Today's Zaman - Zehra Onat - 30 Jul 2012


Orhan Kemal being rediscovered


Renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Kemal is coming back to life 42 years after his death through newfound domestic and international attention.
Sensitive to social issues, the author manages to depict the relationship of individuals with society in a realistic manner. Some of his literary works, including “Kötü Yol” (Bad Track) and “Evlerden Biri” (One of the Houses), have been adapted for TV recently. A few years ago a TV show based on his novel “Hanımın Çiftliği” (Lady’s Farm) was a hit.

In line with the reawakening of his fame at home, Kemal’s literary works come in second on a list of authors whose works have received the most funding from the long-running literary translation subvention project of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism known by the acronym TEDA, following Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. As TEDA provides funding for the translation of Turkish literary works to other languages on the basis of interest from abroad, the second place on the list makes Kemal the second most popular Turkish author internationally.

The TEDA project is huge: So far 724 works by 340 authors have been translated as part of the project since it was launched seven years ago. Kemal’s novels have thus far been translated into 12 languages, including Urdu, Albanian, Chinese, Serbian and Russian. Forty-four translation projects for Kemal’s books received funding.

According to Kemal’s son, Işık Öğütçü, the reason why his father’s work is receiving international attention is that Kemal is a “living author.” “The fact that he writes about the people, he is a realist and he uses a sincere language attracts readers. The events he is talking about are the common problems and miseries of humanity,” he told Today’s Zaman.

He noted that demands to publish the author’s novels in other languages continue to come. He has been negotiating with publishers in Holland, India, Croatia and Portugal lately. “Most recently three of his books have been released in China. After the TV show ‘Hanımın Çiftliği,’ three other books by Kemal were published in Bulgaria. They are interested in four other novels,” he elaborated.

TEDA head Ümit Yaşar Gözüm said authors face no preferential treatment when it comes to providing funding for the translation of their books. “Since the project supports publications on the basis of demand from foreign publishing houses, it paves the way for the books to meet with their audiences from the target language and culture directly,” he added.

Following Pamuk and Kemal, the other authors who receive most demand from abroad, and therefore the most funding, are, in order: Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Oya Baydar, Mario Levi, Reşat Nuri Güntekin and Elif Şafak.