Children of Trans-Empire: New Article re Nâzım Hikmet

December 12, 2018

It was springtime in Moscow, 1922, and Nâzım Hikmet was signing up for classes at the Communist University for the Toilers of the East.  KUTV, as the university was known by its Russian initials, was the Moscow-based school for communism where Nâzım Hikmet would study and teach for most of thenext six years.  Nâzım, who would go on to become one of Turkey’s most beloved yet controversial writers, was just twenty years old when he arrived in Moscow. The university had been opened the year before, in 1921. 

Nâzım Hikmet (left) with his friend 
and boon companion Vâlâ 
Nâzım had arrived in Moscow from Batumi, Georgia, with four comrades— Vâlâ (Nureddin), Şevket Süreyya (Aydemir), Şevket’s wife, Leman (Aydemir), and Ahmet Cevat (Emre)—whose surnames are all well-known to students of modern Turkey. The questionnaires that the five filled out were a couple of pages long and relatively straightforward, focusing mainly upon the prospective student’s family history and recent past. “What is your family’s social position?” “Did you participate in the civil war and, if so, in what capacity?” “What is your party background?”

“Do you write?” asked the questionnaire. “If so, then what?” 

“I write everything,” responded Nâzım.

“What is your street address in Moscow?”

Gde ia zhivu, Nâzım wrote. “Where I live.”

New Projects, New Writing: Getting Caught up at the Borderlands Lodge

December 10, 2018

Over the past year or so, a number of people (okay, two) have asked me why I'm not keeping up with the blog as much as I used to. In truth, there are a lot of reasons behind this--not least of which the fact that I've been researching a lot in Turkey and Russia, and feel like I should probably be a bit more careful about what I post. So, a lot of the sort of writing that used to appear on this blog has gone into abeyance. And frankly, the less time I spend on this blog, the less I get caught up in daily politics and the online world more generally--which is fine with me.

Trying to stay offline and out of doors...
Mainly, though, I've been trying to focus on my professional writing, and have perhaps been a little reluctant to discuss this work until it had begun to yield results. I put up a handful of posts during my sabbatical in 2016-2017, but even then I was mainly interested in getting work done in the archives and keeping a low profile (well, mostly). Up at the Borderlands Lodge, after all, that's something we can do pretty much without even trying.  

Iceland: The Return

June 29, 2018

I made a trip back to Iceland after finishing off my research in Amsterdam, Budapest, and Istanbul. All in all, my travels in May and June lasted for about seven weeks. Most of the time was spent researching, but I also spent about 10 days in various places in Iceland at the beginning and end of the trip. Shots from my first visit to Iceland, which took place in the first half of May, can be found here and here

On the ferry from Heimaey back to the "mainland"
June is apparently high season in Iceland, and my guidebook had advised me to arrange accommodation ahead of time. I'd therefore decided back in Turkey where I was going to stay--I booked a night's stay in Hveragerði, followed by two nights in Heimaey, on the Western Islands. Last I'd spend one night in Vik, on the southern coast, before driving back to the airport outside Reykjavik to drop off the car and fly back to the US. Ultimately, my trip would take me as far east as Jökulsárlón before I turned back. 

Taking the Long Road to the Imperial Metropole

June 25, 2018

Back when I was living in Turkey in the 1990s, I made a point of taking a vacation every summer for 6-8 weeks. It made sense, and I could afford it. After all, most of my English teaching work dried up in the summer anyway. From the beginning of July until the end of September, there wasn't a lot of work to do, and frankly I appreciate the opportunity to get out of Istanbul and visit some other countries in the region. My daughter was living in southern Hungary at the time, so pretty much every year I'd trek through the Balkans to go see her, usually traveling up through Bulgaria and parts of ex-Yugoslavia, then coming back down via Romania and, again, Bulgaria. Other summertime excursions took me through various places in central Europe, the ex-USSR, the Middle East, and east Asia.