By  Prof. Dr. Turkel Minibas

No one knows what the future holds. However, people need to know how to live their lives and be actively involved in it, especially in countries where there are rapid changes.

Orhan Kemal was the one who was always aware of this fact and tried to make a difference in people’s lives by using literature effectively as a tool. Decades later his books continue to be a source of inspiration as the themes he chose are still relevant today because of their universal nature.

For example in “Gemile” he describes how the technological changes brought about by the Cleveland cotton production in Turkey impacted people’s lives by leading to unemployment as skilled labour was sought. We can grasp the effects of these changes on the social structure in his books by examining the lives of characters in books like “The Cobbler and His Sons” and “Birds of Exile”. “The Cobbler and His Sons” describes the life of a man who earns his living by repairing agricultural implements. When tractors are introduced in villages in Turkey due to the Marshall Aid Plan, he loses his job and is forced to leave the village with his family and seek employment in the city. In “Birds of Exile”, he characterized those who  moved to industrial cities such as Istanbul to find jobs, as “migrating birds” because they did not know where to settle and how to adapt to their new lives.

Even today our global economy has had the same impact thus making Orhan Kemal’s works highly relevant. In short, he exposed people to the different colours and aspects of Turkish life.

For these reasons Orhan Kemal works are rich source of material for students studying fields apart from literature, for example the social sciences, economics, etc. As a professor of Economics I usually use him as a reference when lecturing..


Prof.Dr. Türkel Minibaþ

Cumhuriyet Daily