AHMET MITHAT (1844 – 1912

The author, journalist and publisher Ahmet Mithat was born on 1844 in Istanbul to a family of middle class merchants. His writing carrier began in 1868, when his friends in literary circles helped him to a position at the Tuna newspaper. Mithat met the famous Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey in Baghdad , and it was this prominent artist who introduced him to western literature. During the same period, Mithat also met some of the foremost religious figures of his era and he was initiated into the philosophy of the East as well. Mithat was fully fluent in French, Persian, and Arabic.

Upon the death of his older brother, Mithat had to shoulder the responsibility of earning a living for his family. In 1871, he decided that he would print his own books in a foot-operated printing press he had set up at his home. Mithat also used his printing press to produce various literary journals, and in a few years he became quite a proficient printer. In 1878, he started publishing Tercüman-i Hakikat, which eventually was to become the longest lasting newspaper in the history of the Turkish press.

Unlike many of his contemporary writers and journalists, Mithat did not fully approve of some of the revolutionary or subversive activities conducted against the Ottoman government and the established order. According to Mithat, for societies that had weak educational and cultural foundations, anti-regime activities were dangerous and could only lead to chaos. Mithat also differed from other contemporary intellectuals in his attitude towards literature; unlike most writers of his period, he did not support the direct emulation of western values. Instead, he believed in a synthesis of eastern and western cultures. Hence, he authored enlightening pieces on many diverse topics that appealed to him, whether originating from the West or the East. These works are exceptional in terms of the used language, with which Mithat aims to establish a direct dialogue with the reader. Because of this didactic attitude, Mithat's readers have honored him with the title “Hâce-i Evvel,” which means “the first Teacher.”

Mithat advocated simplicity in language and he firmly believed that literature should be accessible to all. In this respect, it is possible to trace his influences to French writers such as Alexandre Dumas, Octave Feuillet, and Paul de Kock. Mithat's fictional characters can be studied in three main groups. The first group is made up of older characters, who have pretentiously adopted western styles of dress and lifestyle, just because it was fashionable. These characters include Mustafa Meraki Efendi (Felatun Bey ve Rakim Efendi ), Bahtiyar Pasa and Hamparsun Aga (Karnaval), Abdülcebbar Bey (Bahtiyarlik), and Kâzim Bey (Jön Türk). The second group is comprised of younger, better-educated characters, who speak some French, but who have lost touch with their own national values. They attempt to look exclusively western, but fail in this respect. Felatun Bey (Felatun Bey ve Rakim Efendi), Süruri Efendi (Bekârlik Sultanlik mi Dedin?), Zekâ Bey (Paris'te Bir Türk), Zekâi Bey (Karnaval), Behçet Bey (Vah!), Senai ve Mansur Bey (Bahtiyarlik), Sulhi (Para), Tosun Bey (Taaffüf) can be included in this second group. The last group is made up of characters who corresponded to Mithat's own outlook. These characters have been brought up with traditional Ottoman values, and they are attached to their national identity, and are knowledgeable about Turkish, Eastern and Islamic cultures. Yet they are fluent in Western languages, familiar with positive sciences, and have no trouble adapting to Western environments. Rakim Efendi (Felatun Bey ve Rakim Efendi), Nasuh (Paris'te Bir Türk) , Resmî (Karnaval), Necati (Vah!), Suphi and Hicabi (Acaib-i Alem), Sinasi (Bahtiyarlik), Vahdeti (Para), Mustafa Kamereddin (Demir Bey), Ahmet Metin (Ahmet Metin ve Sirzat), Rasih (Taaffüf), Abdullah Nahifi (Mesail-i Muglaka), and Nurullah (Jön Türk) are among the characters of this last group. Female characters that appear in Mithat's works are mostly depicted as positive individuals who have been brought up with traditional values.

Ahmet Mithat produced about 250 works, including translation novels. He died on December 28 th 1912 in Istanbul .

