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2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing biography of a fascinating poet, 9 Jun 2010
This review is from: Romantic Communist: The Life and Work of Nazim Hikmet (Paperback)
According to the introduction this is the first biography of Nazim Hikmet in any language, which is surprising given how interesting his life was. Born in Salonica (now in Greece) to a wealthy Ottoman family which alas was about to go into financial decline, Hikmet grew up to be a fierce Communist and passionate poet; indeed he was one of the great poets of the Twentieth Century, even if sadly he's not as well known as he ought to be in the English-speaking world.

Hikmet spent much of his life in prison and much of it in exile in Russia: on the first occasion during the early idealistic years of Lenin and then later on during the darker times of Stalin. How did he reconcile his commitment to Communism with the realities of Soviet history? The authors discuss this yet somehow never really answer the question. I'd go so far as to say they avoid answering the question, taking refuge in vague comments and affirmations of Hikmet's idealism.

The other defining feature of Hikmet's life was the series of overlapping intense relationships with women who in effect became his muses. I say overlapping: what typically happened is that he would become separated from each woman (geographically, often by hundreds of miles) but continue to remain emotionally attached even as he embarked on the next relationship. His is a poetry of separation as much as of revolution. Again, somehow his biographers never really get to the heart of what this pattern of behaviour meant: where it came from, what it said about Hikmet.

Over and over again topics of interest are opened up only to be talked around or prematurely abandoned. An example: we are told that Hikmet's meeting with his Polish relatives (his ancestors included a German too) was particularly important. And that's it. Why was the meeting important? What happened? What did Hikmet say about the meeting? What, if anything, was its effect? There is no information; the authors move on without further comment.

It's not all bad though: the writing style is fluid and easy to read and there are some interesting critical reflections on the poetry.
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Romantic Communist: The Life and Work of Nazim Hikmet
Romantic Communist: The Life and Work of Nazim Hikmet by Edward Timms (Paperback - 20 Sep 2006)
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