Halide Adivar: A Turkish novelist with a cause

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Turkish Novelist

Turkish novelist Halide Edib Adivar was not only the founding mother of modern Turkish novel-writing but also a leading feminist. She was one of the pioneers of women’s emancipation in her country in the early 20th century. She also took an important part in spreading the Turk Ocagi (Turkish Hearth) club-movement. This movement aimed to raise the standard of Turkish education and encouraged social and economic progress. During her time it was taboo for women and men to attend any lecture together. Turk Ocagi sought to break that convention. The majority of her novels reflected the cause of women’s liberation. As a major Turkish novelist, Halide also spread the message of pan-Turanism through her writings.


Halide was born on January 9, 1884, in then Constantinople (now Istanbul). She came from a rich family, as her father was a secretary to the Ottoman emperor Abdulhamid II. As was the custom in many rich households during her time, she received a private education at her home. Besides learning literature, philosophy, religion, and sociology she also learnt three foreign languages, French, English, and Arabic. Later she also learnt Greek. Such sound academic background, no doubt, helped her a great deal in becoming a pioneering Turkish novelist.

She married noted Turkish mathematician and astronomer Salih Zeki Beh. The marriage didn’t last long, and Halide divorced Beh in 1910. She had two children by her first husband. Seven years later she married her second husband Abdulhak Adnan Adivar, a doctor and politician. In 1918 she became a professor in the faculty of letters at Istanbul university. After the first World War, the Turkish novelist joined the Turkish National Resistance movement, which played a key role in founding the Turkish Republic.


Halide’s acumen in literary writing was recognized early. In 1897, when barely 13, she translated American children’s author Jacob Abbott’s book titled Mother into Turkish, for which the Ottoman emperor conferred on her the Order of Charity. From 1908 she started writing for the Tanin newspaper under the nom de plum Halide Salih. She published her first novel, Seviye Talip, in 1909. And soon became quite famous as a Turkish novelist. She wrote her most famous novel, Atesten Gomlek (translated as The Daughter of Smyrna) in 1922. The novel tells the story of triangular love among a young woman, who is a freedom fighter, and two of her lovers.

Among Halide’s other important novels are Zeyno’nun Oglu (Zeyno’s son, 1926), and Sinekli Bakkal (The Clown and His Daughter, 1935). The latter was originally written in English and was published in Turkish a year later. The great Turkish novelist actually wrote quite a few of her works in English. These include The Turkish Ordeal (1928), Turkey Faces West (1930), and Conflict of East and West in Turkey (1935). In these works, Halide primarily examines the ideological conflicts facing the young Turkish Republic. The noted Turkish novelist also wrote two volumes of memoirs (1926).


(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)

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