Six years have passed since Turkey lost the legendary author Yasar Kemal, a prolific and outspoken intellectual, the first Turkish candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature.
Ayse Semiha Baban Gokceli, president of the Istanbul-based Yaşar Kemal Foundation, tells Anadolu Agency that several events will be held this year to honor the memory of the renowned writer who died on February 28, 2015 at the age of 92.
The group that pays tribute to the intellectual was established in 2016, a year after Kemal’s death. According to its director, the foundation promotes the points of view, values and positions of the writer on freedom, equality, their love for humanity and nature, as well as respect for cultural differences.
Gokceli, who is also the widow of the writer, quotes Zulfu Livaneli, writer, musician and one of the founders of the group, who assured that this organization was created “so that the literature and character of Yasar Kemal could be seen more deeply and passed on to future generations. “
“The Yaşar Kemal Foundation is also a tribute to both the memory and the work of the great master,” says the author’s widow.
Yasar Kemal was born in 1923 in Osmaniye province, in southern Turkey, he is of Kurdish origin and was known for his fight against oppression and his defense of minority rights. He earned international recognition for his 1955 novel ‘Memed my hawk‘. The book has been translated into some 40 languages around the world and also earned him a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973.
Various corners of Istanbul will remember the famous writer with various events. For example, Istanbul’s Sariyer Municipality will host an event with writer and musician Zulfu Livaneli, author Selim Ileri, pianist Idil Biret, and actress Turkan Soray, who will share their memories with Kemal. Furthermore, the Buyukcekmece City Council will hold a panel discussion on the late author and the city seen through his eyes. There will also be panel discussions and readings of Kemal’s works in other Turkish cities.
The voice of those who are not heard
According to Gokceli, Kemal, who was born at the dawn of the Turkish Republic, lived through the main landmarks of Turkey and was a keen observer and narrator of this momentous time. “Yasar Kemal did not have much private archive, probably due to some effects of the circumstances of his life”. “I did not keep things like letters, notes and diaries. However, the study of various national and international publications and press provides rich material.”
“We have received support and contributions from many private archives in this regard,” added the director of the Foundation, who cited the memories of many other people who lived through these periods. He adds: “We have been able to record some of them using the oral narration method.”
Yasar Kemal was dubbed the “voice of those who cannot make their voice heard,” Gokceli explained, adding that the records would also serve as an archive of those who crossed paths with Kemal, but could not make their voice heard.
Gokceli also highlights the promotion that the famous author made of education as a way to encourage creativity, as well as the importance of including literature in the lives of young people. In fact, he quoted the author: “knowing people is based on recognizing creativity, which is one of the greatest characteristics of human beings. Understanding nature and human relationships, living nature makes more sense today than ever.”
The group also supports and organizes many activities to help foster young people’s love of reading and the development of creativity, as well as free, independent and autonomous thinking, he added.
Feridun Andac, a Turkish essayist, tells Anadolu Agency that he considers Kemal a narrator of the language of the world. Andac, author of Yaşar Kemal’in Sozlerinde Yasamak (Living in the words of Yasar Kemal, 2003), describes the famous writer as a “storyteller of the earth” who tells the story of humanity’s existence from the point of view of geography, culture, places, its people, traditions, customs and stories that happen in everyday life. “In other words, when Yasar Kemal is translated into another language and read, it actually conveys feelings that are not alien,” he says.
Kemal left a legacy of 26 novels, 11 essays, nine interviews, various short stories, and poetry.
Andac says that when you read Kemal’s “Little Nobody” trilogy (1980-1991), you read “both the story of his family and the 200-year tragic history of Turkey and its drift, its migrations, wars and the drama of humanity in war, fear, how people feel affected by fear, and how they face the mountains. “
Noted Turkish writer and translator Azra Erhat once called Kemal a ‘son of Homer’, the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
According to Andac. “One end of Yasar Kemal’s narrative goes back to the Homer epics, another to the Epic [de la antigua Mesopotamia] from Gilgamesh, and another to Don Quixote, from Cervantes’s narrative “.
According to the Turkish essayist, those who want to understand Kemal’s work should start with his “Little Nobody” trilogy, a triptych of works difficult to find in languages other than Turkish. “It’s his own story, and in a way, it’s the story of his life.”
“Everybody starts with ‘Memed, my hawk’ [una novela en cuatro partes publicada en 1955, 1969, 1984 y 1987], but his tetralogy ‘The story of an island’ is also important, an epic of a narrator who defends peace against war, “he adds, referring to a series of novels completed in 2012, a few years before Kemal died.
* José Ricardo Báez G. contributed to the writing of this news.