AZİZ NESİN (1916-1995)
Aziz Nesin was born on January 2, 1916 in Heybeliada, an island close to Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. The son of an imam and a housewife, Nesin graduated from military school and military academy. During his career in the armed forces, Aziz Nesin served as in various cities in Anatolia. In 1944, he was condemned to a 10-month sentence because he granted a private permission to leave, and following this event he resigned from the armed forces. He returned to Istanbul and started running a grocery shop; but also took up writing and editing for the newspapers Karagöz and Yedigün. Following this experience, Aziz Nesin discovered the joy of writing; relying on his earthy sense of humor and his instinctive humanism, he published pieces in various periodicals and newspapers. In 1946, he started publishing the humor magazine entitled Markopaşa. However, in order to prevent lawsuits and to maintain a sense of continuity, he frequently had to change the name of the publication. Nesin started writing books as well, each of which caused him to be investigated, arrested or sent to exile.
Aziz Nesin is the flagstone of humorous Turkish literature. Even today, many people consider his work as a guiding light. Every one of his books and stories displays the profound love that he feels towards humankind, and relies on black humor to make a commentary on the situation of the country. Whether they are acquainted with literature or not, any speaker of Turkish is typically familiar with at least one of his stories.
Other than being a prolific writer, Aziz Nesin worked hard to contribute to the illumination, the modernization, and the democratization of society, especially during the last years of his life. He was a notable intellectual who was, to use his own terms, “paying dues to society.”
Aziz Nesin committed another one of his humanist acts in 1972, as he established the foundation Nezin Vakfı, which undertook the education of countless orphan children. On each opportunity, Nesin proudly stated that through the foundation he had countless children other than his own four.
On July 5,1995, during a book-signing event in Izmir, Nesin died due to heart failure, and in accordance with his will, he was buried in an unspecified location on the foundation property. Aziz Nesin had stated in his will “I don’t want children to visit me on my grave and to be upset, in addition I have no intention of lying below a huge gravestone and to scare them.” Nesin had managed to put a bit of bitter black humor in his own death as well. Nesin is the foremost humor writer in Turkish literature, and has earned countless national and international awards.
Aziz Nesin’s Works:
Short Story: Geriye Kalan (The Thing Left Behind, 1948), İt Kuyruğu (Dog Tails, 1955), Yedek Parça (Spares, 1955), Fil Hamdi (Elephant Hamdi, 1955), Damda Deli Var (There is a Madman on the Roof, 1956), Koltuk (Armchair, 1957), Kazan Töreni (Ceremony of the Cauldron, 1957), Toros Canavarı (The Monster of Toros, 1957), Deliler Boşandı (The Crazies Got Divorced, 1957), Mahallenin Kısmeti (The Luck of the Street, 1957), Ölmüş Eşek (Dead Donkey, 1957), Hangi Parti Kazanacak (Which Party Will Win? 1957), Havadan Sudan (Talking about This and That, 1958), Bay Düdük (Mr. Whistle, 1958), Nazik Alet (Sensitive Device, 1958), Gıdıgıdı (Tickling, 1959), Aferin (Well-done, 1959), Kördöğüşü (Fighting of the Blind, 1959), Mahmut ile Nigar (Mahmut and Nigar, 1960) Gözüne Gözlük (Eyeglasses To Your Eyes, 1960), Ah Biz Eşekler (Oh, We Donkeys, 1960), Yüz Liraya Bir Deli (A Madman for One Hundred Turkish Liras, 1961), Biz Adam Olmayız (We Cannot Grow Up, 1962), Bir Koltuk Nasıl Devrilir (How Can a Government be Overthrown, 1961), Sosyalizm Geliyor Savulun (Out of the Way! Socialism’s Coming, 1965), İhtilali Nasıl Yaptık (How Did We Revolt? 1965), Rıfat Bey Neden Kaşınıyor (Why does Rıfat Efendi Ask for Trouble, 1965), Yeşil Renkli Namus Gazı (Green Colored Honorable Air, 1965), Bülbül Yuvası Evler (Houses Like Nightingale Nests, 1968), Vatan Sağolsun (Long Live Our Country, 1968), Yaşasın Memleket (Long Live Our Homeland, 1969), Büyük Grev (General Strike, 1978), Hayvan Deyip Geçme (Don’t Insult the Animals, 1980), 70 Yaşım Merhaba (Hello My 70th.Year, 1984), Kalpazanlık Bile Yapılamıyor (Even Forgery Cannot Be Done, 1984), Maçinli Kız İçin Ev (A House for the Girl from the Celestial Empire, 1987), Gülmece Öyküleri (Humorous Short Stories, 2001).
