Life of Nazim Hikmet

Nazim Hikmet was born in Salonica in the erstwhile Ottoman Empire (now Thessaloniki in Greece) to a civil servant father and a painter mother. His grandfather was a poet. Through a group of like-minded family friends, Hikmet was introduced to the world of rhymes and verses at a very early age.

He published his first volume of poems at the tender age of seventeen. He attended the Naval War School and afterwards, during the First World War, he taught in a school in eastern Turkey.

Avant-garde ideas were already brewing inside him and attracted by the promises of egalitarianism delivered by the Russian Revolution, Nazim Hikmet went to Moscow in 1922. There he enrolled himself at the University of Moscow and studied Sociology and Economics.

He returned to Turkey in 1924 i.e., after the Turkish Liberation War, but was soon arrested for his writings in a Communist magazine. He managed to flee to Moscow in 1926, where he continued penning.

A general amnesty permitted him to return to his native land in 1928. But he had not bargained for the adversities that lay ahead.

As a member of the banned Communist Party outfit, he was placed under intense round-the-clock scrutiny by the secret police and also had to endure frequent harassment in the hands of the police. For instance, Hikmet spent the five of the next ten years behind bars on various frivolous and fabricated charges.

Though frequently in and out of prison, Nazim Hikmet never stopped writing. Between the turbulent years of 1929 to 1936, he published nine books - five compilations and four long poems. Meanwhile he also worked as bookbinder, proofreader, translator, reporter, screenwriter to make ends meet.