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Yasar Kemal on PEACE!

by Buket SAHIN

"ALL WARS, whether in Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia, or Afghanistan, wear down humanity; they degenerate more and more, they become more inhumane with every battle, every massacre, every danger of starvation" Yasar KEMAL

"Increase your cruelty so as to accelerate your decline."
Anatolian proverb

YASAR KEMAL, A Legendary Nomad from Cukurova -  one of my heroes who writes fearlessly on PEACE &  "Problems of Nomadic Entity in Anatolia” – A perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature…

Yasar Kemal is the most popular contemporary author in Turkey. Born in 1923 in Adana, Kemal became famous with his first novel, published in 1955, entitled "Memed, My Hawk" in which struggle creates a young hero, who becomes a famous outlaw and a legend of the South Anatolian Cukurova region. Kemal is an internationally acclaimed novelist whose tales of a vanishing way of life on the punishing Anatolian plains are standard fare in Turkish literature textbooks..

His works have been translated into more than 30 languages, with millions of copies printed. As an active leftist, Kemal issued sharp critiques of social injustice and the abuse of power by government officials in Ankara, he was imprisoned after the March 1971 military coup. Due to a critique of Turkey's oppression of the Kurds, which was printed in issue #2/95 of the German magazine 'Der Spiegel', Yasar Kemal has been issued a court summons and faced prosecution…

He received the 1997 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade as an advocate of human rights who has selflessly stood up for the poor, the exploited, and those persecuted for political or ethnic reasons.  Kemal, the fiftieth recipient of this prestigious German cultural prize, which has been awarded in conjunction with the annual Frankfurt Book Fair since 1950, received the award in solemn nationwide broadcasted ceremonies at Frankfurt's Paulskirche.
However, Kemal's Der Spiegel essay prompted heated debate in the Turkish media. Although some columnists said Kemal had betrayed the country, others rallied to his defense in an unprecedented show of support for freedom of expression…

"For me the world is a garden of culture where thousand flowers grow. Throughout history all cultures have fed one another, been grafted onto one another, and in the process our world has been enriched. The disappearance of a culture is the loss of a color, a different light, a different source. I am as much on the side of every flower in this thousand flower garden as I am on the side of my own culture. Anatolia has always been a mosaic of flowers, filling the world with flowers and light. I want it to be the same today. If the people of a country choose to live like human beings, choose happiness and beauty, their way lies first through universal human rights and then through universal, unlimited freedom of thought. The people of countries that have opposed this will enter the twenty first century without honor. Saving the honor and bread of our country, and the cultural wealth of its soil is in our hands. Either true democracy or...nothing! "

"The joy of life in people's hearts is immortal. It has always been my fond hope to sing the songs of light and joy. I have always wished that those who read my novels are full of love for their fellow human beings, for all birds and beasts, for bugs and insects, for all of nature. And I firmly believe that my nation, residing in our land of culture, will not long remain in this plight but will instead give new vitality to the fertile soil. I have faith that, sooner or later, we shall embrace real democracy and help the democratic people struggling for the sake of democracy on earth."
(Frankfurt a.M., October 19, 1997, Authorized First English-Language Publication translated by Talat Sait Halman.)


"People have always created their own worlds of myths and dreams, perpetuating their lives in those imaginary worlds. At times of duress, they have created more such worlds, which have given them haven and facilitated their lives. In their transition from one darkness to another, having acquired the consciousness of death, they have realized their lives and the joy of living in the world of myths and dreams they have created." (Yasar Kemal in his acceptance speech of the 1997 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, trans. by Talat Sait Halman)


"Traditionally and temperamentally, I feel drawn to the art of Homer and Cervantes, to the light and poetry in life. My search is for the forces that bind us to life and the world we live in, and I believe this is to be found in the boundless energy and richness of the peoples of all nations, as distinct from the contemporary bourgeois class and its art which I consider a rotten bough in the tree of humanity." (Kemal in World Authors 1950-1970, ed. by John Wakeman, 1975)…

In one of his recent books ‘Salman the Solitary”, [translated from the Turkish by Thilda Kemal], Danny Yee reviews:

"The writer portraits the chronicle of obsession and revenge and communal conflict, fueled by divisions and differences: between Kurds and Turks and Armenians, between mountain- and plains-dwellers, between rich and poor, and even between adults and children.  In the narrow, confined world of a small village, poisonous rumors and gossip are inescapable and the threat of violence looms ever-present. But Kemal combines all of this with lyrical descriptions of nature and haunting evocation of dreams, fantasies, fears, and ecstasies of childhood. The result is dark but bright, the harsh sun of the plains reaching into the recesses of the mountains. He tells the story of Ismail, a Kurd from Lake Van, fleeing the invading Russians with his family and settling in a remote village in Anatolia. On the way he adopts Salman, a child found half-dead by the road, but later he has a son of his own, Mustafa, and conflict between the children not unsurprisingly ensues. And a mountain-dweller named Halil comes down to the plains to work, only to have his dreams shattered by deceit and theft."

In fact, only YASAR KEMAL could have done JUSTICE in novels to a region of so many conflicts and contrasts…Kemal’s "politics" are so much more subtle and ambiguous than, perhaps, the political novelism of other writers. And yet it certainly has a didactic element simply because he wants social justice.

* * *

I love Nazim Hikmet, the great Turkish poet -another emblem of solitary consciousness…

I love the passionate openheartedness of Hikmet's poems & Kemal’s ballads.

I love the sense of brotherhood in Hikmet, and I love that same sense of brotherhood in YASAR KEMAL…

- . -

Related links on the LM
- Traditional Themes in the Novels of Yasar KEMAL
by Osman SAHIN

- Memed, My Hawk by Dmetri KAKMI

E-mail: buketsahin@hotmail.com
© Buket Sahin, April 12, 2003, Weehawken, NJ

This issue is dedicated to the Peace Process of SRI LANKA & prominent Turkish author Yasar KEMAL

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