Istanbul has been the main setting of Turkish fiction from the very beginning. For centuries, Turkish authors have had a taste for telling stories about Istanbul’s life and people. Especially the old neighborhoods of this legendary city have been privileged in being depicted by talented fiction writers. The three main quarters of the historical city, namely Fatih, Üsküdar and Galata, have never lacked attention from storytellers.
As for modern fiction, nearly all of the novelists and short story writers preferred to use Istanbul as the spatial focal point of their works. Until populist and nationalist trends of the early Republican era motivated authors to touch on the stories of the small cities and rural areas in the country, Istanbul remained the main target of storytelling. Not only the best novelists and story writers such as Ahmet Mithat Efendi, Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar, Halide Edip Adıvar and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar but minor authors like Mithat Cemal Kuntay, Fahri Celaleddin Göktulga and Osman Cemal Kaygılı also contributed to what we can describe as Istanbulite fiction. Kaygılı especially is significant within that framework as he is best known for his novel telling the story of Roma people in Istanbul.
Osman Cemal Kaygılı was born on Oct. 4, 1890, in a Surdışı neighborhood of Istanbul. (surdışı literally means “out of the city walls” and implies the poor neighborhoods clustered out of the historical Byzantine walls in the city). His father Mustafa was the shopkeeper of the neighborhood grocery store and a Sufi, while mother Ülfet was a humble housewife. Though many literary historians believe that Kaygılı lost both of his parents in childhood, this is not true. Kaygılı lived a free childhood in the pastures, mulberry groves and gardens of his neighborhood, which he reflects in his fiction. Especially “Çingeneler” (“Roma People”), one of his three novels, shows the rural spirit within a metropolitan framework.
Kaygılı was admitted to Eğrikapı Junior High School in 1900. He was not a brilliant student. He was fond of wandering around rather than working hard. He was also a flexible, friendly boy with a sense of humor.
Despite his laziness, Kaygılı managed to graduate from the School for Military Clerks and began to work for the General Staff at age 16.
In spite of his job’s seriousness, Kaygılı never gave up being interested in cultural and artistic activities. He was good at music, drama, humor writing and fiction. Moreover, he liked sports and did wrestling, riding and hunting. He also was fond of playing football and oarsmanship.
As a young man, Kaygılı was full of energy and was attentive to politics like other young people of Turkey. He was a member of the Fatih branch of the Committee of Union and Progress. The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 encouraged him to write columns and stories for the periodicals. He was known particularly for his humor writing, which he began in 1910 at the journal titled “Eşek,” which was published by author Baha Tevfik. However, he was detained and exiled for his delirious behavior. After being charged, he stayed at the Sinop Fortress Prison, which hosted many intellectuals like journalist and novelist Refik Halit Karay and writer, poet and journalist Sabahattin Ali, for three years beginning in 1912.
This was the first time he left Istanbul.
After the exile, Kaygılı returned to Istanbul and worked for the military departments during World War I (1914-1918). Unfortunately, he had to retire for health conditions one year before the Great War’s end. He began to live at his family home and sell milk for a living. He also did other jobs like selling ferry tickets and textiles at open markets. Yet, he was not a great salesman because of his naive and relaxed personality. Therefore, he decided to make a living with his pen.
In 1920, Kaygılı began to write for the newspapers, which helped him in two ways. First, he earned some money by working for those periodicals. Second, he made a name as an author. But publishers could not pay him much because of the hard economic situation after World War I. Therefore, he also worked as a schoolteacher for high schools in Istanbul. He worked for various schools including the Istanbul Imam-Hatip High School and the Phanar Greek Orthodox High School. He was a great friend of the Greek minority of Istanbul besides the Roma people whom he loved most.
Kaygılı had no children though he was married twice. In fact, his first wife Leman gave birth to a boy, who died at the age of 3. Perhaps this tragic event was the main motive behind his taking “Kaygılı” (anxious) as his surname with the Surname Law of 1934. However, he really wanted to register his surname as “Kaygısız” (carefree). His son’s death changed Kaygılı’s attitude toward life. Though he never lost his free spirit, he was not the funny man of the old days. Furthermore, he lost his mother and first wife a few years after the death of his son.
Kaygılı’s literary works include his columns and essays giving a detailed portrait of Istanbul’s life. He liked to mention people’s real daily experiences on a spatial basis. His favorites were the old neighborhoods of Istanbul. He wrote lively, colorful and exciting portraits of these neighborhoods, which still attract the attention of the readers. Newspapers hired him to write such Istanbul columns. He followed in the footsteps of authors Ahmet Mithat Efendi, Gürpınar and Ahmet Rasim, who preferred to write on ordinary people’s lives. In addition to his novels, short stories, humor and travel writings, Kaygılı also wrote comedies for the stage.
Kaygılı died during a surgical operation on Jan. 9, 1945, after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. His grave is in the Tokmaktepe Cemetery in Istanbul’s Eyüpsultan district.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.