Haldun Taner and Istanbul

“This city of Istanbul is a unique value, it is priceless / it’s one stone is as valuable as the entire Persian property/ One piece of quintessence between two seas / If it is weighted with the sun lightening the world, it deserves it”.

“Not only aesthetic and warm language, extraordinary subjects, strong structure and fiction order, but also cultural and intellectual depth have important places in the literary universe of HaldunTaner, who mostly wrote works in story and drama in Turkish literature.  The success of the author in his literary career lies behind in his past originated from the historical districts of Istanbul such as Bebek, Beylerbeyi, Sarachanebasi where he grew up by living traditional structure and modern life together.”

Is it a nice irony that most of the poets, writers, artists describing Istanbul most beautifully, most passionately or is its appreciation of the late found? It should not be easy to solve this mystery. For instance, Ibrahim Çallı who is considered as one of the most important representatives of Turkish painting art and named the ecole referred as 1914 generation, is one of the painters reflected the colors of Istanbul in the most aesthetically pleasing… As it is understood from his surname, he was born in Çal county of Denizli, he was able to arrive in Istanbul only at the age of seventeen or eighteen.

Yahya Kemal owner of the talismanic lines that come to the mind when speaking about the old Istanbul is, on the other hand, from Skopje. Assaying ‘’I looked at you from a hill yesterday dear Istanbul / I did not see, I did not visit, I did not like any place / If I have my life settle my hearth throne as you wish / Loving your even a simple neighborhood is worth a lifetime.’’, he could see world city Istanbul for the first time as late as in his youth, just like Callı. Especially, Sait Faik Abasıyanık when the whose name has mentioned a silhouette of Istanbul appearing on the background… From Şehzadebaşı to Bab-ı Ali and from Alemdag to Beyoglu, Galata and Yüksek Kaldırım, like there is no Istanbul place that his stories do not touch. If you have read a couple of stories of him, you hear the adventures of the writer from all four sides of the city. By the way, there is Burgazada where the whose name is referred with Sait Faik and the most beautiful of the Prince Islands of the Istanbul as the writer’s house where he wrote unforgettable stories at converted into the museum here and it has the interest of the citizens of the republic of literature. That Sait Faik, commune with Istanbul this much, is from Adapazarı is like the peak of the irony as we mention in the beginning.

As these examples come and go, at the time when “Generally, the artists who love a city with passion is not from that city” thesis turns into a generalization, giant name of the Turkish literature Haldun Taner comes to the mind.  It almost stands upright as an opposite statement. The writer is the member, who was born, grew and spent his finite life in Istanbul and was in love with this ancient city, of a family from Istanbul. The place and date of birth in the population records are stated exactly as follows: The city of Üsküdar, Beylerbeyi region, Abdullahköy neighborhood, 16th March 1915.

 Childhood Is The Backyard Of A Litterateur
His father, Mr. Ahmet Salahaddin, is a professor of international law and dean of the faculty. He is an Ottoman enlightened who participated in public meetings in occupied Istanbul and wrote articles in newspapers during the period of the National Struggle in the Ottoman Empire. Haldun Taner, finishes the short and difficult life story of Ahmet Selahaddin that he tells with detailed and emotional language placed in his book named ‘’The skin dies if any, the lives are not to die’’ with ‘’He was 42 years old when he died, and he had only seventy-five cents in his pocket. How do I know all of this? Because he is my father… “ sentence.

The families of his mother, Mrs. Seza and his father Mr. Ahmet Selahaddin are neighbors in Beylerbeyi, which is to be one of the oldest Istanbul neighborhoods. The years of childhood spent in a happy family environment in a wooden white house, overlooking the Bebek Garden, went bad with the sudden death of his father Mr. Ahmet Salahaddin. Mr. Haldun was five years old when he lost his father. Together with his mother moved to the mansion of grandfather, Mr. Matbaacı Hamit, in Sarachanebaşı. The years of childhood spending with grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, and mother allows very rich life experiences although deprived of the father image. He grows up with learning how to read and write from his aunt, yoga from one of his uncles, French from his another uncle and benefiting from his grandfather’s extensive accumulation of culture. Passing from the small and core family to large family environment living in old mansions where three generations lived together in old Istanbul districts led that Haldun Taner was able to see side by side the ancient Istanbul life and modern times and witness a rich cultural life. In various interviews made with the author or in his writings about his childhood, he points out a great deal of attention to the districts of Istanbul. According to Taner, who frequently spoke among the old Istanbul districts on both sides of the Bosphorus, Beylerbeyi, Saraçhanebaşı, Bebek, Moda and his family members who developed himself as a multidimensional in this culture department; This self-proclaimed funny teaching, away from the boredom of education, protected and resisted an orphan child who grew up in ancient Istanbul districts from the pessimistic world.

