Life is beautiful, my friend

Nazim Hikmet


How can I tell you about this wonder?
There are a thousand ways to access it, and I don’t know which is the best

I can tell you about the other works of literature – the “great works” – those works that make your guts hurt so much they spare no violence.
Do you know what they are? Those books, those plays, those poems, those movies, that tell us how pathetic, how lying, how selfish, how dirty, how hollow, how hopelessly empty and hollow we are, and how we tell ourselves stories to make us believe that our lives have value?

These works sink us into the most absolute misanthropy – and if we were honest, then we would have to, once the book was closed, the play finished, the film completed, take a rope and go commit suicide.
But nobody is that honest and we go back to our lives with a huge blow to the soul, and that’s it.

And then there is this book by Nazim Hikmet.
This book that puts these books of man’s wickedness on the level of children’s toys.

Or I can talk to you about politics, I who hate politics.
I know why I hate politics. I know my grandmother’s tortured leg and her smashed face. I know my grandfather’s old man look when he was not yet 30, and his tattoo on his forearm and I know why I hate tattoos. They were communist. They fought against the Nazis and their flesh and souls still bear the marks.
I know all the bad things the Communists did – oh, did they suffer these martyrs for nothing? for worse?

Perhaps you will tell me that yes, and it will be only one more suffering on their souls. What does it matter?

And then there is this book by Nazim Hikmet.

Nazim Hikmet by Nurdan Kasah

This book that sends the great speeches of those who know back to the rank of children’s toys.

This is a book unlike any other.
It is a book that is true and false.
It is a book that does not care about telling a story –
it is a book that cares about telling about men.

These men are not bastards. They are not selfish. They are not scum. They’re not greedy. They are not reasonable people. They are people who have loved life to the last degree of love. They are people who have loved others to the last degree of love. These are people who were not naive, who were not stupid, who were not “nice.”
These are people who believed that they could make the world a better place and who gave everything to that world – their suffering first, their lives second.

Nazim Hikmet recounts his life as a young Turkish man at the beginning of the 20th century, when Mustafa Kemal wanted to overthrow the Sultan, when Lenin was still alive.
He tells of his entry into this communism, the one of the beginnings, the one of those who gave it everything.
And the book goes on, without a clear line.
It is composed of voices – not so many – Ahmet’s – which is Nazim’s – Ismail’s, Kerim’s, Anushka’s, the beloved one, Nerimane, so in love & so loved & so courageous, and of places – Istanbul, Ankara, the Black Sea, Anatolia, Moscow, Odessa, Smyrna
And we with them, we go from one place to another, from one time to another, while we understand little by little that the narrator is waiting to see his death and remember his life

Nazim Hikmet – young & in jail

How beautiful was the Russia of the time, for those who no longer want borders
How beautiful is the Turkey that no longer wants a yoke
How beautiful is the Russian Anushka who falls in love with the young Turkish painter
How beautiful is Nérimane, with her childlike eyes, when she looks at Ismail, her brother’s friend, behind the prison visiting room gate

Then Lenin dies and Ahmet the Turkish painter goes to guard his body, in front of which it seems to him that the whole Communist world comes to collect itself while crying – one should not cry when guarding
Then Kemal wins and loses the spirit of the Revolution and the communists are pursued, imprisoned, tortured, some go mad, some speak, some let themselves be beaten and beaten and beaten again

But in the end, in the end, what to think?
This :

Tell us a poem, Ziya says to me.
I read them one:
I am a communist,
I am love from head to toe
love: seeing, thinking, understanding,
love: the child that is born, the light that goes forward,
love: to hang a swing from the stars,
love: to temper steel with a thousand sorrows.
I am a communist,
I am love from head to toe.
I translated the poem into Russian, for Anushka and Marusha. Ismail lights his cigarette on the fire of mine -a beautiful poem, he says to me, then he gets up, he opens the window, the sun penetrates in the room: -the life is beautiful, my old man, he says.

The other title of this book is Romantica – this word comes from the Russian – it translates the immense beauty of love in Russia, when you are under the huge birches, in front of a campfire, and you just have to think about love, now.

Fabulous romanticism of those who knew how to give everything to make the world a better place –
and whether they succeeded or not, who cares?
They were better
They were the ones who beat the others, you know ? the others, the supposed “so great ones”, the ones who only see the evil in humans, only what is pathetic and makes you want to hang yourself.

That is why this book is a marvel.
A strange wonder, it’s true.

A wonder that is totally forgotten.
Which would surely cause a scandal – a communist? poor girl!
But still a wonder, I maintain.

Which would have advantage to live in human voices – since they are voices that tell

Can you imagine that?
Men’s voices? Women’s voices?
Who, instead of telling the infernal human mediocrity, tell its candor, its sweetness, its obstinacy, its will to love?
Which take us all over Turkey and under the endless trees of ancient Russia?

This show, yes, I would love to see it
To hear it
To know that human voices bring it back to life

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