ISTANBUL

Turkey on Saturday marked the 33rd death anniversary of eminent intellectual Huseyin Cemil Meric.

The writer, translator and thinker, who was born in Turkey’s southern Reyhanli town of Hatay province in 1916, holds a special place in Turkish literature.

Meric studied Arabic, French, the Quran, and moral education in his primary and secondary years.

He moved to the Antakya district of Hatay — then under French administration — to complete his high school education, where he received private lessons from French and Turkish lecturers.

Meric soon discovered Divan literature, one of the leading literary activities of the Ottoman era, in which Turkish, Arabic and Persian languages were predominantly used.

In 1936, he went to Istanbul to complete high school but was forced to leave school a year before his graduation because he criticized teachers in one of his writings.

In the same year, he met legendary Turkish poet and intellectual Nazim Hikmet and writer Kerim Sadi.

In 1937, Meric moved to Iskenderun in Hatay due to financial troubles and worked as a teacher in a village for nine months. Later, he began working for a local translation office.

He was arrested two years later on charges of seeking to oust the administration in Hatay.

He was put on trial with prosecutors demanding a death penalty, but was acquitted after two months. Soon after, Hatay became a Turkish province.

He started studying philosophy at Istanbul University in 1940 but failed to complete it. However, he earned a scholarship in the university’s foreign languages school and graduated from the French philology department in 1944.

On the death anniversary of Meric, Turkish people took to Twitter to mark the passing of the legendary author, with #CemilMeric becoming trend topic in Turkey with more than 41,600 posts. 

Among many remembering the late writer on Twitter was Vice President Fuat Okay.

“I remember #CemilMeric with grace and respect on the 33rd anniversary of his passing, who was the best writer telling us ourselves, and the writer of books we found ourselves in each of them.”

Literary oeuvre

The first book Meric translated was French author Honore de Balzac’s Girl with Golden Eyes and it was published in 1943, a year after his marriage to Fevziye Mentesoglu.

He then worked as a teacher in various schools between 1944 and 1974.

As his eyesight declined in 1954, he went under the knife to improve his vision, but became completely blind following ineffective surgeries.

Despite losing his eyesight at the age of 38, Meric remained undeterred in his literary pursuits.

He verbally translated the French and English texts read to him by assistants and continued to write articles by dictation.

He wrote Hint Edebiyati, or Indian Literature, in 1964, a book compiled in four years that aimed to break down the prejudices against the Eastern world.

With a view to shedding light on one of the significant aspects of Western thinking, he wrote a book about Saint Simon in 1967, whom he addressed as the first socialist and sociologist.

His magnum opus, Bu Ulke (This Country), was published in 1974, and Meric once said he felt he was born to write that book.

In 1980, he received an award from the National Culture Association of Turkey for his book Kirk Ambar (Forty Warehouses), and was named Author of the Year by the Writers Union of Turkey in 1981.

Meric lost his wife Fevziye in 1983 and, later that year, a cerebral hemorrhage paralyzed the left side of his body. 

He passed away in Istanbul on June 13, 1987, at the age of 71.

In 2015, Meric was awarded Turkey’s Presidential Culture and Art Grand prize.

Last year, his daughter Umit Meric donated 300 Ottoman language works from Meric’s library to Turkey’s Presidential Library.

Using East-West conflict as the backbone of his thinking and labeling Orientalism as a reconnaissance step in the direction of exploitation, Meric once penned his famous words: “The Ottoman [Empire] is wisdom, Europe is culture.”

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