Talât Sait Halman

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Person.png Talât Sait Halman  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(academic, poet, translator)
Talât Sait Halman.png
İstanbul, Turkey
Died2014-12-05 (Age 83)
Ankara, Turkey
Alma materRobert College, Colombia University
Member ofEuropean Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation
Turkish intellectual with close ties to the United States

Employment.png Turkey/Minister of Culture

In office
13 July 1971 - 13 December 1971

Talât Sait Halman was a famous Turkish poet, translator and cultural historian. He was the first Minister of Culture of Turkey. He taught at many US universities, and from 1998 onward, at Bilkent University as the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Letters.


Halman received his B.A. from Robert College in Istanbul. In the mid-1950s he received his master's degree from Columbia University in political science, international relations and international law.

During his long academic career, Professor Halman taught at Columbia University, Princeton University (1965–71) and (1972–80), the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, where he was also Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures. He taught at Bilkent University in Ankara from 1998, rising to become the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Letters. While there, he helped to found a program in Turkish languages and literature with a goal of introducing new critical approaches.

His honors include Columbia University's Thornton Wilder Prize for lifetime achievement as translator, an honorary doctorate from the Bosphorus University, a Rockefeller Fellowship in the Humanities, the UNESCO Medal, and "Knight Grand Cross, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire". ).[1]

In 1971, he served as Turkey's first Minister of Culture. During his tenure, he coordinated the whirling dervishes' landmark first tour of the US in 1971. In 1976 he oversaw the first American museum tour of historical and cultural artifacts from the Ottoman Sultans' palace. From 1980 to 1982, he was Turkey's first Ambassador for Cultural Affairs. Based in New York, he inaugurated a comprehensive program of Turkish cultural activities. From 1991 to 1995 he was a Member of UNESCO's Executive Board.

He was a Member of the Executive Committee of the PEN American Center and worked at the Center's Translation Committee. He was a long-time member of the Poetry Society of America and was a Member of the Editorial Board of World Literature Today from 1967.

In 1971, during her visit to Turkey, Queen Elizabeth II conferred a Knight Grand Cross (GBE) on Professor Halman.

Talat Sait Halman was also a well-known translator into English as well as Turkish. His books in English include two collections of his poems ("Shadows of Love", published in Canada, and "A Last Lullaby", published in the United States), Contemporary Turkish Literature, Modern Turkish Drama, Living Poets of Turkey, three books of the 13th century Anatolian mystic folk poet Yunus Emre, Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes (with Metin And), Suleiman the Magnificent - Poet, Turkish Legends and Folk poems, Tales of Nasreddin Hodja, and others. His 1984 book on Celalettin Rumi preceded and contributed to the wave of Rumi enthusiasm in the United States in the 1990s.

His books in Turkish include nine collections of his original poems, two massive anthologies of the poetry of ancient times, a book of Ancient Egyptian poems, the selected poems of Wallace Stevens and Langston Hughes, an anthology of living American poets, a book of American woman poets, his verse translations of Shakespeare's Complete Sonnets, a book of Eskimo poems, a one-actor play featuring Shakespeare, etc. He has translated Robinson Jeffers' version of "Medea"', Neal Simon's "Lost in Yonkers"', Dear Liar" (based on George Bernard Shaw-Mrs Patrick Campbell letters) and Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" (for the two latters plays he won Turkey's top play translation awards.) He was the first Turkish translator of William Faulkner.

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