James H. MeyerJun 3, 2023
Red Star over the Black Sea
Nazim Hikmet and His Generation
Oxford University Press 2023
Nâzım Hikmet (1902-1963) is best known as a poet and communist whose daring flight by motorboat from Turkey to the Eastern Bloc captured international headlines in 1951. One of the most important poets to have written in the Turkish language, Nâzım Hikmet's dramatic life story is fascinating in its own right, but also intersects with the story of the broader twentieth century.
In Red Star over the Black Sea: Nâzım Hikmet and his Generation (Oxford University Press, 2022), James H. Meyer situates Nâzım Hikmet within the broader context of Turkish communist "border-crossers," individuals whose lives would go on to be shaped significantly by their ability, inability, or need to traverse the frontier. Born at the turn of the twentieth century and coming of age in the early 1920s, the women and men from Nâzım Hikmet's generation were the last of the Ottomans. Children of empire, they had grown up in an era of porous frontiers, but by the time they reached their third decade, these borders had begun to close.
Drawing upon an enormous amount of previously untapped archival materials and personal papers from Moscow, Istanbul, Amsterdam, and Washington, DC, Meyer has written a biography of Nâzım Hikmet unlike any other. A book of world history wrapped inside a life story, Red Star over the Black Sea shows how changing attitudes toward borders and the people who cross them impacted a late imperial generation all the way up to the final years of the Cold War.
Reuben Silverman is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies.