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Yaşar Kemal

Kemal Sadık Gökçeli
Born (1923-10-06)6 October 1923
Gökçedam, Osmaniye, Ottoman Empire
Died 28 February 2015(2015-02-28) (aged 91)
İstanbul, Turkey
Occupation Novelist
Period 1943–2002
Notable works
Notable awards
  • Thilda Serrero (m. 1952–2001)
  • Ayşe Semiha Baban (m. 2002–2015)

Yaşar Kemal (born Kemal Sadık Gökçeli;[1] 6 October 1923 – 28 February 2015) was one of Turkey's leading writers.[2][3] He received 38 awards during his lifetime and had been a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature on the strength of Memed, My Hawk.[4][5]

An outspoken intellectual, he often did not hesitate to speak on sensitive issues.[6] His activism resulted in a twenty-month suspended jail sentence, on charges of advocating Kurdish separatism.[7]


  • Life 1
    • Marriages 1.1
  • Later years and death 2
  • Works 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • Awards and distinctions 5
    • Literature prizes 5.1
    • Decorations 5.2
    • Honorary Doctorates 5.3
  • References 6


Of Kurdish origin, Kemal was born to Sadık and his wife Halime on 6 October 1923 in Hemite (now Gökçedam),[8][9] a hamlet in the province of Osmaniye in southern Turkey. His parents were from Van and came into Çukurova during the First World War. Kemal had a difficult childhood because he lost his right eye due to a knife accident, when his father was slaughtering a sheep on Eid al-Adha, and had to witness as his father was stabbed to death by his adoptive son Yusuf while praying in a mosque when he was five years old.[1] This traumatic experience left Kemal with a speech impediment, which lasted until he was twelve years old. At nine he started school in a neighboring village and continued his formal education in Kadirli, Osmaniye Province.[1]

Kemal was a locally noted bard before he started school, but was unappreciated by his widowed mother until he composed an elegy on the death of one of her eight brothers, all of whom were bandits.[10] However, he forgot it and became interested in writing as a means to record his work when he questioned an itinerant peddler, who was doing his accounts. Ultimately, his village paid his way to university in Istanbul.[10]

He worked for a while for rich farmers, guarding their river water against other farmers' unauthorized irrigation. However, instead he taught the poor farmers how to steal the water undetected, by taking it at night.[10]

Later he worked as a letter-writer, then as a journalist, and finally as a novelist. He said that the Turkish police took his first two novels.[10]

When Kemal was visiting Akdamar Island in 1951, he saw the island's Holy Cross Church being destroyed. Using his contacts to the public, he helped stop the destruction. (The church was restored from 2005, by the Turkish government.)[11]

In 1962 Kemal joined the Turkish Workers Party and "served as one of its leaders until quitting after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968".[12]

In 2005 Kemal wrote a new introduction to the book "Memed, My Hawk" wherein he prognosticated that "...confronted with the massacre of nature, that great scourge of our age, we will create myths of fear as our ancestors did".[13]


In 1952, Yaşar Kemal married Thilda Serrero,[14] a member of a prominent Sephardi Jewish family in Istanbul. Her grandfather, Jak Mandil Pasha, was the chief physician of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II.[15] She translated 17 of her husband’s works into the English language.[16] Thilda predeceased Yaşar on January 17, 2001 (aged 78) from pulmonary complications at a hospital in Istanbul, and was laid to rest at Zincirlikuyu Cemetery.[16] Thilda was also survived by her son Raşit Göğçel and a grandchild.[16][17]

Yaşar Kemal remarried on August 1, 2002 to Ayşe Semiha Baban, a lecturer for public relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. She was educated at the American University of Beirut, Bosphorus University and Harvard University.[18]

