Namık Kemal was born on December 21, 1840 in Tekirdağ at the mansion of Koniçeli Abdüllatif Pasha who was his grandfather from his mother’s side. His original name is Mehmed Kemal. (Eşref Pasha who was among the poets of the period had given him his pen name Namık to use it in his poems. Mehmed Kemal had used sometimes Namık and sometimes Kemal in his poems. Namık Kemal is the first and the forefather of the many important Kemals in our literature. Kemal means greatness, maturity, completeness, or wholeness.) His family was among the military and bureaucrat class members of the Ottoman. His father Mustafa Asım Bey had worked as the head astrologer of Abdülhamid II. There were people who had served as grand vizier, chief admiral, and chamberlain among his ancestors.

His mother Fatma Zehra Hanım died when he was eight. Namık Kemal had spent the rest of his childhood and his young adult days under his Pasha grandfather’s protection. The years that he had spent with his grandfather had great effects on him. It seems like; Abdüllatif Pasha had done everything in his power, so his orphan grandson would be brought up well. He had provided a good private education for him. Namık Kemal had taken lessons of poetry, Farsi, Sufism, and riding, hunting, javelin when he was in Kars. Therefore, we can tell that he was a free spirited person. Heroism completed his freedom. Two inseparable aspects of liberty that he would suggest later… His understanding of liberty doesn’t reflect the liberalism of the Western resources; his is more like a redeeming comprehension of liberty and includes the meanings of ‘independence and government,’ which find their basics in faith and effort but not in economy.

A new figure in poetry
Namık Kemal who had begun to poetry by the encouragements of his mentor in Kars wrote in classic poetry style. These poems do not carry a special importance and that is inarguable. In fact, even his late poems written during his mastership period are not advanced when we look at them from a pure aesthetic view. What makes him a poet is not actually his grace and taste. It is intelligence and faith; determination and power that he can attribute to words, especially phrases that he uses in his unique poems. The power that comes from abstraction not from embodiment… After leaving his novice period behind, Namık Kemal, by means of coming from a bureaucrat family, had found himself connecting with the outstanding poets of the time.

Namık Kemal’s greatest inspiration that shaped his personality came from Şinasi. Şinasi who hadn’t had many works but had created a new idea is an author who had tried some kind of a freedom of thought and absolute Westernization in his works. As the other Ottomans had, Şinasi had also desired the salvation of the state and had searched for the ways of it through his ideas; however, his search method was not to warn the state or to admonish, but to raise awareness in public and to spread his ideas. In other words, publishing a newspaper… This was how Tasvir-i Efkar was materialized. Turkey and the Turkish language had embraced the first local ideological newspaper and Namık Kemal had joined the staff.

The Şinasi effect had opened Namık Kemal’s eyes. The great poet had begun to see the solid truth. It was the fact that, the road to rescue the state was passing through a concrete realism. A realism that has sections such as simplicity, understandability, purposefulness that is a mixture of information and wisdom with desire and faith, seeing poetry and writing as the tools of the purpose… Namık Kemal was a poet who was close to profundity and knowledge by means of his education and personality. He was interested in Sufism, philosophy, and history. Şinasi had turned his point of view from the skies down to the earth and that was a great profit for the Turkish literature and opinion.

A new character in politics

Besides the poetry gatherings, we see Namık Kemal in the New Ottomans Assembly, which was established in 1865 and was the most interesting one among the organizations that were established in Turkey. The New Ottomans was a group that looked as if it were brand new, because they had appeared as organized and educated bureaucrats, and at the same time they looked also as if they were old, because they kept the traditional methods of Koçi Bey, in other words warning the Sultan about the survival of the state. Namık Kemal was one of the most influential and brightest members of this group and that was not surprising. His smooth personality, his bravery in performing what he believes, his special excellence were enough to shine him. However, the actual matter was what would Namık Kemal get out of this.

When the New Ottomans movement was victimized by Ali and Fuat Pashas (Our nation is still unsure about them, because these two names are cursed by almost all of our important scholars, but at least some of our historians defend them in terms of politics), who were the important heads of executive state organs in the period, the only thing left to do for Namık Kemal and his comrade Ziya Pasha was to leave for a voluntary exile with the help of French and under the protection of the Egyptian Prince Mustafa Fazıl Pasha. Namık Kemal should be accepted as the “New Ottoman” or the “Young Turk” that took the best advantages of the Europe exile in the sense of improving his behavior and the way of thinking.

When the government had announced a general pardon, he returned to the country. He was thirty years of age and his determination was not damaged. He was amazingly more mature in the aspects of literature and intellectual. The most important period of Namık Kemal was the 18 year that was passed between his return from Europe and his death in exile. During these 18 years, he wrote the play named “Homeland or Silistra” that created a huge impact in popularizing his political thoughts, and articles that took place in İbret, a newspaper published by him. He was sent to prison and then to another exile because of the play when it was still on stage. He also wrote other plays, novels, and poems that he believed they would help the nation to be disciplined morally. In his freedom and homeland themed poems, he had valued reality more than imagination, ideas more than tastes, purpose more than style. His poems are accepted as among the first influential but raw examples of the modern Turkish poetry. During his years in exile, he wrote historical books and letters to young authors who had grown interest in Namık Kemal.

His inspiration was disseminated to large masses. His fame kept increasing. His homeland, nation, and freedom concepts that he had given his life for have become the gospel of numerous people, especially the young people, although the contents of these concepts were not very clear. For these reasons, he had become a dangerous person in the eyes of the state dignitaries and he had died on the second day of December in 1888 after being sent from an exile to another for years.