Yasar Kemal, Legendary Turkey’s Novelist, Dead at 92
Yasar Kemal, one of Turkey’s greatest writers who celebrated the lives of the downtrodden and whose works were translated into 40 languages, died on Saturday at the age of 91.
The author, whose works have been published in dozens of languages, was the country’s first candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Tragedy touched his life at an early age. When he was five, he witnessed his father’s death at the hands of an orphan the family had adopted. This served as the basis of his 1980 novel Salman the Solitary.
A middle-school dropout, Kemal was a farm labourer and factory worker before he acquired a typewriter and eventually became a journalist. His literary influences included Tolstoy, Chekhov and Stendhal.
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.”
The late filmmaker Elia Kazan, who was also born in Turkey, said of his friend: “Kemal is a storyteller in the oldest tradition, that of Homer, spokesman for a people who had no other voice.”
who bore a squint after losing his right eye as a small child in a knife accident, was arrested for his political activities.
In 1995, he was prosecuted on charges of separatist propaganda for his support of Kurdish dissidents, and received a suspended sentence.