Novel: Kadın Olan Erkek (The Man Who Became a Woman, 1955), Gol Kralı Sait Hop Sait (Goal King Sait, Jump Sait, 1957), Erkek Sabahat (Male Beauty, 1957), Saçkıran (Alopecia, 1959), Zübük (Zübük, 1961), Şimdiki Çocuklar Harika (Today’s Children are Wonderful, 1967), Surname (Surname, 1976), Tek Yol (The Only Way, 1978).
Memoir: Bir Sürgünün Hatıraları (Memories of an Exile, 1957), Böyle Gelmiş Böyle Gitmez (That’s How it Was, But It'll Be Different in the Future, 1966-1977), Poliste (At the Police Station, 1967), Yokuşun Başı (The Beginning of the Climb, 1982), Benim Delilerim (My Crazies, 1984), Çağımızın Nasreddin Hocası Aziz Nesin (Aziz Nesin, the Nasreddin Hoca of Our Age, 1984), Salkım Salkım Asılacak Adamlar (Bunches of Men to be Hung, 1987), Ben de Çocuktum (I Was a Child Once, 1989), Rüyalarım Ziyan Olmasın (Don’t Waste My Dreams, 1990).
Fairy-Tale: Memleketin Birinde (In One of the Countries, 1953), Hoptirinam (Hopping And Jumping, 1960), Uyusana Tosunum (Sleep My Dear Young Bull, 1971), Aziz Dededen Masallar (Fairy-tales from Grandfather Aziz, 1978).
Anecdote: Nutuk Makinası (Speech Machine, 1958), Az Gittik Uz Gittik (We Went Close, We Went Far, 1959), Merhaba (Hello, 1971), Suçlanan ve Aklanan Yazılar (The Accused and Acquitted Articles, 1982), Ah Biz Ödlek Aydınlar (Oh, We Faint-Hearted Intellectuals, 1985), Soruşturmada (Under Questioning, 1986), Korkudan Korkmak (Being Afraid of Fear, 1988), Bulgaristan’da Kürtler, Türkiye’de Kürtler (The Kurds in Bulgaria, The Kurds in Turkey, 1989), Nah Kalkınırız (We Cannot Improve Ourselves, 1989).
Satire: Azizname (The Book of Aziz, 1979).
Travel Literature: Duyduk Duymadık Demeyin (Don’t Say We Heard or We Didn’t Hear, 1976), Dünya Kazan Ben Kepçe (The World is a Cauldron and I am a Ladle, 1977).
Play: Biraz Gelir misiniz (Will You Come, Please? 1958), Bir şey Yap Met ( Do Something Met, 1959), Toros Canavarı (The Monster of Toros, 1963), Düdükçülerle Fırçacıların Savaşı (The Fight Between the Whistlers and the Brushers, 1968), Çiçu (Çiçu, 1979), Tut Elimden Rovni (Hold My Hand Rovni, 1970), Hadi Öldürsene Canikom (Come on and Kill Me My Dear, 1970), Beş Kısa Oyun (Five Short Plays, 1979), Bütün Oyunlar (All Plays, 1982).
Barbaros’un Torunu (The Grandchild of Barbaros), Hakkımı Ver Hakkı (Give Me My Rights Hakkı), Yaşar Ne Yaşar Ne Yaşamaz (Yaşar Neither Lives Nor Dies)
Poetry: Sondan Başa (From the End to the Beginning, 1984), Sevgiye On Ölüme Beş Kala (It’s Ten to Love Five to Death, 1986), Kendini Yakalamak (Catching Yourself, 1988), Hoşçakalın (Goodbye, 1990), Sivas Acısı (The Pain of Sivas, 1995).
Anthology: Cumhuriyet Döneminde Türk Mizahı (Turkish Humor in the Period of the Republic, 1973).
Speech: İnsanlar Konuşa Konuşa (People Understand Each Other by Speaking, 1988).
Essay: Sivas Acısı (The Pain of Sivas, 1995), Çuvala Doldurulmuş Kediler (Cats Put into a Sack, 1995), Sizin Memlekette Eşek Yok mu? (Don’t You Have Donkeys in Your Country? 1995), Okuduğum Kitaplar (The Books I Read, 2001).
Collection: Cumhuriyet Döneminde Türk Mizahı (Turkish Humor in The Period of the Republic, 2001).
Letter: Mektuplaşmalar 1 / Aziz Nesin Ali Nesin (Correspondence 1 / Aziz Nesin, Ali Nesin, 1994), Canım Oğlum, Sevgili Babacığım, Aziz Nesin-Ali Nesin Mektuplaşmaları 1966-1981 (My Dear Son, My Dear Father, Correspondence between Aziz Nesin and Ali Nesin 1966-1981, 2002).
* Biographical information concerning Aziz Nesin has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.
Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation, photograph courtesy of Ara Guler.