Kaan Durukan

              I am a dissertator in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My area of interest is the Middle East, with a specific accent on the histories of the Ottoman empire and modern Turkey, my home country. I published two books and a number of other scholarly works (articles, book chapters, translations, book reviews...) and occasionally taught courses on the Middle East, Islam and Central Asia.

              Recently, it has been brought to my attention that some publishing houses are interested in publishing the books by the Turkish literary giant Orhan Kemal.

              For some historical reasons (the lack of a colonial past, the absence of a bilingual diaspora community, et cetera), Turkish literature written in a pretty common language in the Middle East, the Balkans and to some extent Central Asia is unfortunately not even close to the place that it deserves in major Western languages in terms of translation. Orhan Kemal was definitely one of the best representatives of this literary tradition, which largely remained obscure to the Western audiences up until recent times. With the quality of his writings, the impact of his books lasting for generations and his Weltanschauung, he is only comparable to the great names of Turkish literary circles (some, also well-known in the West) such as the poet Nazim Hikmet Ran, humorist Aziz Nesin, novelist Yasar Kemal and recently Orhan Pamuk. Indeed, Nazim Hikmet was a father figure for him and Nesin and Kemal lifelong friends. Unfortunately, Hikmet and Nesin passed away many years ago, but I guess Yasar Kemal, a close friend of Orhan Kemal for decades, will support what I am saying regarding Orhan Kemal's literary skills, if contacted.

              I firmly believe that professors in the fields of Near and Middle Eastern Studies can work on these books, because the themes of Orhan Kemal do not solely pertain to Turkey. As a matter of fact, his favorite themes such as the hard conditions of the urban and rural working classes, seeds of a new social stratification brought by the modernization process, alienations, frustrations, but always strong hopes of the common man do reflect the daily realities of the Middle East in particular and the non-Western world in general. Furthermore, Orhan Kemal is a product of the Ottoman geography including the Middle East, present-day Turkey, the Balkans and even North Africa partially (for instance, the author lived in Syria and Lebanon during his youth), therefore some of his works can be attractive to the students of these regions, as well as their inhabitants.


Kaan Durukan                                
University of Wisconsin- Madison, Department of History
Istanbul Technical University, Department Humanities and Social Sciences