Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

A prolific author, Yashar Kemal (keh-MOL) has published collections of journalism, essays, and short stories in addition to his many novels. His reportage appeared in Yanan ormanlarda elli gün (1955; fifty days in burning forests), Çukurova yana yana (1955; the Chukurova up in flames), and Peri bacalar (1957; fairy chimneys); these works were consolidated in Bu diyar batan baa (1971). Further collections of his journalism are Bir bulut kaynyor (1974) and Allahin askerleri (1978). Kemal’s essays have appeared in Ta çatlasa (1961) and Baldaki tuz (1974). Many of his short stories are collected in Sar sçak (1952), Üç anadolu efsanesi (1968; three Anatolian legends), and Bütün hikâyeler (1967; Anatolian Tales, 1968).

Kemal has also published poetry and folklore material in various Turkish periodicals. His first work was a collection of folk elegies, Atlar (1943), and he has turned some Turkish folk material into screenplays. In addition, Kemal has created stage versions of his novella Teneke (pr. 1965) and his novel Yer demir, gök bakr (pr. 1966). Actor and director Peter Ustinov adapted Kemal’s first novel, Memed, My Hawk, for a film that was released in 1984.

Yashar Kemal Achievements

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Yashar Kemal is Turkey’s most famous novelist, and his novels have been translated into some thirty languages. Kemal has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1997 German Book Trade Peace Prize, the 1996 Hellman-Hammett Award, and several honorary degrees. He is a Commander of France’s Legion of Honor. He is an admirer of William Faulkner, but in his best work Kemal’s imagistic description, narration of action, and tough-minded attitude are more reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway. Like Hemingway, Kemal began as a newspaper reporter, and his novels show the influence of his reportage, especially in their documentation of local color. Perhaps the most important influence on Kemal, however, has been the native oral tradition of songs, legends, and other folklore. In Turkey the oral tradition has remained strong, especially in rural areas, and as a child Kemal imbibed this tradition from village minstrels and storytellers.

Kemal’s work reveals the strengths and weaknesses suggested by his background. His original forte was the genre called the “village novel,” exemplified by his early novels Memed, My Hawk and The Wind from the Plain, which provide glimpses into the lives and minds of Anatolian peasants. As Kemal repeated himself and grew further away from village life and legend, he was faced with the need to develop. In the 1970’s, he branched out into new forms and transferred his political attitudes to new settings.

Yashar Kemal Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Blassing, Mutlu Konuk. “The Lords of Akchasaz.” World Literature Today 55, no. 2 (1981): 370. A review that discusses this novel’s themes and Kemal’s growing popularity in Europe.

Blassing, Mutlu Konuk. “Seagull.” World Literature Today 55, no. 4 (1981): 723. A highly engaging discussion of the novel’s sociopolitical themes and its protagonist’s affinity with Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

Darnton, John. “A Prophet Tests the Honor of His Own Country.” The New York Times, March 14, 1995, A4. Discusses Kemal’s life, his literary accomplishments, and his political disagreements and troubles with the Turkish state.

Dino, Guzine. “The Turkish Peasant Novel; Or, The Anatolian Theme.” World Literature Today 60, no. 2 (1986): 200-206. Traces the development of this type of novel and discusses Kemal’s contribution to it.

Edebiyat 5, nos. 1/2 (1980). A special issue devoted to Kemal’s work.

Halman, Talat Sait. “To Crush the Serpent.” World Literature Today 66, no. 2 (1992): 400-401. A detailed review of the novel by a critic who knows Kemal at first hand.

Kemal, Yashar. “Literature, Democracy, and Peace.” Translated by Talat Sait Halman. World Literature Today 72, no. 1 (1998), 15-17. Kemal’s acceptance speech for the 1997 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is an excellent overview of his approach as writer and political thinker.

Pope, Nicole. “A Voice That Refuses to Be Silenced.” Guardian Weekly, March 24, 1996, 18. Provides important and intimate insight into Kemal’s thinking as a writer and political activist.

Tharaud, Barry. “In the Rain Bird’s Nest.” Edebiyat 10 (November, 1999): 293-306. An extensive review of Salman the Solitary that relates the story to Kemal’s life and notes themes that persist across his work.