Sefâretnâme

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Sefâretnâme (سفارت نامه), literally the book of embassy, was a genre in the Turkish literature which was closely related to seyahatname (the book of travels), but was specific to the recounting of journeys and experiences of an Ottoman ambassador in a foreign, usually European, land and capital. Sefâretnâme were edited by their authors with a view to their presentation to the Sultan and to his high administration, thus also bearing a semi-official character, their objective being to make them "feel" the foreign country in question, as much as informing on it. For this reason, and for the literary qualities that were sought in order to attain their objective, they remain of lasting interest for the general reader.

The first example of the genre is admitted to be the Kara Mehmed Çelebi sefâretnâme, relating his embassy in Vienna in 1655. Outstanding examples of the genre, mostly dating from the 18th century, are of particular value both in lasting literary terms and for the insights they provide for the Ottoman intelligentsia's perception of Western Europe at a time when that part of the world had visibly started to overtake other geographies of the world, including the Ottoman Empire, in terms of science, culture and development. Ottoman attempts to understand the reasons for the growing gap can explain the more and more frequent dispatch of ambassadors through the 18th century, who were later to have a permanent presence in European capitals, as well as the multiplication of sefâretnâme.

The sense of curiosity their authors convey with regards to the Western culture they were examining was fully reciprocated by the curiosity they aroused among their Parisian and Berliner interlocutors, most of whom were getting in contact with Turks for the first time. The vivid accounts of the contacts and the respective commentaries made thereof draw the reader's curiosity to this day.

Among notable sefâretname, those below can be cited;

There are up to forty examples of sefâretnâme,[1] written by Ottoman ambassadors who held office in the 18th century and early-19th century in various posts including London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Russia, Poland ("Lehistan" in Ottoman terminology), Italy, Spain, Iran, India, Morocco and Bukhara. Those with a reduced literary outset, presented more in the form a professional and topical memorandum were termed as takrir.

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