Yashar Kemal 1922–
(Born Yașar Kemal Gökçeli) Turkish novelist, short story writer, essayist, dramatist, and poet.
Kemal is the most prominent of contemporary Turkish writers and the best-known outside his own country. His first novel, Ince Memed (1955; translated into English in two parts: Memed, My Hawk and They Burn the Thistles), earned him widespread recognition in his own country and brought him to the forefront of international literature. Like most of Kemal's works, Ince Memed focuses on life in a peasant village on the Chukurova Plain in South Anatolia. Encompassing traditional Turkish myths, folklore, and customs, this work has been praised as a narrative of epic ambition and minutely realistic detail. Paul Theroux has stated: "The landscape, the seasons, the wildlife, the flowers: Kemal works on a huge canvas but there is interest in every inch of it."
Kemal's fiction is directly informed by his political concerns. He is outspoken in his leftist principles and has spent a large part of his life supporting the Turkish peasantry. Viewed as an undesirable by the Turkish government, Kemal has been dismissed from numerous jobs and arrested several times. His fiction frequently addresses the brutal, destitute existence of the peasants under the reign of the agha, as well as the power struggles and blood feuds which rage among the peasants themselves. Beyond their depiction of savagery, however, Kemal's works affirm his compassion and respect for humankind. Unlike most of his works, the novel Akçasazin aνalari: Demirciler çarșisi cinayeti (1974; The Lords of Akchasaz: Murder in the Ironsmiths Market) is written from the perspective of the wealthy landowners rather than the peasants. Another of his later works, Al gözüm seyreyle Salih (1976; Seagull), portrays a boy's struggle to save a dying seagull's life. Described as a "fiercely moving account of a young boy's coming of age," Seagull is an intimate, psychological novel which complements the predominantly epic nature of Kemal's work.
(See also CLC, Vol. 14 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 89-92.)