Ataol Behramoğlu (born April 13, 1942, in Çatalca, Istanbul Province, Turkey) is a prominent Turkish poet, author, and Russian-into-Turkish literary translator.
Ataol Behramoğlu graduated from the University of Ankara, Department of Russian Language and Literature in 1966. In 1970, he published his second book of verse "One Day Definitely". Reprinted many times until today, this collection of poems was well received as a synthesis of the poetic tradition of Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) with elements of symbolism and surrealism.
He was asked to read his poems before packed audiences of students. In the autumn of 1970, he left Turkey to travel abroad to broaden his studies of language and literature. He lived in London and Paris until the autumn of 1972. In Paris, he met with Pablo Neruda and Louis Aragon. Fragments of "One Day Definitely" were published in Les Lettres Françaises edited by Aragon. He participated in the founding of the Theatre de Liberté based in Paris and wrote texts for the "Légendes à Venir", the first spectacle of the group. During this period, his translations were published in Turkey; Alexander Pushkin’s Collected Novels and Short Stories (two volumes); The short stories of Maxim Gorky plays of Anton Chekhov.
Between November 1972 and June 1974, he worked as a research assistant at Moscow State University Faculty of Russian Philology, Chair of Russian and Soviet Literature. His third book of poetry called "Poems of the Road, Longing, Courage and Struggle" was published in Turkey in 1974. With the return of democracy in Turkey, he went back to his country and worked as a dramaturge at the Istanbul Municipal Theatre. At the time of the 70’s, other collections of poems came out: "Neither Rain…Nor Poems" (1976), "During the Siege" (1978), "The Epic of Moustapha Suphi" (1979), "Quatrains" (1980). During a trip to Greece in 1977, he met Yiannis Ritsos.
1980 Turkish coup d'état
Following the coup d'état on September 12, 1980, he was forced to resign from his post at the Istanbul Municipal Theatre. A new edition of his "Neither Rain… Nor Poems", published in 1981, was confiscated. Behramoğlu was detained and was kept under custody for some time. In 1981, he collected a series of humoristic and critical poems under the title "Wanted: A Good Citizen" and set these to music a cabaret act. This work of political satire was staged several times and regarded as one of the first examples of Turkish political cabaret. A selection of Behramoğlu’s poetry was translated into Greek and published by Sinhroni Epohi along with a laudatory attention of Ritsos (1981). Well received in Greece, the book had three reprints in two years. He published in Istanbul his own translations of poems selected from the work of Louis Aragon (1897-1982), Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), Attila József (1905-1937), Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), José Martí (1853-1895), Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1936), Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849), Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), Yiannis Ritsos (1909-1990) and others under the title "Ballads of Brotherhood".
He was arrested in March 1982 along with the other executive committee members of the Turkish Peace Association. Behramoğlu was kept under atrocious conditions in Maltepe Military Prison until November 1982, when they have conditionally been released. He was awarded the Lotus Prize for Literature by the Afro-Asian Writers' Union in 1982. On November 1983, at the session of the Turkish Peace Association's trial that he did not attend, he was sentenced to eight years hard labor followed by 32 months domestic exile. He had to leave his country. In 1984, he began in Paris to participate in the work of Sorbonne’s National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations, at the Center for Comparative Poetry. He represented Turkey in the International Poetry Festival organized in Rotterdam. In 1985, Behramoğlu was awarded an M.A. degree (Diplômes D’études Approfondies/D.E.A) from the Center Comparative Poetry for his study on the poetries of Nazım Hikmet and Vladimir Mayakovsky. The same year in Germany, his two new books of poetry were published in Turkish: "Turkey, My Sad Country, My Beautiful Land" and "Letters to My Daughter". In 1986, the French language Turkish literary and cultural magazine Anka began publishing under his direction. 1986: the publication of his critical essays and polemics about the problems of poetry under the title of "A Living Poetry". 1987/88: His "Epic of Mustapha Suphi" was put on stage by Turkish Theatre Group in Exile and represented in several cities in Europe. In Avignon Theatre Festival, it was acclaimed as the first play in Turkish (1989). While Behramoğlu was participating in several meetings in many countries of world (from Australia to Finland) to read his poems and lectures to the Turkish and other audiences, in Istanbul were published "The Anthology of Turkish Poetry Last Century" and "The Anthology of Russian Poetry", both having been prepared by the poet since the beginning of 80’s. In 1988, a selection of his poems was translated and published in Hungary by the "Europa" Publishing House.
Acquitted of all condemnations, he returned to Turkey in 1989. He published his collected poems in three volumes (1991-1992), continuously reedited. "Be Happy Nazım", a musical on the last period of life of Nazım Hikmet (translated, commented and prepared for the scene by A. Behramoğlu at the base of memories n. Hikmet’s widow Vera Tulyakova and the poems of N. Hikmet) was performed several times in Turkey and abroad. (1992) "Lozan", a documentary musical, commenting the historical events in Lausanne afterwards the Turkish War of Independence was performed by the Turkish State Theatre in Antalya and Istanbul (1993).
He worked as the president of Turkish Writers Syndicate between 1995-1999, and still in the literary and political critic at the cadre of daily "Cumhuriyet" since 1995. His poems are widely translated and published in several foreign languages. In 2003, he was awarded "The Great Prize of Poetry 2003" by Turkish International P.E.N.