The Novels

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

This sprawling saga of village life in the cotton-growing region of Turkey is held together largely by its sequential handling of events that affect the lives of several major characters. The series as a whole may be said to revolve about the fates of Old Halil Tasyurek and Memet Tasbas, aged but oddly venerated vagabonds, and Memidik Delibas, a younger, much more serious sort. Arrayed against them are various local officials. Their most persistent opponent, Sefer Efendi, the Muhtar or headman, tries to arrange matters very much in his own way. Although time and dates are not discussed specifically, changing seasons, notably the transitions from winter to spring and summer, are awaited as marking new periods in the villagers’ lives. In this manner, about one year passes during the sequence of three novels, as such matters are formally reckoned. Some events are recorded alongside memories or flashbacks, and a vaguely illusory atmosphere attaches to some occurrences. All the while, situations affecting various people are carried forward from one novel to the next. In particular, acts of vengeance or defiance against arbitrary power and authority lead to prolonged complications, which unfold during the later portions of these works.

The Wind from the Plain begins with the cotton harvest at a village on the plains of southern Turkey; the autumn winds that blow across the region seem to herald another cycle in the local people’s migratory activity. Recollections of past escapades are summoned forth; most of these involve Halil, who perennially has been regarded as the instigator of mischief and trouble in various forms. In addition, there are some squalid little arguments about whether he or Meryemce, an older local woman, should ride on an aged horse; in time, the woman’s son puts in his claims as well. Before the matter is resolved, the horse falls over dead, and all of them arrive late at their destination. Rumors circulate that the Muhtar intends to benefit from the discrepancy between the villagers’ low wages and the income expected from the harvest. Other odd events take place when Halil disappears for a certain period, and it is thought that he has died or been murdered. An unpleasant interlude of another sort takes place when a local woman comes before the Muhtar; she alleges that someone from another village took her away, seduced and degraded her, and then left her at the mercy of the elements. Halil, who seems to reappear as mysteriously as he has vanished, approaches the others with a scheme by which they may appropriate that part of the cotton crop which the Muhtar seemingly wants to reserve for his own enrichment. Toward the end of the novel, it ironically turns out that weeds predominate in much of the land that they are to work.

The threads of these intertwined stories are taken up again in Iron Earth, Copper Sky. Icy rains signal the gathering force of winter; when no one can account for Halil again, the others are inclined to take hints of his demise more seriously. Indeed, a formal memorial service is read in his name. Shortly thereafter, it turns out that he was hiding in a corncrib, biding his time until the authorities had supposedly forgotten about him. In an odd gambit to bolster the villagers’ loyalties, the Muhtar announces his plan for the remission of taxes. As the winter snow begins falling, the local people spirit away their possessions. They hide livestock and other bulky items in caves to leave the impression for revenue purposes that they have few goods to declare. The whole scheme founders on the mutual suspicions and jealousies that trouble relations between the Muhtar and the older, more eccentric Memet Tasbas. When Adil Efendi, who is to supervise tax assessments, does not appear when expected, the villagers acclaim Tasbas as a virtual saint with his own mystical powers. In an odd response, he startles them with a stunning and thorough display of public self-vilification. Another rivalry of sorts commences during the middle segments...

(The entire section is 1640 words.)