Human Landscapes from My Country by Nazim Hikmet Essay
Human Landscapes from My Country by Nazim Hikmet
Introduction In the Epic novel, Human Landscapes from My Country, Nazim Hikmet used the comparison between technology and nature very often. The imagery of technology that is portrayed in this novel seems to clash with nature. Through the use of many different images such as the train and plane, Hikmet seems to portray technology as the antagonist of nature. These imageries suggest how technology would destroy and would annihilate nature with its surroundings as technology progresses.
However, after a closer reading into the novel, Hikmet actually suggest that technology as a positive aspect that will ultimately improve human lives. Perhaps sacrifices and mistakes are necessary as these are natural occurrences that are expected to happen as technology progresses. Although the cost of technology may seem to be dreadful, it is a necessary step for the better future of human lives. Literature Contemporary history on a panoramic scale is taken up in Human Landscapes, which was written during the author’s prison years but was only published several years after his death.
Beginning with the project for an epic study of Turkish history during the twentieth century, at intervals the poet’s narrative also turns to major events in adjoining regions, notably naval action of World War II in the Mediterranean and the work of Soviet forces against Nazi invaders. His commentary on the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922) stands in stark contrast to the heroic national themes repeatedly invoked by other writers of that period.
In Hikmet’s view, it would seem that the people as a whole contributed to final victory but only through an inchoate mass rising that did not also lead to a social revolution. Indeed, many passages suggest that class differences remained acute but were altered by Turkey’s changed status in the world economy. There are a number of brief sketches of individual lives, both from the wealthy and from the lower orders, often to state unpleasant truths about the people’s living situation.
Some characters, it is recorded, died of disease at early ages; farmers retained their land but lost all means of production. Many of the personages are war veterans from one conflict or another. There is much attention to dates, but not in the sense of commemorating events with patriotic connotations; important occurrences in individual lives are accorded the same emphasis as major developments in the nation’s history. There is also a fair amount of random, seemingly senseless violence: Family quarrels lead to murder; after a man kills his wife, children use the head as a ball in a macabre game.
A wrenching, gripping scene records the lynching of a Turk who had collaborated with the British occupation forces. There are some sardonic religious references which call to mind folk superstitions; in some later passages, Turks of a pro-German inclination speculate about whether Adolph Hitler could be a Muslim. Leading Turkish statesmen and thinkers figure as portraits on the walls of business offices; the memories associated with them are quirky bits of characterization that are far from flattering.
The work as a whole darts about and circumambulates historical epochs as they affected different, indeed opposing, social classes. After nearly fifteen years of national independence, homeless and desperately hungry men are to be found outside a newspaper office; if wealthy businessmen cannot turn a profit in some branches of the export trade, because of government restrictions, they move readily to other sectors where their fortunes can be augmented.
Some of them end up dealing with both the Allied and the Axis powers during World War II. The incidence of suicide on either side of the class divide is fairly high; among the poor, childbirth is difficult, painful, and sometimes ends in tragedy. Although this exercise in historical realism, based on the author’s own observations of Turkish life, does not seem to hold out any immediate hopes for a better future, the poet’s descriptions of nature and simple joys serve to leaven an otherwise grim and unsentimental saga (Des Pres, 7-25).
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. Hikmet’s unabashed communist politics, for which he languished in prison or exile most of his adult life, are reflected in vignettes of idealized “Ivans” of soldierly valor and of real-life heroes, “Tanya” the teenaged Russian revolutionary and the Nazi-martyred journalist Gabriel Peri.
Still, the poet’s most profound sympathies lie with the poor man striving to sustain himself and his family in pursuit of a fleeting happiness. Living out prolonged confinement for political activities, dreaming of his wife and child as blindness threatens and days become years, unbowed Halil recalls the poet’s own situation, a cynosure of what an entire culture was forced to endure. Ultimately Hikmet’s art suggests spaciousness, a grandeur in the details of poor people seeking just to breathe while events portend an invidious recurrence of suffering for love, ambition, misfortune–for living.
Finally available complete in English, Hikmet’s hauntingly eloquent masterpiece never flags. Human civilization and technology has grown in a fast pace but are we happy? Hikmet said that he feels life is more comfortable. Nobody said that life has become happier. We found that technology which has been developed to make life easier has in fact made life complicated and busier. He said that unlike the past, now he can travel from place to place in few minutes/hours but life has become busier.
Communication has improved, technology has taken place in our lives but effective communication between people has decreased. We were all alarmed to face this fact that better technology doesn’t mean happiness. So is technology, instead of liberating us, holding us back? Some later segments of this work are essentially similar to portions of The Moscow Symphony and Other Poems, an imaginative lyrical reconstruction of German-Soviet fighting which in the first instance was probably based upon news stories that Hikmet received in prison.
After allowance for the different languages, it may be argued that some passages would do credit to a Soviet wartime poet: the anxiety of the war’s first year, the vast human drama of armies locked in combat, and the camaraderie of soldiers brought together in common struggle are evoked in brisk, telling lines. 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. ” 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.
Works Cited Des Pres, Terrence. “Poetry and Politics: The Example of Nazim Hikmet. ” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 6, no. 2 (1978): 7-25.