He was the folk hero of my life
The death of each good writer and good friend is like the death of some part of you.
This is what I felt with the passing of Yaşar Kemal.
When you come to know intimately a writer from all of his books you have read, you come to know his human side not just his literary side. He was an example of being a writer of people; he was my life’s only people’s hero.
I attended award ceremonies with him in foreign countries; what I saw there was how he would realize a literary miracle that is specific to him. To know a country through a writer was one of the most important awards for a writer. He was a multi-dimensional writer. A writer from any country, race, religion or ideology could find him or herself in Yaşar Kemal’s work.
Before being a veteran writer and a wizard of language, he was first of all a good person. He was honest. He would never speak against anybody, never lied. I don’t recall him talking in an offending way about any of his colleagues. On the contrary, he would praise all of them and argue they are all good writers of Turkish literature.
I even witnessed his efforts so that their works would be published. While speaking about Turkish literature in the award ceremonies abroad, he would talk about other talents rather than his own work. Turkey has unpaid debts to the creator of a hero like Memed in his novel “Memed my Hawk,” his first novel which has entered into the lists of modern classics of world literature. Because, from time to time, there have been incidents that saddened him.
His heroes were all those oppressed, those despised. It made no difference whether they were from the village or the city. The writer wrote the revolt against their unchangeable fate. The power of observation of a writer that came from Çukurova to Istanbul was admirable.
He mixed what he read with what he lived and the result was the creativity of poetic realism.
There are two ways in front of a person that knows the legends and has internalized people’s literature. The easy and simple way is to imitate them; the hard way is to come out with a new and modern literature from that stock. Yaşar Kemal succeeded in this difficult endeavor. Some write in one form and continue their success on that line. From interviews, to stories and novels, Yaşar Kemal wrote the best on all forms. His novels about migration are the must-reads among his master works. The stories of people thrown away from their homelands because of political fractures have affected us all.
The magical world of tales still takes us under its influence, and he taught us to discover the truth behind these tales.
The title of one of his key articles is “Don’t Take Tales Lightly.” One of his main characteristics that left a mark on me is the fact that he made me love nature. Yaşar Kemal and his wife Ayşe Semiha accorded me the honor to speak about him at the two universities where he was given recently an honorary doctorate. These are the unforgettable moments of my life.
He will from now live on in his books and our memories.
His sorrow will never fade away from our memory and our hearts.