Later years and death

On January 14, 2015 Kemal was hospitalized at

  1. ^ a b c d e Yaşar Kemal – YKY
  2. ^ Ertan, Nazlan (1997-03-06). "French pay tribute to Yasar Kemal".  
  3. ^ Perrier, Jean-Louis (1997-03-04). "Yachar Kemal, conteur et imprécateur".  
  4. ^ "Ölene kadar Nobel adayı olacağım".  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Norman, Roger (1997-06-05). "Yasar Kemal and the last of the nomads".  
  7. ^ "Yasar Kemal asks Germans not to mistreat Turks".  
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "Büyük usta son yolculuğuna uğurlandı".  
  10. ^ a b c d e Bosquet, Alain (1999). Yaşar Kemal on his life and art. Eugene Lyons Hebert, Barry Tharaud (trans.).  
  11. ^ Asbarez, 1 October 2010: The Mass at Akhtamar, and What’s Next
  12. ^ Yasar Kemal, Master Turkish Novelist and Strident Political Critic, Is Dead
  13. ^ Memed, My Hawk, p.xii, The New York Review of Books, Yaşar Kemal
  14. ^ Taylor & Francis Group (2004). "KEMAL, Yashar". In Elizabeth Sleeman. International Who's Who of Authors and Writers. Routledge. p. 290.  
  15. ^ Uzun, Mehmed (2001-01-22). "Thilda Kemal: The Graceful Voice of an Eternal Ballad".  
  16. ^ a b c "Thilda Kemal, wife and translator of novelist Yasar Kemal, dies".  
  17. ^ a b "Efsane yazar Yaşar Kemal'i kaybettik".  
  18. ^ Kayar, Ayda (2002-08-11). "Yaşar Kemal evlendi".  
  19. ^ "Yaşar Kemal'in cenazesine binler katıldı".  
  20. ^ "Yaşar Kemal son yolculuğuna uğurlandı".  
  21. ^ "Yaşar Kemal'in oğlu konuştu: Bu bir mucize". A Haber (in Turkish). 2015-03-02. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  22. ^ Birch, Nicholas (2008-11-28). "Yasar Kemal's disappearing world of stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  23. ^ Göktaş, Lütfullah (2007-06-30). "Yaşar Kemal’in Teneke’si İtalyanca opera".  
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Büyük Larousse, vol. 24, p. 12448, Milliyet, "Yaşar Kemal"
  25. ^ Özkırımlı, Atilla; Baraz, Turhan (1993). Çağdaş Türk edebiyatı, Anadolu University, 105.
  26. ^ Çiftlikçi, Ramazan (1997). Yaşar Kemal: yazar, eser, üslup, Turkish Historical Society, p. 415: "KANIN SESİ: Dizinin son cildi KS, İM III ve IV'ün araya girmesi üzerine 1989'da tamamlanmış, aynı yıl Güneş gazetesinde tefrika edildikten sonra 1991 de kitap biçiminde yayımlanmıştır."
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h "Yaşar Kemal hayatını kaybetti" (in Turkish). Cumhuriyet. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  28. ^ a b İnce, Özdemir. "Mutluluğun resmi de yapılır romanı da yazılır" (in Turkish). Radikal. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  29. ^ Secular State and Religious Society: Two Forces in Play in Turkey, Palgrave Macmillan, 204.
  30. ^ a b c d e Altınkaynak, Hikmet (2007). Türk edebiyatında yazarlar ve şairler sözlüğü, Doğan Kitap, p. 736
  31. ^ Köy Seyirlik Oyunları, Seyirlik Uygulamalarıyla 51 Yıllık Bir Amatör Topluluk: Ankara Deneme Sahnesi ve Uygulamalarından İki Örnek: Bozkır Dirliği Ve Gerçek Kavga Nurhan Tekerek
  32. ^ a b c d e f Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 1997: Yasar Kemal, Buchhändler-Vereinigung, p. 63.
  33. ^ "En dag om året 1997 i Älvkarleby" (in Swedish). Anasys. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  34. ^ "1997 Yaşar Kemal" (PDF) (in German). Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  35. ^ "Cumhurbaşkanlığı Kültür ve Sanat Büyük Ödülleri dağıtıldı".  
  36. ^ "Yaşar Kemal'e Norveç'ten 'Bjornson' ödülü".  
  37. ^ a b Çiftlikçi 1997, p. 29
  38. ^ """Yaşar Kemal'e büyük "nişan.  
  39. ^ "Turkish writer Yaşar Kemal gets Armenia’s Krikor Naregatsi medal". Hurriyet. 2013-09-04. 
  40. ^ "Uluslararası Yaşar Kemal Sempozyumu" (in Turkish). NTV. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  41. ^ "Yaşar Kemal: Umutsuzluk umudu yaratır". (in Turkish).  
  42. ^ "‘’Umutsuzluktan umut üreten’’ edebiyat çınarı Yaşar Kemal’i sonsuz yolculuğuna uğurluyoruz..." (in Turkish). Boğaziçi University. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  43. ^ "Yaşar Kemal'e fahri doktora" (in Turkish). Anadolu Agency. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  • Obituary – New York Times


