Themes in the Novels of Yasar KEMAL
written for Light Millennium..
by Osman SAHIN
KEMAL (born in Cukurova, 1923)
today’s Turkish Literature, Yasar Kemal is considered
as one of the great storytellers where fact, fantasy and
folklore are stirred to produce poetry with such enriched
cultural roots like the great poet Nazim Hikmet…
The great quality of the fictional work of Yasar Kemal
borns of the sources that go from Sumerians to Hittites,
from Assyrians to Byzantine, and from Seljuks to Ottoman
bringing these civilizations close to each other and linking
to our modern times and absorbing through the oral tradition
recited by the errant Turkish bards. In this perspective,
we can fairly honor YASAR KEMAL as a brave wanderer along
Anatolian Cultures.. He then builds a fabulous world,
expressive, full of an epic air, in which hunger, violence
and the powerful secret codes confront poverty with oppression,
the whole sublimated by formidable lyrical power. Thus,
he has contributed decisively to the creation of Turkish
as a literary language.
world literature, he is one of the very few great writers
whose childhood and adult life is lived in such a poverty
as he shares in his novels. We can feel the sweat
in the unbearable humid of the Cukurova cotton
fields and the brutal cold of the snowy Taurus mountains
where he wandered in its endless woods guarding the water
canals surrendered with a cloud of mosquitoes. All these
extreme difficulties of his childhood are hidden in each of his novel that sometimes
explore the intricate psychology behind the transformation
of fascination into violence.
Kemal’s novels progress like the life of a walnut
tree. Developing slowly, but growing into many sub-stories
like the arms of a walnut tree turning into a grand epical
monumental of writing-art. There are many reasons why it is difficult
writing about this great author and his works. Firstly,
due to his world-renowned reputation. Secondly, there
are internationally numerous valuable critiques, biographical
books, write-ups and media releases on his works. Therefore,
it is quite understandable the difficulty on writing for
Yasar Kemal who received such honorable global media attention.
Kemal’s story-telling in his novels
are like the layers of Cukurova’s soil, rooted
deeply and nurturing.
the reason why we can feel such richness on each layer
of his books. An ordinary reader may sense only the lives
and adventures on the surface and simply enjoy that. But,
as we go into deeper layers of his stories it is inevitable
to discover hidden elements of history, nature, folklore,
legendary themes and traditional lyricism. Adding his
poetic story-telling talent into all these layers; there
is a phenomenal reality of human psychology. I also have
to admit how lucky and privileged I am comparing to those
who wrote on him... Because, Yasar
Kemal is the writer of my native Cukurova &
Taurus region where I was born; my very first motherland
feeding his stories.
He contributes remarkably to the recreation of
local nomad Turkish worldwide as a literary language which
was spoken by my ancestors, my parents’ and my own
villagers. That is why I find many similarities and a
relativeness in his words, portraits, his perspective
of the nature and mostly in his ballads which take me
back to the nostalgia of my childhood’s epic stories,
ballads in its own local nomad dialect I grew up listening..
His words constantly paddle through uncharted territory
of my childhood. .
makes the readers secretly discovering
the color of Anatolian cultures with such intellectual
level of novelism... As a cultural mosaic, the cultures
of Anatolia have been a source of modern cultures that
is because the soil of Anatolia is so rich in culture.
This world is a graveyard of wrecked languages and cultures
as stated by him..
can compare his writing style to a running horse which
always runs toward his poor peasant villagers, yet with
such dignifying innocence. His pen always runs in the direction of his people of honor
under such oppression. Yasar Kemal is a storyteller of
worlds in the oldest tradition, spokesman for a people
who had no other voice. With the brilliance of his epic,
adventurous, passionate, poetic books, Kemal stands for
and successfully hugs not only the humanitarian elements
of our people & culture, but also all the world cultures
and that is why each of his books have the freshness and
vigor of a writer who, one suspects, is the exultant discoverer
of such virgin territory, the Cukurova.
