Whatever political and literary sophistication Yashar Kemal achieved after he became a writer, his fiction grows essentially out of his village background. Until the 1970’s, he specialized in village novels that show the brutal conditions of peasants in the Adana region where he grew up—the Taurus Mountains and the Chukurova. In the 1970’s, Kemal moved on from the village novel to legendary tales and to novels set in the Istanbul area. The legends, however, were ones Kemal had heard as a child, and the Istanbul novels reflect political attitudes that Kemal began forming based on what he saw of village life, particularly the archetypal relationship of tenant and landlord.
Kemal’s special achievement is his depiction of peasant life. In Kemal’s work, the Turkish peasants are victimized by an appalling range of scourges, including the weather, hunger, hard labor, ignorance, superstition, disease, green flies, landlords, and one another. Among the few things that peasants have to fall back on is the close-knit structure of family and village life, which can be quite helpful when things go badly. The structure has a downside to it, however, that at times can make brother turn against brother.
Another outlet is the peasants’ imagination. Within their imaginations, they can daydream and fantasize, satisfying their wishes and righting wrongs. One happy result of such imagination is vigorous folk art—songs, designs on knitted socks,...
(The entire section is 2905 words.)
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