Translation Review Volume 14, No. 1 – 2008



Kemal, Orhan. The Idle Years: My Father’s House and The Idle Years. Translation and preface by Cengiz Lugal. Foreword by Orhan Pamuk. London.

Peter Owen. Chester Springs. Dufour Editions. 2008. 223 pp. Paper $29.95. ISBN 978-0-7206-1310-0.

Orhan Kemal (1914–1970) is one of Turkey’s most famous writers. During his lifetime, he published twenty-eight novels and ten collections of short stories. While in high school, his family was forced to emigrate to Syria and Lebanon because of his father’s political activities. Several years after returning to Turkey as an adult, Kemal was sentenced to five years in prison, where he met another celebrated Turkish writer, Nâzým Hikmet. Kemal began writing in the 1950s, focusing often in his works on the struggles of various groups just trying to survive from day to day: farm workers; factory employees; migrant laborers; prison inmates; children; and repressed and exploited women. The two novels My Father’s House and The Idle Years are both semi-autobiographical and also Kemal’s most famous writings in his homeland. The narrator of these “diaries of a nobody” — as Kemal called them — relates the events of his life in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Turkey, this young man and his family leave in exile and move to Beirut, where he tries to support his relatives by working odd jobs. At the same time, he must contend with his father’s strict rules. Later, he journeys to Istanbul in search of a job but, after failing to find one, returns to his hometown in Turkey and attempts there to make a life for himself. Cengiz Lugal also translated Kemal’s The Prisoners (Anatolia, 2003) and Gemile (Anatolia, 2003).