Turkey loses legendary author Yaşar Kemal
ISTANBULOne of modern Turkey’s most celebrated literary figures, Yaşar Kemal, who had been hospitalized since Jan. 14 following respiratory problems, lung infection and heart arrhythmia, died at a hospital in Istanbul on Feb. 28.
The author, whose works have been published in dozens of languages, was the country's first candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Kemal, who wrote more than 20 novels and nearly 10 experimental works, besides short stories, is also famous for recreating Turkish as a literary language.
Having both Turkish and Kurdish origins, Kemal was born in 1923 in the southern province of Osmaniye. Losing his right eye due to a knife accident, he had a difficult childhood.
Kemal first worked as letter-writer for illiterate citizens in small villages, then became a journalist and finally a novelist, always believing in "human beings and nature," defining his art as "being at the proletariat's service."
"I am against those who oppress and exploit the people; it does not matter whether oppression comes from feudalism or the bourgeoisie. Whoever is preventing the happiness of the public, I am against it with my art and with my whole life," Kemal said in a 1971 interview.
"I do not want my art to diverge from the public like flesh and bone. I do not believe in an art which is separated from the public," he added.
‘İnce Memed’ brought international acclaim
Kemal published his first book Ağıtlar ("Ballads") in 1943, which was a compilation of folkloric themes. His first stories Bebek (The Baby), Dükkancı (The Shopkeeper), Memet ile Memet (Memet and Memet) were published in 1950.
Receiving international acclaim for “İnce Memed” (My Hawk) which was first published in 1955, Kemal used a mythological hero - the eponymously named “İnce Memed” - to criticize society and its values. In the novel, Memed runs away to the mountains due to the oppression of the Agha (landowner).
Published in 40 languages, “İnce Memed” was also based on the lives and sufferings of Anatolian people.
His novel “Yer Demir Gök Bakır” (The Ground is Iron, The Sky is Metal), which has been made into a movie, is a tale of black humor, portraying the efforts of a villager to find a way out of exasperation, and hopelessness.
Most of Kemal’s characters are Anatolian village people who are weary and angry in the face of the oppression they experience.
His 1955 novel “Teneke” was adapted into a theatrical play, which was staged for almost one year in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the country where he lived for about two years in the late 1970s. Italian composer Fabio Vacchi adapted the same novel with the original title into an opera of three acts, which premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Italy in 2007.
Including the Cino del Duca World Prize in 1982 and the Legion d'Honneur in 1984, Kemal was awarded with many international and domestic prizes.
He was not only a successful novelist but a sensitive citizen and activist. In 2013, Armenia's Culture Ministry also awarded Kemal with the Grigor Narekatsi Medal.