Europe

Turkish author Yasar Kemal dies at 92

Turkish writer Yasar Kemal (April 2010) Image copyright EPA

One of Turkey's best-known writers, Yasar Kemal, 92, has died in an Istanbul hospital following respiratory and organ failure.

He was Turkey's first Nobel Prize for literature nominee and his work has been published in numerous languages.

Medics said his health deteriorated rapidly over the past week.

Mr Kemal - an ethnic Kurd born in south-eastern Turkey - won international fame for his first novel, Memed, My Hawk, published in 1955.

It became a worldwide success and was published in 40 languages.

Nine of his novels were made into films, and he is credited for re-establishing Turkish as a literary language.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement he was feeling "sorrow... at the loss of the great writer and artist".

The prime minister singled out Kemal's ability to "maintain his dissident attitude and express the truth without holding back at times when speaking the truth was hard".


Yasar Kemal: Turkish literary icon

  • Born in 1923 in the southern province of Osmaniye
  • Published his first book, Ballads, in 1943
  • His first short stories followed in 1950
  • First novel, Memed, My Hawk, published in 1955
  • Lived in Sweden for two years in the 1970s
  • Winner of numerous prizes, including the Cino del Duca World Prize in 1982 and the Legion d'Honneur in 1984

Source: Hurriyet Daily News


The young Yasar Kemal lost his right eye to a knife accident in childhood, and witnessed the murder of his father by an adopted orphan boy when he was just five years old.

He began his writing career penning letters for illiterate citizens in small villages, before becoming a journalist and later a novelist.

His work put great emphasis on what he called "human beings and nature" and characterising his work as being "at the proletariat's service".

"I am against those who oppress and exploit the people... Whoever is preventing the happiness of the public, I am against it with my art and with my whole life," he said in a 1971 interview, cited by Hurriyet Daily News.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Kemal (left) and his publisher Erdal Oz appeared in court in the mid-1990s for his sympathy towards the cause of Kurdish separatism

Kemal - who described himself as Turkish writer of Kurdish origin - was also renowned for his ability to scrutinise human nature and identify universal traits in his characters.

"My adventures are aimed at exploring the mystery of the human," he said during an award ceremony in December 2008.

Perhaps the most difficult part of his carer came in the mid-1990s, when he felt compelled to voice his views over clashes between the army and Kurds seeking autonomy.

At one point he received a suspended 20-month jail sentence for an article criticising racism against minorities in Turkey, especially the Kurds.

Mr Kemal is survived by his son, Rasit Gokceli, and his second wife, Ayse Semiha Baban.

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