Islamic Studies Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar
Gökser Gökçay
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 September 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0275


Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (b. 1901–d. 1962) was a Turkish novelist, poet, critic, and historian of literature. He is considered to be one of the leading figures in modernist Turkish literature, writing five novels; sixteen stories; and many essays, letters, and diaries that constitute a rich resource for understanding the last century of the Ottoman Empire and the Early Republican Era. He belonged to the first generation of teachers educated in the Republican period. Although he served as a deputy of the Republican People’s Party in the Grand National Assembly between 1943 and 1946, he mainly focused on his literary studies and worked as a professor of Turkish literature in Istanbul University until he died in 1962. His two novels Huzur and Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü are considered among the best novels written in Turkish. He was heavily influenced by Turkish poet and novelist Yahya Kemal Beyatlı as well as French poet Paul Valéry. He considered himself an outsider who rejected binary identifications of modernist versus traditionalist in Turkey’s intellectual life. As a result, he bemoaned the fact that he was ignored by his contemporaries. He only began to be embraced by the Turkish intelligentsia a decade after his death in the 1970s when Turkey was increasingly struggling with the dilemmas of modernization and the inevitable domestic conflicts that derived from it. While his critique of modernity was considered as a criticism toward the modernization endeavor of the Republican period, he was a proponent of many aspects of the revolution except for the language reform. His reconciliation of the supposedly contrasting themes like the Ottoman past versus modern Turkey, with the help of allegorical narratives, highlighted the duality of the Turkish modernization and made him a pioneer in the Turkish literature. His influence can be seen in many prominent Turkish authors including Oğuz Atay and Orhan Pamuk.

Works of Tanpınar

Tanpınar’s main works are his novels, stories, and poems while he regularly wrote essays and critiques on Turkish magazines and newspapers of which the overwhelming majority has been collected in books. Sociological and psychological dimensions of his novels are intertwined with a delicate sense of humor that is sometimes coupled by fantastical elements. In a new world where ordinary individuals have a chance to climb the ladders of social stratification, Tanpınar acts as the observer of conflicts between the old and new. One could see the ordinary flow of daily life in his detailed portrayals in harmony with extraordinary events, dreams, and visions. Despite the fact that his fictional works are limited compared to his literary critiques, his novels have been seminal for Turkish literature. Tanpınar’s works are organized into five parts: fiction; nonfiction; English translations of Tanpınar’s works; Tanpınar’s translations of other authors’ works; and his diaries, letters, and lecture notes.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.