Yasar Kemal


The master storyteller and Turkey's renowned novelist of global stature Yasar Kemal repeatedly clashed with the state government. In his over two dozens books Kemal wrote in the backdrop of sweeping tales of rapacious landlords, heartless bureaucrats and peasant heroes who fought injustices. He became permanent parts of Turkey's cultural landscape. His best-known hero was Slim Memed, who appeared in his most famous book, 'Memed, My Hawk,' and in a sequel, 'They Burn the Thistles.' Slim Memed takes up the cause of his oppressed neighbours, flees to the hills and leads soldiers on wild-goose chases as local people feed, shelter and encourage him. His first novel My Hawk in 1955, translated in English in 1961 became Turkey's all time best seller. Being a Kurdish origin, he was an outspoken advocate of Kurdish rights and a sharp critic of his country's leaders. Kemal was often in trouble with the law and was hauled into court several times for his outspoken views. He began composing and reciting his own poems at the age of 8. After working as a cotton picker, tractor driver and threshing machine operator, he took a job at the library in Adana. There were few patrons, and he spent his time devouring world literature. In 1951, he went to Istanbul and began more than a decade of work at the prestigious newspaper Cumhuriyet. He adopted a pen name, Yasar Kemal. In 1962, he joined the leftish Turkish Workers Party, and he served as one of its leaders until quitting after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He was born Kemal Sadik Gokceli was born into a Turkish-Kurdish family in the village of Hemite (now Gokcedam) in southern Turkey. He passed away in Istanbul.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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