Halide Edip Adıvar, born in Istanbul in 1882, is not only one of the prominent female authors of Turkish Literature, but also one of the first hand witnesses of the Turkish War of Independence, and a renowned social activist. Adıvar came from an elite, well-educated family, and as she lost her mother at a young age, her grandmother raised her. In accordance with old tradition, she received private tutoring. At a young age, she married a  philosophy and literature instructor, who is believed to have awakened her interest in literature.

In 1908, Adivar started writing in important publications such as Tanin, Mehasin, Musavver Muhit and Resimli Kitap. A political piece that she published in the Tanin newspaper made her a target of threats and she sought haven in Egypt with her family. During that time, she met many imminent literary figures, and had the opportunity to enrich her literary knowledge. She returned to Istanbul in 1909 after which she published her first two novels appeared in serial form in various newspapers. In 1910, she divorced her husband and, in 1917, she married Abdülhak Adnan Adıvar, who was her family’s physician, and one of the foremost political figures of the period. During this time, she became one of players in a political scene that was particularly chaotic, and through her writing, she provided support to all major national popular movements.

After the occupation of Izmir by the Greek army on May 16, 1919, Adivar delivered a passionate speech at a rally in Sultanahmet, Istanbul. This event would become the turning point of Adıvar’s life, as it established her reputation as a national hero and an advocate for national liberation and justice. As the Allies occupied Istanbul in 1920, she fled to Anatolia with her family to become one of the key female heroes of the national struggle. During these war years, she was present on various fronts alongside Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and she wrote about her experience.

Adıvar’s novels feature large casts of characters, and just like most writers of the era, she portrayed the dilemma of the Turk caught inside the East – West synthesis. Using her trademark literary aesthetic, she depicted the phenomenal effort that the people of Turkey have made in order to protect their homeland, cultural values and history. In her novels, the main characters are typically fighters, strong women with foresight, endlessly preoccupied with their struggle to uphold their cause. It is possible to see traces of Adıvar’s own life in many of these characters. For the same reason, Adıvar is often criticized for not taking the same pains to develop her male characters.

Her most often reprinted work Ateşten Gömlek epitomizes the fictional novel despite the fact that it is based on real events. Adıvar’s theoretical knowledge of English Literature, and the popularity of the English Novel in the 18th Century were key factors in this success. Hence, in the works of Adıvar, it is possible to see many traces of the English Novel. Thanks to her theoretical expertise, Adıvar played with the temporal plot and skillfully calculated times, processes and dates, which makes Ateşten Gömlek a critically acclaimed work.

Ateşten Gömlek features this phrase taken from her Sultanahmet speech, “Nations are our friends. Governments are our enemies.” This statement is one of the best indications that Adıvar is not merely a blindfolded political advocator, but rather a protector of rights and justice, armed with a humanistic agenda.   

All Adıvar novels are executed from the point of view of an omniscient third person narrator, who has a particularly sharp insight into the events and characters. This narrative point of view could be associated with the fact that Adıvar’s fiction was based on natural observation. Hence, in Adıvar’s novels the sense of realism and verisimilitude that is often associated with the first person narration is not evident at first. However, thanks to her proficiency, Adıvar can afford to have her narrator meet the reader at any point in the plot, and this is what places Adıvar among the best authors.

Similarly, it could also be claimed that the male characters of Adıvar’s novels mostly have feminine traits, whereas her female characters are rather masculine. Altruism, very highly developed motherly impulses, social courage stand in the center of the idealism in her novels. This makes Adıvar one of the leading authors of Turkish literature who thought not only about political rights, but also about women’s rights.

Following the War of Independence, Adıvar lived in England and France for many years, and in 1939 she returned to Turkey and established the English Language and Literature Department of Istanbul University, where she also instructed until 1950. Between 1950 and 1954, Adıvar became a deputy for the Democratic Party and started active political life. Adıvar died on January 9th 1964. Her novels Ateşten Gömlek, Vurun Kahpeye, Yolpalas Cinayeti, Döner Ayna ve Sinekli Bakkal have been made into films by various directors.

Novel: Râik’in Annesi (Râik’s Mother 1909), Seviye (Level 1910), Handan (1912), Son Eseri (Last Work 1912), Yeni Turan (New Turan 1913), Ateşten Gömlek (Shirt of Fire 1923), Kalp Ağrısı (Heartache 1924), Vurun Kahpeye (Hit the Whore 1926), Zeyno’nun Oğlu (Zeyno’s Son 1928), Sinekli Bakkal (The Fly Filled Grocery 1936), Yolpalas Cinayeti (The Murder of Yolpalas 1937), Tatarcık (The Sandfly 1939), Sonsuz Panayır (The Endless Fairground 1946), Döner Ayna (The Rotating Mirror 1954), Âkile Hanım Sokağı (The Street of Âkile Hanım 1958), Sevda Sokağı Komedyası (The Comedy of the Love Street 1959), Çaresaz (The Remedy Finder 1961), Hayat Parçaları (Fragments of Life 1963), and Kerim Usta’nın Oğlu (The Son of Master Kerim 1974).
Short Stories: Harab Mâbedler (Temples in Ruins1910), Dağa Çıkan Kurt (The Wolf who Climbed the Mountain 1922), İzmir’den Bursa’ya (From Izmir to Bursa 1922), and Kubbede Kalan Hoş Sadâ (1974).
Memoirs: Memoirs of Halide Edib (1926, Turkish version: Mor Salkımlı Ev, 1963), The Turkish Ordeal (1928, Turkish version: Türk’ün Ateşle İmtihanı, 1962).
Plays: Kenan Çobanları (Shepherds of Kenan 1918), and Maske ve Ruh (The Mask and the Spirit 1937).

Sources: Bilkent University, Department of Turkish Literature, Class Notes.

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

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