Trivial Writing and Nazım Hikmet

a Memory from Ardıç Café

Author: Said Dağlı

At some point in my life, when I was a young graduate who was unemployed and didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do, I often went to the Ardıç Café on Yüksel Avenue (on my way to watch Gençlerbirliği games in the Olgunlar Street, or when I was on the way back), ordered a cup of tea, took one of the books from the shelf (almost always the one in which Nazım Hikmet’s columns were compiled), sat down, used the noises of people around me as a background music, opened a random article from the book, and started reading.

Ardıç Café was converted from a three-room apartment. (Ardıç means Juniper, by the way). In the evenings, when most of the customers blow town, Erdinç Abi (whose name I did not know at the time) would close two of these rooms and gather the customers in a single room. I think it was easier to serve to the remaining customers in that way. My habit of coming here and reading Nazım Hikmet had become such a routine that even Erdinç Abi did not want to bother me at all. Whenever he did close the room that I was in, he left only the lamp above me on, poured a cup of tea for me, and said, “I will close this room, but don’t spoil your mood, you keep going.” And left me alone with Nazım. (He didn’t know my name at that time either.)

Ardıç Kafe'de Said Dağlı
Ayşenur took this photo, Before Alkaralar’s new year dinner, in Ardıç. :)

Nazım Hikmet was a great poet, no doubt about him… But I never thought that I would be so fascinated by reading the ‘sudan’ (trivial) columns that he wrote in various newspapers, hiding his own name (sometimes under the signature of Orhan Selim, sometimes Mümtaz Osman, sometimes Ercüment Er). Sometimes he wrote about a football game, sometimes about water cuts in Istanbul of the period, sometimes about the linens his wife aired in the sunlight… He occasionally shared passages from his readers’ letters, his reflections on what an acquaintance has said, and many more…

In one of his columns, he admitted that he writes ‘sudan’ articles. I did not know how to translate the adjective ‘sudan’ from Turkish to English. It may best be translated as ‘trivial’. Let’s put aside this trivial question and let me quote what Nazım told as much as I can remember.

In one of his days, Nazım comes across with an acquaintance. After a little chit-chat, this acquaintance starts to complain about Nazım’s latest columns. He says, “You used to write very well before. Now you’re taking the easy way out, you’re publishing just ‘sudan’ writings…” Nazım admits that he writes ‘sudan’ writings on ‘sudan’ subjects. However, he strongly disagrees with his acquaintance on whether to write ‘sudan’ writings is the easy way out or not.

Nazım Hikmet
Nazım Hikmet

It’s been maybe three, maybe four years since I read this column. Yet, I have just realized how right Nazım Hikmet was about the difficulty of writing trivial columns. 

For a long time, I have been searching for the right ways to channel my love and enthusiasm to write and produce. Blog posts, podcasts, videos… But in essence, I am writing a text for what I want to tell, by whatever means and by any means. It doesn’t matter what the subject I’m dealing with is, when I start researching and taking notes to prepare that text, I realize that the text that I want to be trivial begins to expand and expand like an encyclopedia article and become complicated and difficult like an academic text. Therefore, I find myself with a metaphorical scalpel in my hand to cut down and simplify the text. With each cut, I lose my enthusiasm.

Nazım Hikmet was a great poet, no doubt about that… But in my opinion, Nazım Hikmet was also a great columnist. Not because he wrote such important issues and solved unsolvable problems of humanity, but because he could write books full of ‘sudan’ writings…

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