Literary giant Yaşar Kemal passes away

Celebrated novelist Yaşar Kemal died in Istanbul on Saturday at the age of 92.

Yaşar Kemal, who was 92, had been receiving treatment at Istanbul University, where he had been brought on January 14 suffering from a pulmonary infection and cardiac arrhythmia.

Novelist, short story and scriptwriter Yaşar Kemal was a leading author of literature in Turkey. Kemal began his literary career by publishing poems in the 1940s, and his epic novel ‘İnce Memed/Memed My Hawk’ was first serialized in the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Published in book form in 1955, İnce Memed was eventually translated into forty languages, winning the prestigious Varlık Novel Prize the same year.

Until 1963, Yaşar Kemal made interviews and wrote columns for Cumhuriyet newspaper, receiving a ‘Special Achievement Award’ from the Journalists’ Association.

In 1967 he was among the founders of the political journal ‘Ant’. He was also the first president of the Turkey Writers’ Union.

Yaşar Kemal was also the first president of PEN Turkey. In 1974 he won the Madaralı Novel Prize in 1974 with Murder in the Ironsmiths Market; the Writers’ Union Best Foreign Novel Award in France in 1977 with Iron Earth, Copper Sky; the Del Duca Award in 1982; and the Légion d’Honneur in 1984.

Yaşar Kemal’s works were translated into around 40 languages and were met with great acclaim internationally. In addition to many domestic and international awards, Yaşar Kemal was also awarded seven honorary PhDs, two abroad and five in Turkey.

Yaşar Kemal was married twice. In 1952, he married Thilda Serrero, and they had one son, Raşit.

Kemal made his second marriage to Ayşe Semiha Baban in 2002.

In an interview, Yaşar Kemal described his art as follows:

“Whoever it is that tyrannizes the people, whoever it is who oppresses the people, whoever it is who exploits the people, whether the feudality or the bourgeoisie… Whoever it is who prevents the happiness of the people, I am against them with my art and my whole life.

I want my art to be close to the people like flesh and bone. I do not believe in the kind of art that is disconnected from the people in this age we live in.”