Lest one assume that Orhan Pamuk is the only Turkish author we dig here at Orbis Quintus, here is a post on another giant of Turkish lit.
Yashar Kemal is a story teller through and through. No pomo games, no overindulgent prose, no urbanite navel-gazing. If your tastes run to high adventure in an exotic setting, Kemal is a great way to Read the World.
Salman the Solitary- Perhaps his most accessible work (though all of them are relatively easy reads).
Fleeing invading Russian troops with his family, Ismail Agha, a Kurdish peasant in Turkey, comes upon Salman, a small child left for dead at the roadside. At the urgings of his mother, who treats Salman’s wounds, Ismail agrees to take Salman with the family. When the family settles in a small village, Ismail raises Salman as his own son. Salman idolizes Ismail and imitates him in every way. Ismail dotes on the foundling, until his wife, Zero, becomes pregnant and bears him Mustafa. Suddenly, Salman is no longer the beloved only son, and a vicious rivalry blossoms between the boys. Salman’s obsessive devotion to Ismail grows; at the same time, his anger at being replaced in his father’s affections drives him to violence, first against Mustafa and, finally, against the very father whose love and approval he desperately needs. Chilling, bloody, relentlessly real, this highly emotional examination of the father-son bond and of jealousy between brothers is the work of a major Turkish novelist.
Memed, My Hawk- My first taste of Kemal was via this, his magnum opus. I bought it in the first edition from a collector who insisted that it was “the Turkish Ulysses“. After finishing (and enjoying) this book, I decided that that gentleman had not read Ulysses.
Memed grows up in a remote and desperately poor mountain village that suffers under the thumb of the local landlord. Lively and adventurous, young Memed seeks to escape from a life of grueling toil. He runs away, but is quickly tracked down; brought back, he finds himself subjected to an even more backbreaking and spirit-crushing burden of work. When Memed escapes again, it is to set up as a roving brigand, celebrated in song, perhaps a liberator of his people. Or perhaps, twisted like the thistles that cover the windy slopes of the mountains, his character has taken on an irremediably harsh and brutal form. Tenderness and violence, generosity and ruthlessness explode unpredictably in this tale of high adventure. In Memed, My Hawk, the most intimate allegiances draw them a dense and clinging web of history and politics, and the story, full of passion and excitement, is overshadowed by a sorrow that is tragic and real.
Iron Earth, Copper Sky- I haven’t read this one, but it appears to be chock full of the unwritten myths of Anatolia.
The Sea-Crossed Fisherman- This is a good story, plain and simple. It appears to be out of print… I ran across a pristine copy on a bookshelf in Mississippi and snatched it up without thinking. I’m glad I did.