The Mozart of Turkish Literature: Sabahattin Ali

“Most of the people in Sabahattin Ali’s novels and stories are weak or even decayed. They are people who go along with the evils of the society or are even the reason for these evils.”[1] These words may describe best Sabahattin Ali’s social realistic works like Kuyucaklı Yusuf or İçimizdeki Şeytan (The Devil Inside Us). […]

“Most of the people in ’s novels and are weak or even decayed. They are people who go along with the evils of the society or are even the reason for these evils.”[1] These words may describe best Sabahattin Ali’s social realistic works like Kuyucaklı Yusuf or İçimizdeki Şeytan (The Devil Inside Us).  Writing was the way he used in order to criticise the existing order and point out social grievance.

Born in 1907, Sabahattin Ali’s childhood was marked by the troublesome events leading to the establishment of the Turkish Republic. After finishing his education as a teacher, he studied German in Berlin for two years where he was attracted by leftist ideas experiencing there the German socialist ideology and labour movement. [2]

Turning back to Turkey in 1930, he started to work for the publishing of a magazine with Turkish socialists like the poet Nazım Hikmet. His critical attitude and his political orientation resulted in first troubles with the police. Accused for insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in one of his , he was imprisoned for several months. [3] Just with another poem praising Atatürk, he could retrieve his civil servant status as a teacher. [4]

His following years were marked by moves to different cities, changing jobs and frequent conscription calls for precautionary measures due to the Second World War. He started a family and published almost all of his literary significant works during this time. [5]

Always having a close relationship to the Turkish left, nevertheless, it is difficult to call him a revolutionist. His political orientation towards socialism persisted at a theoretical basis because, above all, he continued his contacts to statesmen and kept for long time his civil servant status. First and foremost, he was rather a novelist than a political fighter. Just in the last years of his life the criticism towards the state become gradually harsher in his writings parallel to the rising state oppression which attacked his circle of friends and his work.

Markopaşa Magazine

In 1946, together with Aziz Nesin, another well-known leftist writer of Turkey, he decided to publish Markopaşa which was a satirical and op-positional humour magazine pressed on a weekly basis in Istanbul. The public success, the large circulation and the fierce tone of the magazine displeased politicians. [6]

Like other countries supporting the American side in the Cold War, Turkey experienced a rising in politics. Furthermore, after the move to the multi-party period in 1945, Turkey experienced a struggle for power between the Democratic Party and the Republican People’s Party at the expense of the leftist movement. “The years 1948 and 1949 saw a witch-hunt against the left.” [7]

Also Sabahattin Ali became a victim of this anti-communist wave. The first arrestment for 17 days [8] was followed by the closure of Markopaşa and the imprisonment for three months. The attempt to revive the success of Markopaşa under different names ended with the menace of the next arresting and the lack of money. Closely associated with the left wing, being a friend of the novelist became a reason for blame. [9]

Exhausted from all this trouble around him, Sabahattin Ali finally ended up as a truck driver in order to earn his living. Thinking about leaving Turkey, he might also detect this as a way to escape. In March 1948, he started his last drive to Edirne but he never turned back. [10]

In June 1948 his dead body was found in Kırklareli. Ali Ertekin, who shouldered the crime, said he killed him because of national feelings but the novelist´s political background and the late announcement of his death by the police have caused doubts by the testimony of his murderer. Sabahattin Ali still does not have a grave. [11]

References:
[1] Tİmuçİn, Afşar: Öykü ve Romanlarıyla Sabahattİn Ali (İstanbul: Bulut Yayınları, 2011), 90.
[2] Topuz, Hıfzı: Başın Öne Eğİlmesİn, Sabahattin Alİ’nİn Romanı (İstanbul: Remzİ Kİtapevİ, 2007), 36-46.
[3] Topuz, Hıfzı: Başın Öne Eğİlmesİn, Sabahattİn Alİ’nİn Romanı (İstanbul: Remzİ Kİtapevİ, 2007), 58-62.
[4] Alİ, Fİlİz; Özkırımlı, Atİlla; Sönmez, Sevengül: Sabahattİn Alİ, Anılar, İncelemeler, Eleştİrİler (İstanbul: Yapı Kredİ Yayinları, 2014), 25.
[5] Alİ, Fİlİz; Özkırımlı, Atİlla; Sönmez, Sevengül: Sabahattİn Alİ, Anılar, İncelemeler, Eleştİrİler (İstanbul: Yapı Kredİ Yayinları, 2014), 25-26.
[6] Kormaz, Ramazan: Sabahattİn Alİ, İnsan ve Eser ( İstanbul: Yapı Kredİ YaYınları, 1997), 44-47.
[7] Zürcher, Erik J.: Turkey, A Modern History (New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2005), 213.
[8] Topuz, Hıfzı: Başın Öne Eğİlmesİn, Sabahattİn Alİ’nİn Romanı (İstanbul: Remzİ Kİtapevİ, 2007), 168-172
[9] Topuz, Hıfzı: Başın Öne Eğİlmesİn, Sabahattİn Alİ’nİn Romanı (İstanbul: Remzİ Kİtapevİ, 2007), 197-209
[10] KorKmaz, Ramazan: Sabahattİn Alİ, İnsan ve Eser ( İstanbul: Yapı Kredİ YaYınları, 1997), 49-50
[11] Alİ, Fİlİz; Özkırımlı, Atİlla; Sönmez, Sevengül: Sabahattİn Alİ, Anılar, İncelemeler, Eleştİrİler (İstanbul: Yapı Kredİ Yayınları, 2014), 231-252.


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