Kemal, Yaşar

Kemal, Yaşar or Yashar, 1923–2015, Turkish novelist, b. Kemal Sadik Gögçeli. His rural childhood was marked by poverty and trauma; at a mosque at age five he witnessed his father's murder and was blinded in one eye. Dropping out of secondary school, Kemal worked at various menial jobs, and, after settling in İstanbul, became (1951–63) a newspaper reporter and columnist. His debut novel, Memed My Hawk (1955, tr. 1961, film 1987), the first of a series (1969–87), is the tale of a Robin Hood–like Anatolian outlaw and a chronicle of peasant-landowner struggles. It became one of Turkey's most celebrated novels and earned him an international reputation. Mingling realism with fantasy and folklore, Kemal was a prolific and highly political storyteller who concentrated on tales of rural Anatolia. His other novels include The Wind from the Plain (1960, tr. 1963), Iron Earth, Copper Sky (1963, tr. 1974), The Undying Grass (1968, tr. 1977), Seagull (1976, tr. 1981), and Salman the Solitary (1998). He was also known for his short stories and essays. A leftist of Kurdish ancestry, Kemal was arrested several times for political activities and in 1995 was jailed following publication, in Germany, of an article condemning Turkey's oppression of its minority Kurds.

See B. Tharaud, ed., Yaşar Kemal on His Life and Art (1999).

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