Dr.Seyhan Aydýnligil

               Orhan Kemal is one of Turkey’s greatest novelists and storytellers. His novels and stories reflect not only a high literary value equaling to that of the world’s most reputed writers, but they also provide for both Turkish and for the world readers an understanding of genuine Turkish values, the people, and the changing values of working class and small town people in the face of socio-cultural and psychological transitions and transformations.

               Orhan Kemal is truly a novelist of universal value. His stories and characters are genuinely local, yet, their needs and efforts to survive as human beings are truly international. They try to live with a human face despite that they face many forms of poverty, impoverishment and sometimes social exclusion. In this respect, Orhan Kemal always writes about the so called small people who become squeezed in the urban fringes. Orhan Kemal, through his characters, touches the hearts of all humanity as their stories very often describe the adverse social and economic realities- a state which is experienced by many in all corners of the world -in the developing and even in the most developed countries alike.

               Orhan Kemal’s characters are poor and deprived people who always try desperately to cope with their new and adverse social and economic and psychological situations. They usually find themselves in social arrangements which are conflicting with and different from what they have been accustomed to. They are always in social situations and in locations where they do not belong to. They are also there because of forced life situations, never a choice of their own. Coping with joblessness, homelessness, marginality and alienation are situations they often face. They are perplexed by their own transformations, their loss of innocence and uprootedness when in such situations. In his most reputed novel titled “On Fertile Lands”, Orhan Kemal introduces the reader three characters –three seasonal workers who come to fertile Cukurova region from a rural village in the South East in search of work, Very soon they find themselves overwhelmed by the new social, economic and the human environment. Despite difficulties, however, Orhan Kemal’s characters are always proud and they stand up to despair and misery while trying to hold on to the traditional values that they are most familiar with -with much compassion and communal solidarity. In the midst of their despair, they never stop to hope for better days. It will not be an overstatement to say that, in literary value terms, Orhan Kemal’s novel “On Fertile Lands” and the manner in which he constructs his characters equal to that of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.


In sociological terms, I believe that Orhan Kemal contributes to our understanding –at almost the same intellectual level as many of the well reputed international and Turkish social scientists, economists and development experts –on what really happens to people /individuals when development does not take its appropriate course, when development is not focused on human well-being, when inequalities become plentiful, when poverty becomes a widespread phenomenon, and, finally when joblessness and social marginality take away so much more than just economics from the individual human being. Orhan Kemal does all these with a style of writing/ story telling which is simple yet profound, realistic yet story like, sophisticated yet easily read, and, locally thematic yet highly relevant for all readers at the international level. He is truly a universal author with an unending curiosity to know and tell about the human behavior in changing social circumstances. This fact by itself calls for our responsibility to introduce Orhan Kemal, his works and his characters to the readers everywhere on the globe and bring his works close to the purview of the world literary community.




                                                                                              Dr. Seyhan Aydinligil

                                                                                   Sociologist / Development Cooperation Expert

24 June, 2006, Ankara