Human Landscapes from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse

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While serving a thirteen-year sentence as a political prisoner during the Second World War, Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), Turkey's foremost modern poet, embarked on the writing of his great epic, Human Landscapes from My Country. Now published in full for the first time in English on the occasion of the poet's centennial, this stunning 17,000-line verse-novel at once documents Turkey's historic change from an Islamic empire to a secular republic and exemplifies his vision of life as a communal experiment in creating ...
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Overview

While serving a thirteen-year sentence as a political prisoner during the Second World War, Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), Turkey's foremost modern poet, embarked on the writing of his great epic, Human Landscapes from My Country. Now published in full for the first time in English on the occasion of the poet's centennial, this stunning 17,000-line verse-novel at once documents Turkey's historic change from an Islamic empire to a secular republic and exemplifies his vision of life as a communal experiment in creating the world in the image of our dreams.

Written in free verse and employing such cinematographic techniques as flashbacks, pans, zooms, dissolves, and jump cuts, Human Landscapes from My Country combines the economy of poetry with the rapid-fire imagery of motion pictures. Hikmet traces the fortunes of men and women in love and war -- from prostitutes, politicians, and captains of industry to housewives, political prisoners, and peasants -- and gives voice to social strata unheard from in a heroic context until the twentieth century. To Hikmet, every life is a human-interest story worth telling, and his is a cast of hundreds. This panoramic view of Turkish society during World War II, when the fate of the world hung in the balance, highlights the compelling variety of human experience, never letting us forget that, for better or worse, the fate of the world is in our hands.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A vital part of modern Turkish literature, Hikmet (1902-1963) was a poet whose lyrics, as sung by leftist performers such as Pete Seeger, had international resonance, and whose repeated imprisonments drew protests from the likes of Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre. This novel in verse, written during one long prison sentence in the 1940s, reflects the emotional and physical torments the poet experienced. More gritty than lyrical, it is powerfully plainspoken: "But Selim was no Communist. He didn't even know what communism was ...But the cops thought different. They laid Selim on the floor. And when Selim got up, he couldn't step on his feet. They laid Selim on the floor. And when Selim got up, he couldn't see." A revised version of a 1983 abridged Persea edition, this volume disappoints in at least one respect: a facile preface by Edward Hirsch, who states that Hikmet's "voice is sad and reads like music; it is joyful and sounds like happiness." Hikmet's writing is poetry under siege, and the blunt heroism of his characters makes them more Marxist ideals than believable human beings. The poetic element may not survive well in translation, but the content and context make this a lastingly fascinating work. As translator Konuk writes, the book describes "people from different social backgrounds and classes, ranging from the dispossessed and the unemployed to senators and industrialists... from factory workers and peasants to doctors and professors' wives." This is recommended for all modern literature collections, as evidence of the indomitable human will toward free speech in spite of great suffering. (May 23) FYI: In celebration of the centennial of Hikmet's birth, Persea is releasing a revised edition of Poems of Nazim Hikmet simultaneously. Fans of socially committed writing will want both Persea selections, as well as an excellent Anvil Press collection, Beyond the Walls: Selected Poems by Nazim Hikmet. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“One of the great works of modern literature. —Raymond Carver”
William Armstrong - World Literature Today
“Hikmet takes the traditional oral epic form and adapts it to the modern condition by using elements of drama, film and the novel. ... Mutlu Konuk Blasing [the translator], who recently wrote an excellent biography of Hikmet, does a miraculous job here. ... Human Landscapes spreads across 17,000 iron-forged lines, but it is extraordinarily efficient, never wasting a single word. The whole thing effectively amounts to a compendium of Anatolia's collective memories, traumas, hopes and fears at the time of the Second World War.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552733
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 5/15/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Nazim Hikmet is considered Turkey's greatest modern poet. For his Communist views, he was imprisoned in Turkey and his work was banned. His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. He won the World Peace Prize (the USSR's equivalent of the Nobel) in 1950. He died in 1963 in exile.

Randy Blasing, a former National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellow, is the author of seven books of poetry, including Choice Words: Poems 1970-2005. He is also the eminent translator, alongside Mutlu Konuk, of the renowned Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. He lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Mutlu Konuk Blasing, a native of Istanbul, is Professor of English at Brown University. Her books include Lyric Poetry: The Pain and the Pleasure of Words. She is the co-translator (with Randy Blasing) of the renowned English translations of Nazim Hikmet, and the author of four scholarly books on American poetry.

Edward Hirsch has published seven books of poems, including Special Orders. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Translators' Preface vi
Foreword vii
Introduction ix
Book One 3
Book Two 93
Book Three 231
Book Four 337
Book Five 407
Glossary 464
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