In Search of Originality: Hamsa of Nevizade Atayi

By Ercan Akyol
Submitted to Session P4895 (Practices of Translation in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, 2017 Annual Meeting
13th-18th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Roots of the early modern Ottoman court culture can be traced back to the ancient Persian adab tradition. Accordingly, Ottoman court literature flourished under the influence of Persian literature by way of content, form, vocabulary and wording. As a result of this, many Turkish literary works, most notably masnawis, were modelled on Persian literary works via translations, imitations and adaptations. Especially, the generous support and the patronage of Ottoman dignitaries played a critical role in the 15th and 16th centuries. Most of the Ottoman poets tried to show their literary skills by means of these translations; although some "original" literary works were written in that span of time. However, when it comes to the 17th century of the Ottoman court literature, what differs from the preceding eras is the increasing number of original masnawis. As a functionary of the empire and a prolific litterateur, who functioned in the context of an intellectual and cultural milieu in which translations from Persian were still in full swing and migrant Safavid literary scholars sought refuge in the patronage of the Ottoman court, Nevizade Atayi (d. 1636) authored a hamsa (a set of five romances in masnawi form) to be dedicated to the high-ranking Ottoman court members. This paper demonstrates that although his inspiration was taken from Nizami Ganjavi (d.1209) and Molla Cami (d.1492), who wrote some paradigmatic Persian works of the genre and were also very influential in Safavid literary milieu of the time, the Nevizade Atayi’s Hamsa had an expressed agenda to transcend the imitation of Persian literary works and to create original contents for masnawi genre. Moreover, it examines the authorship and dedication of Nevizade Atayi’s work by situating his work in it is literary, cultural, and political context, which was marked by the Ottoman-Safavid rivalry and exchanges.