He was a unique creator of our literature! Ataol Behramoğlu’s article…

The Devil Inside is the second of three novels by Sabahattin Ali, which ended with a painful and unfortunate death, a murder that could not be doubted as planned and executed by the political police of the period, in his 41-year life.

Since he was born in 1907, he was only thirty years old, and when I read his first novel, Kuyucaklı Yusuf, published in 1937, during my secondary school years, I was literally struck. There is no doubt that this novel is the pioneer of our socialist-realist literature, a masterpiece of its kind.

Madonna in a Fur Coat, which I read much later, did not have a similar effect on me. Published in 1943 as the author’s third and last novel, the feeling of disappointment caused by this book, I think, was perhaps because I could not find the romantic atmosphere and the heroes of the novel that its name evokes…

The Devil Inside, Sabahattin Ali’s second novel published in 1940. Again, the product of a very young, thirty-three-year-old writer. And yet, it is a work that deals with individual and social issues that need to be considered. It is Sabahattin Ali’s novel that should be most closely associated with world literature in terms of the interesting and complex personality of Ömer, the protagonist at the center of the novel, as well as its narrative features such as stream of consciousness and internal monologues.

A thought-provoking love story

I do not find it meaningful to even briefly describe the story of the work in question in articles on literature, cinema, etc. The person who reads and watches will learn this himself. Therefore, let me just say that the focus of The Devil Within is a different, thought-provoking love story, depending on the complex personality of the novel hero I mentioned above.

But here, in order to go into detail a little below, I should also mention Macide, the female (or rather young girl) heroine of the novel. I have not done a holistic, historical, periodical analysis. But I think that Macide is a first in our socialist-realist literature as a novel heroine who brought together both local (national) and universal-human values ​​in her personality (it can be said that Reşat Nuri also bears traces of Halide Edip’s heroines).


I used to think that The Devil Within was a purely political novel, both because of its title and because it was attacked and heavily criticized by racist-conservative circles at the time of its publication.

However, although there were serious criticisms of the pro-war and pro-fascist circles of the period, as I mentioned above, the focus of the subject is a love story, the love of Ömer-Macide.

In the novel, the thoughts on love, especially in Ömer’s inner monologues, take up a lot of space. For example, it is really interesting what they think about after the first encounters:

“What a strange thing! (…) Many big compliments and permissions from the girls I love do not make me as happy as this girl’s look that I can’t even understand well. Yes, it’s just a look and maybe mixed with some compassion… But it’s not a casual look at least that makes me jump. I feel a tremendous lightness and spaciousness inside me. Maybe this is what truly love is.”

Towards the end of the novel, Macide’s words to Ömer about their love in the letter she “started to write with a pencil and hastily” are perhaps even more thought-provoking:

“…we are two people whose sides are not alike, who have no common views and thoughts… Who knows for what reasons, coincidences brought us together. You said you loved me, I believed it. I loved you too. And how I loved… My feelings do not change today, either. But why I loved, that’s what I couldn’t find, and that’s what got me thinking, doubting the continuation of our life with you.”

These two quotes alone are, I think, thought-provoking enough that it’s not just an ordinary, well-known love story…


I will not go into the analysis of Ömer’s personality here. While I was reading the book, just listing and summarizing the places I marked about this personality would fill the pages. There is no doubt that he is an honest young man. Although he tries to stay that way until the end, it’s as if there is a “devil” inside him that he cannot resist his impulses, which leads him to do evil, especially when he encounters difficulties…

This word “devil” was first used in 47-48 (in a special edition made by Yapı Kredi Publishing due to the 80th anniversary of the novel’s publication). At a tavern meeting of university students, among which there were well-known poets and writers of the period, Ömer excitedly reads a poem called “The Devil” published in a literary magazine out of his pocket. like” he repeats: “Yes, yes, his fear… The fear of him who created this timid world inside me… This is not me… I would be something else… If only it were not for this fear… If I were not afraid of this demon, which I am sure will not make me do anything completely and well…”

A poet in the community, Emin Kamil, reacts to this young university student by “shaking his head and blinking nervously”:

“Why are you angry? Why are you complaining? How do you know that that thing inside you that you call the devil is not your most precious part?”

I may be wrong, but in this poem and type of poet, Necip Fazıl, etc., right-leaning, mystical, dark, etc. of the period. I thought that literary circles were targeted.

The “parody” poem in question reminded Nâzım Hikmet’s “parody” poem praising blindness…

If I continue from here; It is clear that the concept of “the devil inside us”, which is repeated by Ömer or other novel heroes in the following pages of the novel, is not only directed at Ömer but also against racist and fascist circles that influenced the university youth of the period, especially his friend Nihat.

As a matter of fact, Nihal Atsız, one of the prominent figures of this circle, published a book titled “İnçinzler,” which was an attack on the book and its author (and the anti-war and anti-fascist circles in general), after the publication of the novel, and then Sabahattin Ali was one of the main targets of attack by right-wing circles until his death.


Bedri teacher, who is truly a symbol of kindness and honesty, as well as Ömer and Macide, Hafız Hüsamettin, who is also a good-hearted and honest accounting officer (and his drama), Prof. Like wisdom, it can be discussed separately. When this last one took the stage in the novel, I was actually constricted with the premonition that a disaster would befall Macide as well as Kuyucaklı Yusuf’s Muazzez…

The Devil Within, its main protagonists, plot, thoughts expressed in internal monologues and dialogues, stream of consciousness, etc., although sometimes too long. It is a novel that cannot be fit into the confines of a review article with its innovative narrative features.

Melahat Togar, her friend from her student years in Germany, states in an article that she also read Russian writers through German without learning German fully, and lists the names of Turgenev and Gorky among the great world writers whose works she was inspired by. To these names I can add Pushkin with his Yevgeny Onegin, Goncharav with his Oblomov.

Omar of the Devil in us, with his willpower that he cannot dominate and overcome, bears indirect traces from Onegin, the types of Russian literature called “unnecessary intellectuals”, Oblomov, who is the hero of the novel with the same name, and Turgenev’s Rudin… The arrogant, selfish, inactive writer, poet, etc. of the Sabahattin Ali period. Perhaps for the first time in this novel, he uses the term “invertebrate”, which he used for his “intellectuals” in one of his articles…

Immaculate, clear Macide is reminiscent of Onegin’s Tatyana. Undoubtedly, these can be completely subjective, personal attributions. The real doubt is that in the personality of this dear writer, whom I read somewhere that he was influenced by Ehrenburg’s Paris Falling, and that he was designing a novel with the name “Ankara” shortly before he was sacrificed to a vile murder, we represent one of our greatest writers, ever, past and future, one of the unique and unique of our literature. is that we have lost a creator…

The Devil Inside Us / Sabahattin Ali / Yapı Kredi Publications / 260 p.

Source: Cumhuriyet Gazetesi – Gündem by www.cumhuriyet.com.tr.

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