Müge Göcek 


Orhan Kemal is one of the most prominent authors in contemporary Turkish literature.  As a representative of the realism genre in Turkey through his many novels, poems, plays and scenarios, Kemal captures the interior lives and struggles of peasants both in their villages and as they make their way to the urban centers of Turkey.  As such, he finely illustrates the explosion that occurs in the meaning worlds of many people as Turkey transitions from an agricultural society to an industrial one.  Unlike many other male authors of his time, Kemal is especially adept in bringing in the struggles of women in this process as well as men; quite a number of the lead characters of his novels are women.  The exploitation that occurs in the countryside, in the urban workplace and within the family, the people's attempts to resist, unite and unionize are often portrayed in a complex manner.  The observations are very keen because Kemal himself worked as a laborer for many years before starting to write in his thirties. There are no absolute rights or wrongs in Kemal's works, realities are complex, both the powerful and the weak have good and evil qualities embedded in them.  Ultimately, however, he champions the human spirit. 

At the time Kemal wrote his works, he was frequently imprisoned because of the slow pace with which democracy unfortunately came to Turkey. His works have since been appreciated and have reached canonical status; the establishment of a museum and a prestigious annual literary award in his name are recent indications of that status. 

In terms of the use of Orhan Kemal in courses in Near Eastern Studies and Literature, I can tell from personal experience that I get many queries from my colleagues about what to assign in their courses from Turkish literature.  I myself am quite shocked about how little Turkish literature is available in translation. 

There are literally no decent anthologies and very few translations.  So this would be a very welcome addition.  Not only could such a work be used in a course on Turkish literature (currently taught at places like Columbia, Princeton, Berkeley, Arizona, my own institution of Michigan and the like), and Middle Eastern literature (a much wider range of universities), but could also be employed in other contexts that aim to capture the transitions from rural to urban life, to industrialization.  Given my experience with serving on boards of presses, I would also recommend that you consider marketing the book at the annual meeting of MESA (Middle East Association of America) that takes place annually in November. 



Fatma Müge Göçek

Associate Professor

University of Michigan

Sociology Department