Highlights from the Aga Khan Library Collections – Ottoman Collections (IV)

Muhayyelât-ı Aziz Efendi (مخيلات عزيزافندى) by Ali Aziz Efendi

Introduced by Seda Karamanli

Hidden within the notable Ottoman collection of the Aga Khan Library lies a gem of literature: Muhayyelât-i Aziz Efendi (Aziz Efendi’s Imaginations).

Ali Aziz Efendi, born in 1749, was the son of Tahmisci Mehmet Efendi, the treasurer of Ottoman Crete. He rose to prominence after his father’s death, serving on the Imperial Council before becoming a distinguished ambassador in Berlin. Beyond his official duties, he was a man of letters, crafting prose works and composing Turkish and Persian poetry deeply rooted in Sufi tradition. Yet, it is his captivating work, Muhayyelât-i Aziz Efendi, that has left an indelible mark on his legacy.

The book is divided into three chapters, or hayals (dreams), vividly portraying the miracles attributed to various Shaykhs and Bektashi saints, as imagined and narrated by the author. As Efendi takes the reader through the realm of supernatural wonders, he subtly reveals that the entire narrative is but a fantastical dream of a Bektashi seeker immersed in hashish-induced vision. The revelation points to the Sufi notion of the world as illusory and Efendi’s mystical inclinations.

For those looking to travel along the bustling streets and alleys of 18th-century Ottoman Istanbul, Muhayyelât-i Aziz Efendi offers a dramatic view of the diverse cultures, customs, and traditions of the time. Literature enthusiasts will also find his bold departure from conventional storytelling norms equally intriguing as he delves into the realm of metafiction, challenging the boundaries between reality and fiction with an 18th-century narrative framework.

Initially written in 1796 and first published in 1852 by Istanbul’s Basmahane-i Amire Printing House, this captivating work can only be found in its original first edition at the Aga Khan Library. We invite you to explore the pages of Muhayyelât-i Aziz Efendi.

As a continuation of our Collection Highlight series, our next blog post will introduce another significant literary work, Muhazarat, authored by the esteemed Ottoman Muslim female writer Fatma Aliye.

You can find Muhayyelât-i Aziz Efendi in the Aga Khan Library Rare Books Collection: PL248. A94 M8 1852

Further Reading

Kabaklı, Ahmet. MuhayyelatTürk Dili ve Edebiyatı Ansiklopedisi. Vol .6. Istanbul: Dergah, 1973.

Koçak Hemmat, Ayşe Özge. ‘The Turkish Novel as Transnational.’ Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.

Uysal, Zeynep. Olağanüstü Masaldan Çağdaş Anlatıya: Muhayyelât-ı Aziz Efendi. Istanbul: Boğaziçi University, 2006.

Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction. London: Routledge, 1990.