Poet and writer (b. 21 December 1840, Tekirdağ - d. 2 December 1888, Chios Island). His original name was Mehmed Kemal and he was the son of the Mustafa Asım who was a head astrologer of Abdülhamid II. His grandfather, Topal Osman Paşa, became Grand Vizier and Military Chief when he was ninety years old but was martyred in the war against Iran. His mother’s family was originally from Albania. After attending Bayezid Military High School and Valide School in İstanbul, he went to Kars (1853) and Sofia (1855) with his grandfather Abdüllatif Paşa. During those years, he received private education. His name Namık (Writer) was given to him by Eşref Paşa who had liked his poems in Sofia. When he returned to İstanbul (1857), upon his grandfather’s death, he began to work at the Translation Office (1859). During these years he took special interpretation, hadis*, canon law, Arabic and Persian literature courses from the scholars of the time and also French courses from people who knew western languages. After he met famous writers of the time like Ziya Paşa and Şinasi, he began to write for Tasvir-i Efkar newspaper.
When Şinasi fled to Paris, he left the management of his newspaper to Namık Kemal (1865). His personality and mastery of writing was evident by the political articles he wrote in this newspaper. He became a member of the New Ottomans Association which was established during that time and when the members of this association were sent away from İstanbul, he fled to Paris with them (1867). On Sultan Abdülaziz’s visit to England, he went to London and there he began to publish Hürriyet newspaper with Ziya Paşa (1868). However, when their political opinions differed, he stopped writing at the newspaper (1869). Upon the invitation of the Security Minister, Hüsnü Paşa, he returned to İstanbul (1870).
He re-started (1872) his writing career with his articles in İbret Newspaper that he leased after the death of Ali Paşa (1871). Due to his articles in this newspaper, which was closed many times, he secured public opinion in relation to his views. When his newspaper was first closed, he was sent away from İstanbul as the Gelibolu Governor (1872). When he was in Gelibolu, he wrote his play Vatan Yahut Silistre (Motherland or Silistra). When he returned, he again edited İbret. Upon the interest aroused by the staging his play at Gedikpaşa Theatre (1 April 1873), he was exiled to Famagusta and confined in a fortress (9 April 1873). Three years later, benefiting from the amnesty granted on to death of Abdülaziz and Murad V’s ascending the throne (30 May 1876), he returned to İstanbul. Three months later, when Abdülhamit II ascended the throne (31 August 1876), he was promoted to membership of the commission that organized the Council of State and the New Constitution. However, after the declaration of the Law Foundation (1876), he was imprisoned for five months and then exiled to Mytilene Island (1877). During this time, he wrote new poems and his most important letters. Two years later, he was appointed governor of the same island (1879). Meanwhile, he wrote his work called Celaleddin Harzemşah (Celaleddin Harzemşah), which he presented it to Abdülhamit and was promoted to the Supreme Rank. He was appointed as the Governor of Rhodes in 1884 and of Chios Island in 1887. On the islands where he served, he wrote new literary works and endeavored to establish new schools and mosques. He died of pneumonia on Chios Island. With the efforts of Ebuzziya Tevfik, his tomb was transported to be near the Rumelian conqueror, Prince Süleyman Paşa in Bolayır.
The most important figure of the Tanzimat* Reform period, Namık Kemal, in his newspaper articles and works, asserted a constitutional government based on Islamic canon law, the equality of the individual within the law, the dominance of law and benefiting from Western science and technique without breaking from Turkish culture. He remained faithful to Divan poetry in his poems with a powerful voice. In his poetry, anecdotes, articles, plays, letters, history and critiques he gave precedence to the problems of society.
POETRY: Namık Kemal’in Şiirleri (Poems by Namık Kemal, after his death first complied by Sadettin Nüzhet Ergun, 1941).
NOVEL: İntibah (Regret, 1876), Cezmi (Cezmi, 1880).
PLAY: Vatan Yahut Silistre (Motherland or Silistra, 1873), Zavallı Çocuk (Poor Boy, 1873), Akif Bey (Mr. Akif, 1874), Gülnihal (Young Rose, 1875), Celalettin Harzemşah (Celalettin Harzemşah, 1885), Karabela (Misfortune, 1910).
CRITIQUE: Tahrib-i Harabat (Destruction of Ruins, 1885), Takip (Pursuit, 1885, critique on divan poetry on account of the opinions of Ziya Paşa which were stated in the preface of his anthology Harabat), Mes Prizon Muahazenamesi (Mes Prizon Critique, views that he stated when Recaizade Ekrem wrote a similar translation to his with the Italian poet Silviyo Pellica, serialized in Mecmua-ı Ebuzziya, 1885 and 1912), Renan Müdafaanamesi (Critique of Renan, work in which he defended Islam against the views of Ernest Renan, 1908).
HISTORY: Devr-i İstila (Invasion Period, the enlargement of the Ottoman Empire, 1867), Barika-i Zafer (Conquest of İstanbul, 1872), Evrak-ı Perişan (Disordered Papers, with the meaning “Scattered Leaves”, the lives of Selahattin Eyyubi, Fatih and Yavuz, 1872), Kanije (Kanizsa, 1874), Silistre Muaharası (Silistra Siege, 1874), Osmanlı Tarihi (Ottoman History, new edition, 3 volumes, 1971- 74), Büyük İslam Tarihi (Great Islamic History, by İhsan Ilgar, 1975).