Honorary Doctorates

  • Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur de France; Paris, 1984.
  • Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, 1989.[37]
  • Grand Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de France; Paris, 2011.[38]
  • Krikor Naregatsi Medal of Armenia, 2013.[39]


  • "Seven Days in the World's Largest Farm" reportage series, Journalist's Association Prize, 1955[30]
  • Varlik Prize for Ince Memed ("Memed, My Hawk"), 1956[30]
  • Ilhan Iskender Award for the play adapted from his book with the same name, Teneke ("The Drumming-Out"), 1966[30]
  • The International Nancy Theatre Festival – First Prize for Uzun Dere ("Long Brook"), 1966 -Theater adaptation from roman Iron Earth, Copper Sky.[31]
  • Madarli Novel Award for Demirciler Çarşısı ("Murder in the Ironsmith's Market"), 1974[30]
  • Choix du Syndicat des Critiques Littéraires pour le meilleur roman etranger (Eté/Automne 1977) pour Terre de Fer, Ciel de Cuivre ("Yer Demir, Gök Bakır")[24]
  • Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger 1978 pour L'Herbe qui ne meurt pas (Ölmez Otu); Paris, Janvier 1979.[32]
  • Prix mondial Cino Del Duca decerné pour contributions a l'humanisme moderne; Paris, Octobre 1982.[24]
  • The Sedat Simavi Foundation Award for Literature; Istanbul, Turkey, 1985.[32]
  • Premi Internacional Catalunya. Catalonia (Spain), 1996[32]
  • Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett Award for Courage in Response to Repression, Human Rights Watch, USA, 1996.[32]
  • Stig Dagerman Prize (Swedish: Stig Dagermanpriset), Sweden, 1997.[33]
  • Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (German: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1997.[34]
  • Premio Internazionale Nonino for collected works, Italy, 1997[32]
  • Bordeaux, Prix Ecureuit de Littérature Etrangère, 1998[30]
  • Z. Homer Poetry Award, 2003
  • Savanos Prize (Thessalonika-Greece), 2003
  • Turkish Publisher's Association Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003
  • Presidential Cultural and Artistic Grand Prize, 2008[35]
  • The Bjørnson Prize (Norwegian: Bjørnsonprisen), Norway, 2013.[36]

Literature prizes

Awards and distinctions

  • Filler Sultanı ile Kırmızı Sakallı Topal Karınca (The Sultan of the Elephants and the Red-Bearded Lame Ant) (1977)[24]

Children's Books

  • Ağıtlar (Ballads) (1943)[24]
  • Taş Çatlasa (At Most) (1961)
  • Baldaki Tuz (The Salt in the Honey) (1959–74 newspaper articles)[24]
  • Gökyüzü Mavi Kaldı (The Sky remained Blue) (collection of folk literature in collaboration with S. Eyüboğlu)[27]
  • Ağacın Çürüğü (The Rotting Tree) (Articles and Speeches) (1980)[24]
  • Yayımlanmamış 10 Ağıt (10 Unpublished Ballads) (1985)[27]
  • Sarı Defterdekiler (Contents of the Yellow Notebook) (Collected Folkloric works) (1997)[27]
  • Ustadır Arı (The Expert Bee) (1995)[27]
  • Zulmün Artsın (Increase Your Oppression) (1995)[27]

Experimental Works

  • Yanan Ormanlarda 50 Gün (Fifty Days in the Burning Forests) (1955)[24]
  • Çukurova Yana Yana (While Çukurova Burns) (1955)[24]
  • Peribacaları (The Fairy Chimneys) (1957)[24]
  • Bu Diyar Baştan Başa (Collected reportages) (1971)[29]
  • Bir Bulut Kaynıyor (Collected reportages) (1974)[27]


