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(12/10/2014) Salman The Solitary by Yashar Kemal. London. 1997. 311 pages. hardcover. 1860463894. Jacket illustration by Chris Corr. Translated from the Turkish by Thilda Kemal. keywords: Literature Translated Turkey.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   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.

Yashar Kemal, (born in 1922) is a Turkish writer of Kurdish ethnic heritage. He is one of Turkey's leading writers. He has long been a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, on the strength of Memed, My Hawk. As an outspoken intellectual, he does not hesitate to speak on sensitive issues. His activism resulted in a twenty-month suspended jail sentence, on charges of advocating separatism. Kemal, was born in Hemite (now Gökçedam), a hamlet in the province of Osmaniye in southern Turkey. His parents were from Van, who 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. 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. 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 bandits. 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. 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. 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. When Yashar 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 destruction of the site. However, the church remained in a neglected state until 2005, when restoration by the Turkish government began. In 1952, Yashar Kemal married Thilda Serrero, 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. She translated 17 of her husband’s works into the English language. Thilda died on January 17, 2001 (aged 78) from pulmonary complications at a hospital in Istanbul, and was laid to rest at Zincirlikuyu Cemetery. Thilda is survived by her husband, her son Rasit and a grandchild. Yashar Kemal remarried on August 1, 2002 with Ayse 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. He published his first book Agitlar (‘Ballads’) in 1943, which was a compilation of folkloric themes. This book brings to light many long forgotten rhymes and ballads and Kemal had started to collect these ballads at the age of 16. His first stories Bebek (‘The Baby’), Dükkanc? (‘The Shopkeeper’), Memet ile Memet (‘Memet and Memet’) were published in 1950. He had written his first story Pis Hikaye (‘The Dirty Story’) in 1944, while he was serving in the military, in Kayseri. Then he published his book of short stories Sari Sicak (‘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. Yashar Kemal has used the legends and stories of Anatolia extensively as the basis of his works. He received international acclaim with the publication of Memed, My Hawk (Turkish: Ince Memed) in 1955. In Ince Memed, Yashar 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 living writers in Turkey, Kemal is noted for his command of the language and lyrical description of bucolic Turkish life. He has been awarded 19 literary prizes so far and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973. 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. 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. Kemal lays claim to having recreated Turkish as a literary language, by bringing in the vernacular, following Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's sterilization of Turkish by removing Persian and Arabic elements.

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