Loving Istanbul And Literature
They lived in the mansion of his grandfather Mr. Pressman Halit in Saraçhanebaşı, in winters, and in summers sometimes in the house of his father’s uncle in Maltepe, and sometimes in the summer house in Büyükada. Taner has completed the Galatasaray High School and continued his education at abroad in the Faculty of Political Sciences (Germany) at the University of Heidelberg in the context of the Law of the Hidemat-ı Vataniye (state aid provided to those deceased or survivors as disabled themselves and their leftovers while serving the country in return for their services).  Towards the end of the third year in here, he had tuberculosis and returned to his Istanbul. The long period of treatment and convalescence, which first started in a sanatorium in Erenköy and then continued at home, stopped the social life of Taner as well as his educational life. The only benefit of that time of recovery of four years which tiedTaner’s hands, is hundreds of books that he read and his incipient authorship trials.Writer heals by re-loving Istanbul remained separate. Besides, He also found an occupation that can tell the city of Istanbul with a delightful style as it deserves. Literature… After that, he tells Istanbul and people from Istanbul at every opportunity. Writing each season of the city, every hour of the day turns at him into a passion. Just as the “Yalıda Sabah” story that we read the description of Istanbul which he wrote while looking deeply from the balcony at his house in Moda.

“The first hours of the morning is my reign. Even if it lasts for forty-fifty minutes, I taste sip by sip each moment of my reign. We have an addiction like this, summer or winter have to stand out of bed at five, to catch the morning before everyone else.” (Haldun Taner, Yalıda Sabah)

“Farewell To Istanbul”
Haldun Taner immerses himself in the spirit of the time and the magic of the place. At every story, every play he wrote, he first teaches being human, more precisely the ways of being a nice human, to every character he creates. Like loving a person, we read in his texts how a city can be loved. He tells his stories sometimes while it rains in Şişhane, and sometimes on the side of the ferry line that runs from Salacak. Until the morning of May 7th of the year 1986… At that morning Haldun Taner sees his Istanbul for the last time in the eyes of the world. His heart full of the love of the human stopped just like ticking clogs of the clock that gently tell in one of his stories. Since then, he watches the city of Istanbul from the cemetery of Küllüce in Beylerbeyi, which he loves very much. Our words are humbly ending in the beautiful expression and distinctive sign of Haldun Taner who the gentleman of our literature is. ‘’The skin dies if any, the lives are not to die.’’


Searching For Istanbul
’How many kinds of views are taken to Istanbul? Everybody looks at her from their own window. Moreover, there is a different place that each one loves. There are also places with allergies. For example, Sait Faik never liked Camlica and Suadiye for some reason. Abdülhak Şinasi was contrarily passionate about Çamlıca as well as the Bosphorus. Fikret loved the hills of Rumelihisar. So was Ahmet Vefik Pasha. There is no need to be an artist, everyone, we all do favor cities which keep our memories.”
(From The Book of Haldun Taner named “You Are Very Beautiful Do Not Go”)

“I calculated it last time. From time to time I lived in twenty places of these magical cities. Like loving a lover’s arm, neck, face, wrists, hands separately. Beylerbeyi, Uskudar, Bebek, Gedikpasa, Cagaloglu, Sarachanebasi, Buyukada, Maltepe, Yesilkoy, Osmanbey, Sisli, Feneryolu, Goztepe, Ciftehavuzlar, Erenkoy, Cevizli, Kucukyali, Bahariye, Moda, Muhurdar are places that share the years and livings of my life. And it is necessary to add the twelve years that I spent in boarding school in the heart of Beyoglu.’’
(From The Book of Haldun Taner named “You Are Very Beautiful Do Not Go”)


I looked at you like Yahya
from Tesvikiye
Who should have encouraged you
You were going to Küplüce…
You were walking between us
You were walking apart from us…
At the very last moment
Maybe you
The human Haldun
A very nice
A very nice
A very nice
You were a totally new Istanbul…


By: Necati Bulut

*This article was  published in the  May– June issue of Marmara Life.

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