Özdemir Asaf: influencing Turkish literature decades after his death

It has been more than 40 years since the death of Özdemir Asaf, but his influence on contemporary Turkish literature remains alive. Known for his elegant and emotional poems, Asaf helped shape the era of the literary travel republic of Turkey and responded to a culture changing and adapting to more modern concepts in the both in life and in the arts.

Asaf, whose full name was Halit Özdemir Arun, was born on June 11, 1923 in Ankara to Mehmet Asaf Bey and Hamidiye Khanum. He lost his father when he was only 7 years old, as he recalls in his memoirs “It”. When the Family Names Act was enacted in 1935, her mother chose “Arun”, which means clean and pure, as her last name.

After the death of his father, Asaf and his family moved to Istanbul and Hamidiye Khanum opened a tailoring class in their mansion in the Acıbadem district to support the family. Asaf began his studies at Galatasaray High School Primary School in 1930, then transferred to Kabataş Boys High School in 1941, where he graduated in 1942.

Özdemir Asaf strokes a puppy. (File photo)

Asaf then enrolled in Istanbul University Law School and studied law for three years before moving to Economics Faculty for a year. He dropped out of college when he married Sabahat Selma Tezakın, whom he met at university, in 1946, and started working as an insurance producer. The couple had a daughter named Seda Arun.

He would later explain his decision to study law by saying that like most poets of the time, he wanted to dive head first into life by studying and believed he would influence more people if he climbed higher. high in the education ladder.

He worked at the Zaman and Tanin newspapers as a translator and published his first poem in 1939, in the Servet-i Fünun – Uyanış, an avant-garde newspaper which began under the Ottoman Empire. He would continue to work with various other journals while continuing to publish and translate poems. Asaf completed his national service and joined the Turkish army in 1948.

Özdemir Asaf in the last years of his life.  (File photo)

Özdemir Asaf in the last years of his life. (File photo)

Seda Arun will later recall how she first found out that her father wrote poems in an interview with Anadolu (AA) agency in 2020. She understood what he was working on thanks to frequent visits from poets. famous people of the time, including Fazıl Hüsnü. Dağlarca, Sait Faik Abasıyanık, Peyami Safa and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, in 1954.

“During these conversations at home, I learned that my father was also writing something. I didn’t know if he wrote prose or poetry. He would read a poem. Moreover, he was reading the same poem insistently. I asked my dad who wrote it, and he said it was him, ”Arun said.

In 1951 he founded the Sanat (Art) Printing Company in the historic district of Cağaloğlu, and later, in 1955, he founded the Roundtable Press. His first collection of poems, “Dünya Gözüme Kaçtı” (“The world caught my attention”), met readers through his publishing house in 1955. Asaf employed satire and irony heavily in his works which were usually in the form of quatrains or couplets.

Seda Arun, daughter of Özdemir Asaf.  (File photo)

Seda Arun, daughter of Özdemir Asaf. (File photo)

“In 1955, he published his first poetry book titled Dünya Gözüme Kaçtı, and he prepared the book cover himself with his manual cutting machine,” Arun said. “There was no crew fault in the book, because he was the crew. The first night he brought his book, I never forgot his enthusiasm at home,” he said. -she adds.

Özdemir Asaf participated in the Belgian International Poetry Biennial in 1959, representing the Turkish Literary Union, and in 1966 he joined the Poetry Congress in Yugoslavia at the invitation of the Macedonian Writers Association.

As his career continued to flourish, Asaf reduced the number of verses in his poems, and he would later say in an interview with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) in 1979: “Whenever I want to write a poem, I always wonder if it can be shorter. He also began to write verses that were more focused on puns. He frequently dealt with subjects of human and societal relations and often used elements of satire and libelling. The themes of his works revolved around love, separation, death and escape. His unique poetic and ironic language saw life through a distinct prism and synthesized Western poetry with traditional Turkish poetry.

Özdemir Asaf delivers a speech.  (File photo)

Özdemir Asaf delivers a speech. (File photo)

Asaf remarried later in his life and became the father of three sons – Gün, Olgun and Etkin – with his second wife, Yıldız Moran, who was the first female photographer in Turkey,

In early December 1980, Asaf began receiving treatment for lung disease at Vakıf Gureba Hospital in Istanbul. On January 28, 1981, he died at his home in the Bebek district of Istanbul from a brain tumor. He was buried in Aşiyan cemetery at his request.

Asaf was known to be a man with gentle characteristics and a love for life. His daughter, Seda Arun, describes him in his college biography assignment: “My father, who everyone thought was a painter and later learned he was a poet, always has a cigarette in his hand and walks fast to big. not. father, still angry at first glance with his brown eyes, but with his mustache trying to cover his entire face, his bony nose, his tall stature and the books in his hands, he’s still in a good mood. “

“Lavinia” (1957)

I won’t ask you not to go.

You’re cold, take my jacket.

These are the most beautiful times of the day.

Stay with me

I won’t ask you not to go.

But Lavinia, don’t go.

I will keep your name a secret

Even you won’t know, Lavinia.

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