CBSD.COM - Fall 2010


In Jail with Nazim Hikmet

Orhan Kemal; Translated by Bengisu Rona

"A jewel of a memoir . . . beautifully translated."—Maureen Freely

"Moving and remarkable . . . Kemal's prison memoir is a debt of gratitude to the great man of Turkish letters, the poet Nazim Hikmet."—Today's Zaman

Bursa prison, mid-winter 1940. Two prisoners meet, both writers, both serving long sentences for allegedly inciting Turkish soldiers to mutiny. One is Turkey's most famous poet, Nazim Hikmet. The other is a young aspiring poet, Orhan Kemal, who now shares a cell with the man whose work he has long admired.

In this prison memoir, Orhan Kemal reminisces on the time he shared with the great poet and describes how Hikmet inspired him to become one of Turkey's most popular and successful novelists.

In Jail with Nazim Hikmet also includes Kemal's diary entries on Nazim and the latter's correspondence with Kemal after his release from prison in 1943.

Orhan Kemal (1914–1970) was one of Turkey's most popular novelists. He was found guilty for breach of the penal code during his military service, and he served a prison sentence from 1938 to 1943. From 1951 he made his living entirely by writing—often with radical, anti-authoritarian content. His prison memoir, Nazim Hikmet'le Üç Buçuk Yil (Three and a Half Years with Nazim Hikmet) was first published in Turkey in 1965. The Idle Years was published by Peter Owen in the United Kingdom in 2008.

Bengisu Rona teaches Turkish language and literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.