Melih Cevdet Anday (13 March 1915 – 28 November 2002), was a Turkish writer whose unique poetry stands outside the traditional literary movements. He also wrote in many other genres which, over six and a half decades, included eleven collections of poems, eight plays, eight novels, fifteen collections of essays, several of which won major literary awards. He also translated several books from diverse languages into Turkish.
Melih Cevdet Anday was born in Istanbul in 1915 and lived there until his parents moved to Ankara in 1931. He graduated from Gazi High School and for a while began studying sociology in Belgium on a State Railways scholarship but had to return home in 1940 after the German invasion. Between 1942-51 he worked as a publication consultant for the Ministry of Education in Ankara and then as a city librarian. During this time he began his career as a journalist for several newspapers. After 1954, he worked as a teacher for the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory. Between 1964 and 1969, Anday served on Turkish Radio Television’s Board of Directors. After he retired from his position in the Conservatory in 1977, Anday was assigned to UNESCO Headquarters in Paris as Cultural Attaché until recalled after a change of Government.
As a poet, Anday was one of the leaders of the Garip movement, which also included Orhan Veli and Oktay Rifat. According to the preface of their joint collection, published in 1941, poetry should abandon the formalism and rhetorical classical style of previous centuries, making itself simple, colloquial, and matter of fact—an artless art designed to serve the common people.
However, present there even then was an uneasy acknowledgement of French Surrealism, and Anday was eventually to change his engaged style to a cerebral neo-surrealism as he cautiously navigated beyond the difficult political waters of his country. This culminated in what was regarded at the time as his masterwork, the four-sectioned long poem "Ulysses Bound" (Kollari Bagli Odysseus) of 1963. In this he deploys an original rhetoric of his own:
Other sectioned poems of some length were to follow, including "On the Nomad Sea" (Göçebe Denizin Üstünde, 1970) and "A poem in the manner of Karacaoglan" (Karacaoğlan’ın Bir Şiiri Üzerine Çeşitlemeler’de). But there were also many short poems of disarming simplicity such as "Sun" (I was just about to speak/ When suddenly the sun came out) and "Seagull" (Seagull, capital letter/ Scribbled by a child) whose thoughtful qualities journey beyond his earlier manner.
From henceforth his varied work began to earn Anday official recognition. In particular his play Mikado’nun Çöpleri (The Mikado Game) earned him several awards: Most Successful Playwright of the 1967 - 1968 Drama Season; the İlhan İskender Prize; Ankara Art Lovers Foundation for the Best Playwright in 1971 – 1972. Another play, Ölümsüzler ya da Bir Cinayetin Söylencesi (The Immortals or the Legend of a Murder) won the Enka Art Prize in 1980. His poetry collection Teknenin Ölümü (Death of the Boat) won the 1978 Sedat Simavi Foundation Literature Prize, and Ölümsüzlük Ardinda Gilgamis (Gilgamesh Beyond Death) gained the 1981 Türkiye İş Bankası Prize. In 1971 UNESCO honoured among other outstanding European authors. He also received the TÜYAP Honour Prize for 1991 and the 2000 Aydin Dogan Foundation’s Literature Award.
In 1994 the sculptor Metin Yurdanur cast a seated statue of him in bronze which is now sited in the park named after him at Ören on the Gulf of Gökova.
Translations into European languages
Anday’s works have been translated into Russian, German, Hungarian, Romanian, French and English. Book-length translations include the novel Aylaklar into Bulgarian (Sofia 1966) and poetry selections into French: Ulysse Bras Attachés et autres poems, (Poésie-Club UNESCO, Paris, 1970) and Offrandes 1946-1989 (Editions UNESCO, 1998). US selections of poetry include On The Nomad Sea, (Geronimo Books, New York, 1974); Rain One Step Away, (Charioteer Press, Washington, DC, 1980); Silent Stones: Selected Poems of Melih Cevdet Anday (Northfield: Talisman House, 2017).. The last of these, translated by poets Sidney Wade and Efe Murad, was winner of the 2015 Meral Divitci Prize and some of these translations also appeared in journals like "The American Reader", "Five Points", "Denver Quarterly", "Guernica", "Critical Flame", "Turkish Poetry Today" "Poet Lore", "Asymptote", and "Two Lines".