  • Üç Anadolu Efsanesi (Three Anatolian Legends) (1967)[24]
  • Ağrıdağı Efsanesi (The Legend of Mount Ararat) (1970) – the base of the opera Ağrı Dağı Efsanesi 1971[24]
  • Binboğalar Efsanesi (The Legend of the Thousand Bulls) (1971)[24]
  • Çakırcalı Efe* (The Life Stories of the Famous Bandit Çakircali) (1972)[27]

Epic Novels

  • İnce Memed (Memed, My Hawk) (1955)[24]
  • Teneke (The Drumming-Out) (1955)[24]
  • Orta Direk (The Wind from the Plain) (1960)[24]
  • Yer Demir Gök Bakır (Iron Earth, Copper Sky) (1963)[24]
  • Ölmez Otu (The Undying Grass) (1968)
  • Ince Memed II (They Burn the Thistles) (1969)[24]
  • Akçasazın Ağaları/Demirciler Çarşısı Cinayeti (The Agas of Akchasaz Trilogy/Murder in the Ironsmiths Market) (1974)[24]
  • Akçasazın Ağaları/Yusufcuk Yusuf (The Agas of Akchasaz Trilogy/Yusuf, Little Yusuf) (1975)[24]
  • Yılanı Öldürseler (To Crush the Serpent) (1976)[25]
  • Al Gözüm Seyreyle Salih (The Saga of a Seagull) (1976)[24]
  • Allahın Askerleri (God’s Soldiers) (1978)[24]
  • Kuşlar da Gitti (The Birds Have Also Gone: Long Stories) (1978)[24]
  • Deniz Küstü (The Sea-Crossed Fisherman) (1978)[24]
  • Hüyükteki Nar Ağacı (The Pomegranate on the Knoll) (1982)[24]
  • Yağmurcuk Kuşu/Kimsecik I (Kimsecik I – Little Nobody I) (1980)[24]
  • Kale Kapısı/Kimsecik II (Kimsecik II – Little Nobody II)(1985)[24]
  • Kanın Sesi/Kimsecik III (Kimsecik III – Little Nobody III) (1991)[26]
  • Fırat Suyu Kan Akıyor Baksana (Look, the Euphrates is Flowing with Blood) (1997)[27]
  • Karıncanın Su İçtiği (Ant Drinking Water) (2002)[28]
  • Tanyeri Horozları (The Cocks of Dawn) (2002)[28]


  • Sarı Sıcak, ("Yellow Heat") (1952).[24]



Kemal was a major contributor to Turkish literature in the early years after the language's recreation as a literary language following Atatürk's Reforms of the 1930s.[10]

His 1955 novel Teneke was adapted into a theatrical play, which was staged for almost one year in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the country where he lived for about two years in the late 1970s.[23] Italian composer Fabio Vacchi adapted the same novel with the original title into an opera of three acts, which premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Italy in 2007.

He received international acclaim with the publication of Memed, My Hawk (Turkish: İnce Memed) in 1955. In İnce Memed, Kemal criticizes the fabric of the society through a legendary hero, a protagonist, who flees to the mountains as a result of the oppression of the Aghas. One of the most famous writers in Turkey, Kemal was noted for his command of the language and lyrical description of bucolic Turkish life. He was awarded 19 literary prizes during his lifetime and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973.

Kemal published his first book Ağıtlar ("Ballads") in 1943, which was a compilation of folkloric themes. This book brought to light many long forgotten rhymes and ballads. He had begun to collect these ballads at the age of 16.[1] His first stories Bebek ("The Baby"), Dükkancı ("The Shopkeeper") and Memet ile Memet ("Memet and Memet") were published in 1950. He penned his first tale Pis Hikaye ("The Dirty Story") in 1944, while he was serving in the military, in Kayseri. Then he published his book of short stories Sarı Sıcak ("Yellow Heat") in 1952. The initial point of his works was the toil of the people of the Çukurova plains and he based the themes of his writings on the lives and sufferings of these people. Kemal used the legends and stories of Anatolia extensively as the basis for his works.[1]


[21].Ahmet Güneştekin Kemal is survived by his wife Ayşe Semiha Baban and his adoptive son, visual artist [20][19][9].Zincirlikuyu Cemetery, political party leaders, high-ranking officials and an enormous assembly of mourners, he was laid to rest on March 2, 2015 beside his first wife Thilda's grave in Abdullah Gul, attended by former Turkish president Teşvikiye Mosque Following a religious funeral service held at [17]

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