Romantic Communist

The Life and Work of Nazim Hikmet

Edited by
April 1999 9781850658276 320pp
Temporarily out of stock


The work of the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet has been widely translated, but this is the first full-length biography in any language, covering his whole career from his birth in 1902 as a member of a cosmopolitan Ottoman family to his death in exile in Moscow in 1963. Romantic Communist portrays a writer who combined political courage with artistic creativity, even under prison conditions. Using both personal testimonies and newly-discovered archival sources, it presents Nazim’s career as a microcosm of modern politics, and he emerges as one of the more remarkable poets of the twentieth century.


‘Goksu and Timms present the historical background in detail… “Nazim has ceased to be a cult figure of the communist world and become a poet of universal significance”, the authors say. This lucid, intelligent and formidably well-researched book is compelling evidence that this is indeed the case’. — David Barchard, Cornucopia 

‘Goksu and Timms present a wealth of documentation so objectively as to allow the reader to draw his own conclusions… Romantic Communist will allow contemporary students to access the contribution of Nazim Hikmet to world literature as well as Turkish literature, and to discover a figure whose importance for post colonial studies has yet to be fully realised’. — Edebiyat: The Journal of Middle Eastern Literatures 

‘An important study of a poet, playwright and prose writer whose life, ideas and work fuse into a fascinating national and international epic… This biography is also a salutary human rights document, dealing as it does with freedom of speech’. — Richard McKane, Journal of Turkish Literature 

‘This biography is thoroughly researched and elegantly written. It shows the reader a great poet at work and demonstrates how beneath the steely facade there also beat a vulnerable heart’. — Belma Otus-Baskett, Turkish Area Study Group News

‘The first full biography of Hikmet and a work of impeccable research.’ — Charles King, Times Literary Supplement 

‘Turkish-born Goksu and husband Timms (German, Univ. of Sussex) claim in the introduction to this first biography of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet (1902-63) that his life and career “form a microcosm of twentieth-century politics.” Hikmet was born to a wealthy family in a part of the Ottoman Empire that was eventually partitioned to Greece. His early exposure to political upheaval as well as his appreciation for the natural “melodic cadences” of the Turkish language led Hikmet to create a poetic outlet for his frustrations. A member of the Communist party since 1921, Hikmet was imprisoned from 1938 to 1950 on the fabricated charge of inciting an anti-imperialist revolt in the Turkish army. He continued his remarkable poetic output in prison, most notably in the epic “Human Landscapes.” He had a large following abroad, particularly in the Soviet Union, where he fled to exile in 1950 to avoid another imprisonment in Turkey. The major flaw in this well-researched biography is the lack of excerpts from Hikmet’s poetry itself. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.’ — A. Diane Gardner Premo, Library Journal


Edward Timms, who is Research Professor in History at the University of Sussex, has published a wide range of books on culture and politics.

Saime Goksu grew up in Turkey at a time when Nazim was in prison and his poems were banned, and was exposed to his poetry at an early age. Her husband and co-author Edward Timms, who is Research Professor in History at the University of Sussex, has published a wide range of books on culture and politics.

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