Debate of Old-New
The Nâzım Hikmet-Peyami Safa Polemics
Against the Accusation That He Had Turned Bourgeois
Against Leftist Pretenders
Against the Accusation that He was a Nationalist
Kemal Ahmet's Case
Kemal Ahmet was a dark-skinned man of medium height with protruding eyes who used to wear neat clothes and a golden chain. He began to work at the "Yarın" periodical in Babıâli at the age of 22. "Yarın" was a publication of the Serbest Fırka (The Liberal Party). He was a student in the High School of Commerce when he started work in the periodical. He was arrested along with other writers of "Yarın" when the periodical was closed down. Despite the fact that he was soon released, he was unemployed for a while and this intensified his already excessive addiction to alcohol.
Nâzım Hikmet felt concerned by the young who were working at the newspapers; he proofread their writings, put pressure on them to make them learn foreign languages and tried to prevent them from engaging in bad habits. He provided a job for Kemal Ahmet with help from Nizamettin Nazif Tepedenlioğlu and Suat Derviş and did his best in order to prevent him from drinking, at least in the mornings.
Soon after, suspicion arouse about Kemal Ahmet, since he had written articles reflecting the sufferings of the poor under the pseudonym of "Çulsuz Adam" (Man in Rags) in the "Haber" newspaper and had begun to be regarded as a communist. Even the news he presented as an ordinary reporter came under suspicion.
When he was unemployed, his golden chain, his light overcoat and his vest were pawned for drinking money. He contracted tuberculosis. He died at a young age, vomiting blood on one of those cold nights when he had made a pile of newspapers into a mattress and the curtains into a quilt in the printing house, without food or water.
The year after his death, with Nâzım Hikmet's support, Ahmet Cevat published the story of this writer under the title of "Ağlayan Nar ile Gülen Ayva" (Weeping Pomegranate and Laughing Quince) as a booklet. Orhan Selim's article in praise of Kemal Ahmet in "Akşam" caused yet another stir in the publication environment. He commemorated Kemal Ahmet with the following words:
"There are a number of dead people that, whenever I think of them as dead, I feel ashamed of being alive. It seems worthless that I am living despite the fact that I am not valuable, great and good as they were. Then I want to live to be as good, valuable and great as they were.
"The writer Kemal Ahmet is among those dead. It has been a year since he died throwing up his lungs, in bits and pieces, from his lips that were stuck to his teeth, as if shedding leaves.
"I think we are in the year of commemoration of a great person." (Akşam, 5 April 1935)
Right after this article, Peyami Safa, who ran into Nizamettin Nazif Tepedenlioğlu on the street, said him, "Look how the communist praises another communist!" This caused Nizam to talk about Kemal Ahmet in raging anger while the two were standing in the street in front of the Suhulet Publishing House. Soon Elif Naci appeared and joined them and said, "Nizam, leave Peyami alone now, you wrote an excellent article without sitting down, let's go and put this on paper at Meserret."
When they entered Meserret, Naci Sadullah was writing his memoirs on Kemal Ahmet, too. He was going to give the article to the "Yarım Ay" magazine. Suat Derviş and Hüseyin Avni Şanda were also going to write articles. Nâzım Hikmet was going to write a poem. All of them would be published together in "Yarım Ay."
In a trice, praising Kemal Ahmet began to be considered as leftism and those who despised him were considered as rightist. Leftists reacted to Vâlâ Nureddin Vâ-nû who said, "Kemal Ahmet was a toady who fawned on two glasses of raki at drinking parties. Now, they represent him as an intellectual hero!"
Nâzım Hikmet's poem entitled "Kemal Ahmet" was written under the pressre of the polemics.
When Nâzım Hikmet recited this poem to his friends who were summoned to the administration office of the " Yarım Ay " magazine, Nizamettin Nazif Tepedenlioğlu said, "Nâzım, it's excellent, wonderful, superb! So you write this kind of emotional peoms, too!" Suat Derviş, Mahmut Yesari, and Naci Sadullah were affected, too.