altında Dünya Var (There is a World Underground, 1953), Diï¿½?i Örümcek (Female Spider, 1953), Bugünün Saraylısı (Today’s Man of the Palace, 1954), 2000 Yılının Sevgilisi (2000 Year’s Beloved, 1954), İki Cisimli Kadın (The Woman With Two Bodies, 1955), Kadınlar Tekkesi (Lodge of Women, 1956), Karlı Dağdaki Ateş (Fire on the Snowy Mountain, 1956), Dört Yapraklı Yonca (Four-leaf Clover, 1957), Sonuncu Kadeh (Last Glass, 1957), Yerini Seven Fidan (A Sapling Liking its Place, 1977), Ekmek Elden Su Gölden (Living on Others, 1980), Ayın On Dördü (The Full Moon, 1980), Yüzen Bahçe (The Swimming Garden, 1981).
ANECDOTE: Bir İçim Su (Cuddly, 1931), Bir Avuç Saçma (A Handful of Nonsense, 1939), İlk Adım (First Step, 1941), Üç Nesil Üç Hayat (Three Generations, Three Lives, 1943), Makyajlı Kadın (The Woman in Make-up, 1943), Tanrıya ï¿½?ikayet (Complaint to God, 1944).
HUMOUR-SATIRE: Sakın Aldanma İnanma Kanma (Don’t Be Deceived, Don’t Believe, 1915), Kirpi’nin Dedikleri (What the Hedgehog Said, 1916), Agop Paşa’nın Hatıratı (Memoirs of Agop Paşa, 1918), Ay Peşinde (In Pursuit of the Moon, 1922), Guguklu Saat (Cuckoo Clock, 1925).
MEMOIR: Tanıdıklarım (My Acquaintances, 1922), Minelbab İlelmihrab (From Beginning to End, 1946), Bir Ömür Boyunca (Throughout A Life, 1980).
PLAY: Deli (Mad, 1929), Kanije Müdafaası ve Tiryaki Hasan Paşa (Kanije Defense and Tiryaki Hasan Paşa).
* Biographical information concerning Refik Halid Karay has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.
Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation.
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):