The novelist, reporter and politician Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu was born in Cairo, in 1889. In the beginning of 1908, he met the Fecr-i Ati group and stepped into the world of literature; subsequently in the initial years of his literary career this group would have great impact on him. Throughout his career as a writer, Karaosmanoglu wrote in a rich assortment of literary styles, which changed according to the conditions of his day. Due to his fluent command of the French language, his education in law, and his writings in the contemporary newspaper Ikdam, he became one of the prominent figures of the War Independence, and in 1921, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk invited him to Ankara. Following this, he traveled all over Anatolia, and witnessed the lives of people first hand. After the Declaration of the Republic, he was elected as a representative to the National Assembly (1931-1934). Karaosmanoglu died on 13 December 1974 in Ankara.

Karaosmanoglu’s novels are; Kiralik Konak (Manor for Rent, 1922), Nur Baba (Father Nur, 1922), Hüküm Gecesi (The Night of the Verdict, 1927), Sodom ve Gomore (Sodom and Gomorra, 1928), Yaban (Wilderness, 1932), Ankara (1934), Bir Sürgün (An Exile, 1937), Panorama I (1953), Panorama II (1954), and Hep O Sarki (Always that Song, 1956).

His volumes of prose poetry are: Erenlerin Bagindan (Garden of the Holy, 1922), Okun Ucundan (From the Tip of the Arrow, 1940) which comprised the titles Erenlerin Bagindan (Garden of the Holy), Kadinlik ve Kadinlarimiz (Womanhood and our Women) and Diger Nesirler (Other Writings).

His stories are entitled Bir Serencam (The End of an Event, 1931), Rahmet (Grace, 1922), and Millî Savas Hikayeleri (Stories of National War, 1947).

His collection of memoirs are: Zoraki Diplomat (The Involuntary Diplomat, 1955), Anamin Kitabi (My Mother’s Book, 1957), Vatan Yolunda: Millî Mücadele Hatiralari (On the way to the Homeland: Memories of National Struggle, 1958), Politikada 45 Yil (45 Years in Politics, 1968), Gençlik ve Edebiyat Hatiralari (Memories of Youth and Literature, 1969).

His articles are entitled: Izmir’den Bursa’ya (From Izmir to Bursa, 1922), Kadinlik ve Kadinlarimiz (Womanhood and our Women, 1923), Seçme Yazilar (Selected Writings, 1928), Ergenekon I -II (1929), Alp Daglarindan (From the Alp Mountains) and Miss Chalfrin’in Albümünden (From Miss Chalfrin’s Album, 1942). Karaosmanoglu also wrote the monographs, Ahmet Hasim (1934) and Atatürk (1946).

In addition to print based works, Karaosmanoglu wrote plays. His plays Nirvana and Veda (Farewell) were first featured on the periodical entitled Resimli Kitap in 1910. Two other plays entitled Saganak (Rain Shower) and Magara (The Cave) were not printed in his lifetime *.

Karaosmanoglu’s work characteristically features social criticisms and the portrayal social life in all its detail. In this sense, many of his works can be considered as documentaries social conditions of his time and at the same time historical works. Through his works and especially through his novels, Karaosmanoglu has both documented the social life of his time and criticized it because he considered to be deteriorating. In this sense, it should be mentioned that his criticisms could be considered quite severe. According to Karaosmanoglu, the society of his time was losing its ties with its cultural past and history, and was aping other cultures and alien lifestyles, which caused deteriorated and inappropriate relationships. In this context, Karaosmanoglu not only punished the novel characters, who parted with ethics and tradition, but also represented them as social errors.

While this situation can be explained through the mystical sense of nostalgia that Karaosmanoglu felt towards his childhood and through his interest in mythological culture, it is also possible to attribute it to the impact of World War I on the society of the Ottoman Empire and to the patriotic movement of the War of Independence period and the emphasis that he placed on tight adherence to his culture and history.

In addition to all these, Karaosmanoglu can be considered as a true artist because due to his advanced understanding of aesthetics, he can create his characters in fine detail, and can using keen insight eye to the benefit of characterization and fictional atmosphere. If a general definition of Karaosmanoglu’s work is to be made, it could be said that he is a “realist” writer. Naturally the fact that he is a politician meant that he obviously observed the problems of the society of his time, and this also had an impact on his realism.

* Biographical information concerning Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçilar Ansiklopedisi.

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

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