“Socialism,” Régis Debray has written, “was born with a printers’ docket around its neck. . . . Book, school, newspaper: for the party militant, the greatest emphasis lay on the third.” This essay addresses the imagination of an underground press in the Turkish communist Nâzım Hikmet’s autobiographical novel Life’s Good, Brother, published posthumously in 1964. Taking into consideration Nâzım’s recently published correspondence and reports in the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) archive, it aims to move beyond the perfunctory, generalizing study of the relation between Nâzım’s literary aesthetics and revolutionary activism, suggesting that V. I. Lenin (more than Vladimir Mayakovksy) was a key influence on his literary writings. I argue that this novel, about the failure of a group of Turkish communists to establish an effective underground press, should be read alongside a report titled “Newspaper: A Collective Organizer,” which Nâzım submitted to the TKP in 1925. If Nâzım closely followed Lenin’s 1901 pamphlet “Where to Begin” and 1902 booklet What Is to Be Done? in his youthful writings, I suggest that in Life’s Good, Brother, he broke with Lenin and with his own earlier formulations. The novel’s imagination of a nonteleological revolutionary temporality and of a discontinuous, transnational communist writing may be understood as anticipating and interrupting the “postcommunism” of our own time.
Nâzım Hikmet and the Prose of Communism
Nergis Ertürk is associate professor of comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey (2011), the recipient of the Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book, and the coeditor (with Özge Serin) of a recent special issue of boundary 2, “Marxism, Communism, and Translation.”
Nergis Ertürk; Nâzım Hikmet and the Prose of Communism. boundary 2 1 May 2020; 47 (2): 153–180. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8193298
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