Yashar Kemal Kemal, Yashar (Vol. 14)
by Yaşar Kemal Gökçeli

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kemal, Yashar 1922–

Kemal is a Turkish novelist and journalist. He is Turkey's most famous novelist, both at home and abroad, as well as an outspoken political activist. The material for his novels is drawn from his native rural area, and is presented in a forceful yet lyrical prose style. He has often been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

TalâT Sait Halman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


In the 1950s Turkish fiction moved out of the centers of urban culture into rural Anatolia, giving rise to an impressive output which is often referred to as the "Village Novel." The practitioners of this brave new genre are, unlike earlier pioneers in the field, writers who were born and reared in poverty-stricken villages. Their work has the poignancy of personal agony experienced during their formative years.

The leading figure of the "Village Novel" is Yashar Kemal. (p. 181)

The Wind from the Plain … is actually the Turkish village novel par excellence: It typifies the strongest features as well as some of the basic defects of this genre. The narration is fluent and forceful, dialogue crisp and colorful, and the plot engrossing. Its principal failing is also typical: The characters, while serving admirably as stock-types, are devoid of individual traits and lack psychological motivation except for the pressures of poverty.

The Turkish title Ortadirek means "mainstay" and symbolizes Yasar Kemal's faith in the peasant as the central force of Turkey's future. The Wind from the Plain lionizes the dauntless spirit of the peasant to survive. (p. 182)

Talât Sait Halman, "World Literature in Review: 'The Wind from the Plain'," in Books Abroad (copyright 1970 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter, 1970, pp. 181-82.

Kemal is above all a chronicler of his people. In Memed, My Hawk, which brought him worldwide recognition, he created the folk-hero of post-Ataturk Turkey—the noble outlaw, the latter-day Robin Hood of his villagers still dependent on the patronage of the aghas. In Iron Earth, Copper Sky there are only hints that, a million miles away in Ankara, bureaucrats sit at office desks, jets land, the telephone exists. Here in the hills above the cotton-growing plains of Chukurova life has not changed for centuries; the animals are bred as much to provide body-warmth in a frozen mud-hut as for food; mad old women pad barefoot over the snow to brew potions for a fever; a third wife, barely pubescent, is bought by the village headman for the price of a cow—to be returned once it has calved….

Kemal has a gift, clear even in translation and overriding the boundaries of sophisticated literary heritage, for compelling concern for the simple people he creates. Simple? Even the village madman, Spellbound Ahmet, is wise enough to revile the village for hypocrisy when two young lovers, unable to tolerate family pressures, elope to death in the snow; even the child Hasan, whose box of matches is worth guarding with his life, senses that the flowering of a plant beneath a stone when spring comes is as much a miracle as any "saint's" cure. There is no condescension in Kemal's analysis of the problems of his countrymen. Even if we find it hard to share his involvement, the reader who embarks with idle curiosity is likely to find himself stirred and sobered.

"Tamberlaine Country," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1974; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3765, May 3, 1974, p. 465.

Peter Prince

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A sure sense of setting is certainly one of the strengths of the Turkish writer Yashar Kemal. At all times in his funny and tragic story of a peasant who is raised up against his will to be a saint [Iron Earth, Copper Sky ], he makes the reader vitally aware of the background—the mountains, the steppe, the huddled village, the forest. Indeed, these are not really 'background' at all: they are in there in the thick of it, conditioning events, limiting human action, rewarding some, killing others. Together...

(The entire section is 2,511 words.)