An outsider author – Sait Faik Abasıyanık


I have an habit. Rather a ritual.

On the eve of determining which book to read next, I first read the writer’s biography.

I’m not talking about a quick glimpse of the author’s life, a really detailed and comprehensive research is what I mean.

Then I look at his photographs. Yes, photographs. Let them be portraits or the ones with family/friends surrounded. The urge is to understand the conditions of that specific time period, to observe how the author responds to them and to analyse his manners, the look in his eyes. Does he smile sincerely, or is he a more serious, perturbed kind of person?

Once I find myself somehow connected to him in person, then it becomes more easy to get carried away by his words.

Not a long time ago I had an inner calling leading me to search about Sait Faik Abasıyanık. The more I read about his life, the more I became interested in him.

He lived in the beginning of the 20th century where the world gone mad and a big war seemed very likely to break out soon. The tension was more up in the air in big cities like Istanbul while other smaller towns remained rather unconcerned. Abasıyanık was born in one of those small cities, Adapazarı, in 1906. During his childhood he had a huge tendency to examine indifferent locals who kept doing their daily activities without worrying too much about ongoing political instabilities. What he enjoyed the most was to analyse moods of individuals while days passed in a normal pace.

When his father sent him to Istanbul to pursue his education at one of the prestigious schools of the time, Istanbul Erkek Lisesi, Abasıyanık was much more interested in walking around the unknown streets observing individuals, talking with them, listening to them rather than focusing on his studies. Anyway as strange as it sounds, he got exiled from the school with all his classmates along as a result of an ‘unpleasant’ joke they did in the classroom. (To be precise they put a needle on the chair of their teacher – who obviously got mad after that)

After finishing the high school in Bursa, he began to study literature in Istanbul. In a sense he was back to his ‘inspiring’ city. Described as a very calm and self-sufficient person by others, Abasıyanık was writing short stories and poems while continuing his studies at the university. His strolls in Beyoğlu, where he got the opportunity to observe a variety of people on streets and at coffee houses, were the essential source of inspiration for his stories.

From then on, he decided to focus more on his writings and left the university. What he really wanted was to promenade in the city all day to come across as many individuals as he could enabling him to deepen his observations which would then be reflected in his stories. Meanwhile as a final favour to his father, he agreed to go Lausanne and Grenoble to study economics. Feeling homesick, he returned to Istanbul right after finishing his education.

Even though he tried to teach Turkish classes in an Armenian school, he got fired as a result of his ‘being-constantly-late-to-class’ habit and his inability to maintain order in the classroom. The reasons behind these bummers were actually very simple. He only – and only – wanted to observe and write. He was not fond of taking responsibilities or being obliged to do something told by others.

Around that time, his father bought a mansion for the family at Burgazada. So he began to spend the summer time on the island while spending the winter in Beyoglu. Stories describing ordinary people’s daily lives reflecting their happiness, sorrow and hope became apparent with Abasıyanık’s original narration and wording. Catching the attention right away, his works are both embraced by the public and acclaimed by many famed writers of the time. In 1953, he became the honorary member of the International Mark Twain Society due to his contribution to the contemporary literature.

Sait Faik Abasiyanik

Diagnosed with cirrhosis, he legated all his material possessions to Darüşşafaka Foundation which aims to provide education to ‘needy and talented children who had lost their fathers’. Right after his death the mansion in Burgazada, where he created many of his works, has been transformed into a museum.

Today, from the very first moment you put your step on the island you can still feel his influence on residents. It is okay if find yourself thinking about the personae or stories told in one of  his books while enjoying the sea view or walking through green paths. This is the result of what Abasıyanık narration skills do to you. So relax and take your time digesting.

Ps: Recommended books: A Useless Man (Lüzumsuz Adam), Semaver, Kayıp Aranıyor, Sarnıç.