Between East and West: Selections from Peyami Safa (III)

Painful Problem

Milliyet, 1956

Milliyet’s front page in 1956. Peyami Safa wrote in Milliyet during the Cold War’s turbulent years.


Small note: I am continuing to share my translation ventures in order once a month. Last month I stressed that “this kind of activities  (literary translations) must be widespread to present Turkish culture and civilization in the world-scale.” Finally, I would be happy if you see any mistake in the form of translation. I hope that I may not miss any point during translation. 

My other translations from P.S.

Between East and West: Selections from Peyami Safa (II)

Between East and West: Selections from Peyami Safa (I)


Tevfik Fikret has a poem called “Ferda” which dedicated to “Today’s Youth”. The poetry value of this poem that teachers memorized us in our childhood, with my present understanding, is zero; pedagogical suggestion value, again with my current understanding, is a wonderful measure. There is no doubt that this poem is also among the reasons which caused to win Çanakkale or Sakarya, and today it has not been written as a similar.

Fikret’s poem of “Ferda” (Tomorrow) in its original Ottoman Turkish form. Turkish people wrote their languages by using Arabic script until 1928.

The generation that the poet called “Today’s Youth” is now the elders of today. I asked one of today’s youths about the meaning of the main words in this poem. First of all: Ferda (means tomorrow), the lad did not know. After that, “Teceddüd” (Novelty), “Şebab” (Youth), “Makes” (Reflected Place), and so on. A high school graduate didn’t know any of them.

Once again, I saw that our youth cannot understand even one couple of the poet which we constantly mention in our tongue as “Namık Kemal, Namık Kemal, Namık Kemal”. They cannot understand Hamid, Recaizade Ekrem, Ziya Pasha, Fikret, Hâşim, Yahya Kemal. They cannot understand Fuzuli, Nedim, Baki at all. This is clearly known.

1950'li yıllarda Türk kızları Robert Kolej'den yüksekokula dönüştürülen mekanda
Western colleges were highly effective in the 50’s Turkey. One of them was Robert College based on the American model until 1971. National Geographic visited the college and wrote an article about it in 1957.

So are the reasons. But a young who graduated from a foreign college explained its reasons:

“We did not read Turkish literature from texts. We know when Namık Kemal or Tevfik Fikret was born, where he grew up, what he read, how he died, we did not read and understand a single book. However, we learned English and American literature by reading all the main works in the library. Shakespeare’s language is not today’s English, but our teachers have taught us and only taught us this. From Turkish literature, we just know only numbers and special names. We got the taste, excitement, and opinion from Western literature. For this, I still read foreign works and I owe my culture to the West.”

Turkish literature in Turkish high schools is the figure and special name. Biography and bibliography. Full text is not read. How do you study, o teacher? There is a poor generation who does not understand any literary Turkish and does not speak other than vulgar language.

Celal Yardımcı resigned from his position as the Minister of Education who was about to address this terrible problem. I do not know how Mr. Ahmet Özel has been aware of such a case and if he has any idea, he is preparing a project to deal with it. If I know, I will feed the pigeons at the entrance of the Sahaflar Bazaar in Beyazit.

***This is taken from Safa’s “Objective I: Ottoman Turkish, Turkish, and Fabrication” published by Ötüken Publications. 

The book’s link:–objektif-1/28519.html

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