an interview I had back in ‘80s with the villagers
of Saribahce in Cukurova, the responses to questions about
YASAR KEMAL and Ince Memed, most claimed they had heard
stories about the legendary folk hero, Ince Memed, in
early childhood. They have since come to know YASAR KEMALas
a writer, but also identify with him as a native of Cukurova.
of the richest soil in Turkey is in Cukurova, to the north
of the Ceyhan-Iskenderun highway, extending all the way
to Anavarza. Yet some of the poorest peasants, that is,
peasants who own the smallest amount of land are inhibited
in the vicinity of Adana and Ceyhan. Saribahce is a typical
village of the Anavarza region that YASAR KEMALdescribes
in his novels. Situated amid gigantic farms on fertile
soil, it consists of small houses covered with weeds,
hay, reeds, cane and tin. A lowland village of 800, it
lies to the east of the Adana-Kozan road between
Anavarza and Ceyhan.
Memed – Memed, My Hawk -
has been by far, the most successful novel of postwar
Turkish literature.. Certainly, Turkish critics have tended
to view Kemal’s novels from a rather narrow vantage
point of social criticism. The grip which social-realist
writing generally held on Turkish readers at the time
may help explain this paradoxical situation. The narrative
roots of Ince Memed are planted deep in the soil of traditional
Okkes Memet.Education:primary school. Owns no land. Sharecropper.
KEMAL is a remarkable man. Think of it, he was an irrigation
guard in the fields of Kadirli.
Come down from a vale in the Taurus mountains,
cut through thistles and tread a path of rocks with blistered
feet and then go on to become a great writer of stories.
Anyhow, son, they hounded him saying “Blind Man”,
“Commie Kemal.” The aghas had stones thrown
at him. Then he left and went to Istanbul. But see what
a good person he is: instead of writing petitions in Kadirli,
he petitions the whole world by telling about the troubles
of the country. Do I know Ince Memed?
I know about him since my childhood. My grandfather
used to tell me he was a very brave & bold man.
Memedo. No Education. Owns no land. Sharecropper:
can’t read or write, son. I never learned how to
handle a pen. But I know YASAR KEMAL. Well, once upon
a time INCE MEMED rose against the aghas of Cukurova and
became a bandit. I respect such people.
Zeynel Bakir. Education:primary school. Farmer, a former
candidate for village headmanship:
KEMAL is a great revolutionary writer of our region. He
is one of us. He knows our language, dialect, conditions.
Because of this, we are happy reading his novels. In them,
we see our own lives as if looking into a mirror and we
cannot resist saying, “indeed it was like this”. In my opinion, Ince Memed is a hero created by poor sharecroppers,
villagers like us against the cruelty of the aghas. Whenever friends and I go up to Anavarza Castle for a stroll,
whenever I step on those rocks, I can’t help but
think INCE MEMED must have trodden here, INCE MEMED must
have a lit a fire in that cave, he must have lain in ambush
here… I admire Ince Memed.
Kasaboglu. Education:primary school. Avid reader and poet:
KEMAL presents facts without complicating them. That is
to say, in embellishing reality, he doesn’t add
artificial things. He has such a way of telling a story:
It’s as if there is a gentle humming in his novels.
One reason he narrates so well is the fact, there is conflict,
struggle, injustice, oppression for people living in Cukurova.
Bitterness, sadness, joy and pain all figure together
in Cukurova. Laughter and dirges are together. We can
say that INCE MEMED did what YASAR KEMAL wrote and YASAR
KEMAL wrote what INCE MEMED was capable of doing.
_ . _Translated
by Buket Sahin
Kemal on Peace
by Buket SAHIN
Yasar Kemal, My Hawk
Biography of Yasar Kemal (External link)
Editor’s note: Author, Screenplay Writer Osman Sahin
is working on a BIOGRAPHY book on “YASAR KEMAL”to
be published in 2003.
E-mail to Osman Sahin:
Osman Sahin, February, 2003 - Goztepe, ISTANBUL