The Works of Ahmet Mithat:

Novels and Novellas: Kissadan Hisse (The Lesson 1870), Suizan Esaret (Paranoid Captivity 1870), Gençlik – Teehhül (Youth-Marriage 1870), Felsefe-i Zenan (The Philosophy of Women 1870), Gönül – Misnetkesan (Heart 1870), Yeniçeriler (The Janissaries 1871), Ölüm Allahin Emri (Death is God's Command 1873), Hasan Mellah Yahut Sir Içinde Esrar (Hasan Mellah or a Mystery within an Enigma 1874), Dünyaya Ikinci Gelis Yahut Istanbul'da Neler Olmus (Second Incarnation or What Has Happened in Istanbul 1874), Zeyl-i Hasan Mellah (The Sequel to Hasan Mellah 1875), Yeryüzünde Bir Melek (An Angel on Earth 1975), Kari – Koca Masali (The Fairy Tale of the Husband and Wife 1875), Felatun Bey ve Rakim Efendi (Felatun Bey and Rakim Efendi 1875), Paris'te Bir Türk (A Turkish Man in Paris 1876), Bir Gerçek Hikâye – Fitnekâr (A True Story – Trouble Monger 1876), Süleyman Müsli (1877), Kafkas (Caucasus 1877), Çengi (The Dancer 1877), Nasib – Bekârlik Sultanlik mi Dedin? (Allocation – Did You Say Being Single is a Bliss? 1877), Beliyyat-i Mudhike ( The Calamities of Comedy 1881), Karnaval (Carnival 1881), Henüz Onyedi Yasinda ( Only Seventeen 1881), Acaib-i Alem (The Strangeness of the World 1882), Dürdane Hanim (1882), Vah ! (What a Pity! 1882), Volter Yirmi Yasinda Yahut Ilk Muasakasi (Voltaire at Twenty or His First Intercourse 1884), Esrar-i Cinayet (The Mystery of Murder 1884), Cellat (The Executioner 1884), Hayret (Astonished 1885), Bahtiyarlik ( Fortune 1885), Cinli Han ( The Haunted Inn 1885), Obur (Gluttonous 1885), Bir Tövbekâr (A Penitent 1885), Çingene (The Gypsy 1887), Çifte Intikam (Double Revenge 1887), Kismetinde Olanin Kasiginda Çikar (What Destiny Holds in Store Shall Take Place 1887), Arnavutlar – Solyotlar (Albanians – Soliots 1888), Demir Bey Yahut Inkisaf-i Esrar (Demir Bey or the Unveiling of the Mystery 1888), Fenni Bir Roman Yahut Amerika Doktorlari (A Scientific Novel or the Physicians of America 1888), Haydut Montari (Montari the Bandit 1888), Gürcü Kizi Yahut Intikam (The Georgian Girl or Revenge 1889), Rikalde Yahut Amerika Vahset Alemi (Rikalde or America the Land of Brutality 1890), Diplomali Kiz (Girl with a Diploma 1890), Dolaptan Temasa Müsahedat (Witnessed from a Wardrobe 1891), Hayal ve Hakikat (Dream and Reality 1892), Ahmet Metin ve Sirzat Yahut Roman Içinde Roman ( Ahmet Metin and Sirzat or a Novel within a Novel 1892), Iki Hud'akâr (Two Con Artists 1893), Emanetçi Sitki (Sitki, the Consignee 1893), Can Kurtaranlar (Life Savers 1893), Bir Acibe-i Saydiye (1893), Ana – Kiz (Mother and Daughter 1893), Gönüllü (The Volunteer 1896), Mesail-i Muglaka (Issues of the Unknown 1898), and Jön Türk (The Young Turk 1910).

Plays: Eyvah (Alas 1871), Açikbas (Uncovered Head 1874), Ahz-i Sar Yahut Avrupa'nin Eski Medeniyeti (Revenge or the Old Civilization of Europe 1874), Hükm-i Dil (The Provision of Language 1874), Zuhur-i Osmaniyan (The Emergence of the Ottomans 1877), Fürs-i Kadimde Bir Facia Yahut Siyavüs (A Disaster among the Historic Persians or Siyavüs 1884), Çengi Yahut Danis Çelebi (The Dancer or Danis Çelebi 1884), and Çerkes Özdenler (Circassian Truths 1884).

* Biographical information concerning Ahmet Mithathas been gathered from Tanzimat'tan Bugüne Edebiyatçilar Ansiklopedisi .

Sources : Bilkent University, Turkish Literature Deparment, Class Notes.

Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation. 

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