This is a stellar example of one of the great Ottoman works of literature on the Gallipoli Campaign (Turkish: Çanakkale Savaşı), written by İbrahim Alaaddin (who later took the surname Gövsa), one of the preeminent Turkish writers of the first half of the 20th Century. Fortunately, the present example features the spectacular original wrappers, which are often lacking on surviving examples, featuring the powerful image of an Ottoman soldier, symbolically standing over a map of the Dardanelles, bearing a sabre directed towards the outstretched, covetous hand of Western imperialism (representing the invading Entente force). This image is one of the most evocative and popular Turkish popular works of art concerning the Gallipoli Campaign, and it aptly captures the content of the text.
The genesis of the present work came in the summer of 1915, during the middle of the Gallipoli Campaign, when the Ottoman Government dispatched an official delegation of the country’s leading artists (painters, writers, etc.) to the active battlefield to interview soldiers and to soak up the atmosphere first hand. From what would promise to be an overwhelming experience, the artists were then invited to create their own artworks that captured the horrors of the battle, as well celebrating the patriotic spirit of the brave Ottoman soldiers who were (so far, successfully) defending their country from invasion.
The artistic delegation included İbrahim Alaaddin, plus such esteemed figures as Ahmet Ağaoğlu, Orhan Seyfi Orhon, Enis Behiç Koryürek, Celal Sahir Erozan, Hıfzı Tevfik, Hakkı Süha Gezgin, Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver, İbrahim Çallı, Nazmi Ziya, Ali Canip, Ömer Seyfettin, Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, Muhiddin, Selahattin, Musikişinas Rauf Yekta, and Yusuf Razi Bey.
The party travelled from Istanbul, arriving at Gallipoli on July 15, 1915, where they visited the Arıburnu and Seddülbahir battlefields. They met many senior Turkish commanders and conversed with common Ottoman soldiers, while peering down at the enemy lines through binoculars. The party was notably given an audience with General Liman von Sanders, the supreme commander of the Ottoman-German forces in the Gallipoli Campaign. Most of the delegation remained at Gallipoli for ten days, before returning to Istanbul.
The content of the text is two-fold. It commences with the official report of the artistic delegation, as İbrahim Alaaddin was selected to be the chronicler for the group. Then there follows a series of eighteen original poems about Gallipoli, composed by İbrahim Alaaddin, that explore the overwhelming horror of the battle in which so many young men were cut down, while also extoling the extraordinary bravery and skill of the Ottoman troops as they held back the forces of Britain, the great world power. Some of the poems were written on the Gallipoli battlefield during the 1915 delegation visit, while some were composed later when the author was travelling Europe, but all of the sudden caught up in memories of Gallipoli. İbrahim Alaaddin admitted that the poems were not his most technically accomplished works; however, they compensate for their raw and sincere emotional elements, which pour out of the pages, moving even the most stoic reader.
While some excerpts of İbrahim Alaaddin’s report on the delegation visit and a couple of his Gallipoli poems were first published in newspapers in 1915, the great majority of the content appears for the first time in the present first edition of Çanakkale İzleri, which did not appear until 1926. This issue, printed in Ottoman Turkish, appeared as a cheap pamphlet sold at street kiosks, and was an incredibly popular ‘bestseller’, regarded then as it is today as one of seminal artistic woks on the Gallipoli Campaign. A second edition, written in modern Turkish, was issued in 1939, and was likewise a bestseller. The work had since been reprinted in whole or in part on many occasions, keeping İbrahim Alaaddin’s powerful sentiments and memories alive for new generations.
It must be emphasized that while examples of the 1926 edition appear from time to time, it is rare for an example to be found with its original illustrated wrappers. They seem to have survived on the present example only because they were contemporarily mounted to hard card covers.
İbrahim Alaaddin (Gövsa): Pioneering and Popular Turkish Intellectual
İbrahim Alaaddin (Gövsa) (1889 – 1949) was a giant figure in the intellectual life of very late Ottoman and early Republican Turkey. He was a writer, poet, educator, biographer and politician. He gained fame early in his career, publishing Çocuk Şiirleri [Children’s Poems] (1911), considered one of the pioneering works in Turkish children’s literature.
Educated in Switzerland, İbrahim Alaaddin was one of the earliest Turkish writers to apply psychology to literature. He published dozens of poems, books and newspaper articles on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from humour to serious political and psychological treatises. Serving as a member of the Turkish Parliament for many years from 1926, he became one of the country’s leading ‘public intellectuals’.
In addition to the present Çanakkale İzleri, his poem Tavas (1938), written to eulogize Atatürk, was immensely popular. His Türk Meşhurları Ansiklopedisi [Encyclopedia of Famous Turkish People] (1945-1946), has enduring importance as one of the country’s great, indispensable reference works.
References: ÖZEGE, no. 3239.