x0x A renaissance man Metin And
- [Over the years TurkC-L carried bunerous articles
by Mr. And. The following article is for those of
you who are wondering who he is. You can see a photo
of Dr. And at:
x0x A renaissance man Metin And
By BAHAR KALKAN
With his vast knowledge and perpetual smile,
regular Skylife contributor Prof. Dr. Metin And is
an incorrigible teaser who likes to turn
everything into a game.
Metin And has been dubbed a Renaissance man by
dean of Turkish letters Prof. Talat Halman:
Masters of both the arts and the sciences with
prodigious accomplishments in a wide range of
fields are called Renaissance men because the most
impressive representatives of this human type are
associated with Renaissance Italy.
Fifty-three books, ten of them in English, some
1500 articles, hundreds of lectures given round
the world from America to the Far East, all in a
life of 77 years. Over thirty years as a faculty
member of the Department of Theater of the Ankara
University School of Language, History and
Geography; Cultural History classes at Bogazici
and Bilkent Universities; guest professorships in
America, Germany and Japan; the Scholarship Award
of the Turkish Language Society (1970); the
Turkiye Is Bank Award for Scholarly Research
(1980); Officier de lordre des Arts et des Lettres
of the French government (1985), a Knighthood
conferred by the President of Italy (1991), the
Service Award of the Turkish Academy of Science
(1998) and many other honors and awards.
Trailblazer for scholars of Turkish opera, ballet
and theater, not to mention folklore, Karagoz
shadow theater, and the miniature. Wine
connoisseur who spent five months at one of
Germanys leading champagne factories before
introducing the production of natural champagne to
Turkey. Dreamer who enjoys nothing more than
solitude. Master of the art of illusion. Gourmet
more enamored of spicy food than even the Indians.
Loving grandpa who enjoys playing with his
grandchildren. Jolly friend, never without a
mischievous smile on his face. Whatever I say
about Metin And,I'll inevitably leave something
You graduated from Galatasaray Lycée and Istanbul
University School of Law. You then went to London
for post-graduate work but gave up your studies at
the dissertation stage.
How did you arrive at that decision?
It was my first time to go abroad. I was fond of
the opera and ballet. England was a very serious
place in terms of the arts. I attended a
performance every night. It was there that I found
What did you want to do?
As far back as I can remember Ive enjoyed during
research. When I returned to Turkey I started
writing book reviews in Forum. Yasar Kemals Mehmed
My Hawk had just come out and I wrote the first
But I was a bit full of myself in those days.
There was an American writer named Robert Penn
Warren and I tried to compare Yasar Kemal with
him. I came to regret it later. He touches on some
of the same problems but actually Yasar Kemals
strong point is his language. One day years later
we met at a dinner. The next thing I knew he was
bearing down on me, shouting, Metin, you made life
very difficult for me! You compared me with that
man! Ive read everything he wrote. Where am I like
him? Youthful pomposity, I confessed. Based on my
writings in Forum, I got a Rockefeller Foundation
grant to study ballet, opera and theater in the
Then I started writing for the daily Ulus and
wrote theater and ballet reviews every day for 15
years. Later I wrote for other magazines as well.
While I as writing theater reviews, I also started
writing books. A four-volume History of the
Turkish Theater (Traditional, Reform and Decline,
Constitutional, and Republican Periods). My first
book published in the U.S. was on folk dance, then
in my book Drama and Sorcery I turned to folk
How did you get interested in miniatures?
I first became acquainted with the miniature in
middle school. My classmate Ethem Karatays father,
Fehmi Karatay, was director of the Istanbul
University Library. He was a very knowledgeable
and well-read man. We used to go to the library on
Sundays. I would head straight copy down the ones
that interested me. Then I would to go to the
illuminated manuscripts. My friend told his father
about me. One day we went to see him. He give me a
French-published catalogue of all the illuminated
manuscripts in the library.
Later on, in the 60s, Fehmi Bey compiled a
catalogue of all the manuscripts in the Topkapi
Palace Library. He sent word for me to come. When
I went there, he had set aside a pile of books of
miniatures for me. The most important
manuscriptsbooks of festivals, two volumes of a
Book of Skills. I was gradually beginning to
realize that I loved Ottoman miniatures. I wrote a
book about miniatures in English, which came out
in French as well. It was a small book, so we
expanded it into Ottoman Islamic Mythology and the
Miniature. Later I wrote a book just about
miniatures. I divided them into 11 groups:
animals, men and women, Istanbul, etc. In a way I
wrote that book for myself. Every now and then I
take it out and look at it and it makes me happy.
Youve worked in many different fields. Where do
you find the energy?
There are two secrets to it. First, when I started
these projects I always considered the whole thing
all at once. That way I knew I could do it. The
British Museum is like a second home to me.
Ive spent my happiest times in the museum reading
room. Second, the research process is very
enjoyable. Like detective work, like a game.
Im a person who loves games. I treat everything as
a game. When you do it like that, you find a lot
of energy. When youre doing research, you suddenly
latch onto something and then you feel great
satisfaction. I shut down completely then and take
a day off to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Are you working on a new book?
Im hard at work on a new book for Yapi Kredi
Publications: Famous Magicians. I'll hand it in at
the end of October. My favorite chapter is on
women magicians. Youre going to be amazed at the
kind of women there were. The longest chapter is
called Fathers and Sons. Among them are six
generations of magicians. I also devote one whole
chapter to Zati Sungur.
How did you get interested in magic?
It started in elementary school. Zati Sungur had
returned to Turkey for the first time in 20 years.
I was nine.
My father took me to see him. I got the bug that
night. I came close to figuring out a couple of
his tricks. Thats what whetted my curiosity. Later
on I became friends with Zati Sungur.
What about music?
At home my father always listened to Turkish
music, but I could never warm up to it. We also
had a good piano at home. I started taking
lessons. I also attended the Istanbul Municipal
Conservatory for five years and studied piano with
Ferdi von Statzer. Galatasaray Lycée had a
traditional orchestra, the Izcaz Orkestra. I was
the pianist. They thought I played well but I knew
I didn't. Mozart is my favorite composer. My
father bought me a record of Mozarts famous Eine
kleine Nachtmusik. One day I had a terrible flu. I
was alone at home so I played the Mozart
recording. While I was listening my fever dropped
and I suddenly felt better. The music made me
well. Ever since that day Ive been a Mozart fan.
Keep it in mind if youre ever ill!
You're a person who likes to laugh and to make
As a child I was always laughing in elementary
school. One day the teacher said, "Why are you
grinning like a cooked sheeps head? I was
notorious at Galatasaray. Somebody gave me a
nickname that I will bear to the grave, "520
Sheeps Head Metin". It got on my nerves at first,
but later I began to like it. Laughing is a good
thing. It keeps a person healthy.