Orhan Kemal

Roman Yazarı, Öykü Yazarı

15 Eylül, 1914
02 Haziran, 1970
Diğer İsimler
Mehmet Raşit Öğütçü

Novelist (b. 15 September 1914, Ceyhan / Adana - d. 2 June 1970, Sofia / Bulgaria). His real name was Mehmet Raşit Öğütçü. He also used the pen names Hayrullah Güçlü, Orhan Raşit, Raşit Kemali, Reşat Kemal, Rüştü Ceyhun, Ülker Uysal and Yıldız Okur. He is the son of Abdulkadir Kemal, the deputy of Kastamonu at the time. His father fled to Syria after the Republican People’s Party he had established in Adana (1930) was closed, and Orhan Kemal had to quit elementary school to go with his father. He stayed in Syria for one year and when he returned to Turkey (1932), he worked as a laborer, weaver and secretary at cotton gin factories. While he was doing his military service, he was tried for praising another regime in another country and he was sentenced to five years in prison (1939). He was kept in several prisons in Kayseri, Adana and Bursa. When he was in prison in Bursa, he met Nazım Hikmet and this was a turning point in his life. He had various jobs after he was released. In 1950, he settled in İstanbul to earn his living by writing. He died in Bulgaria, where he had gone for medical treatment. His body was brought back to İstanbul and buried in Zincirlikuyu Graveyard.

He used the pen name Reşat Kemal, Raşit Kemali in his first poems in syllabic meter, which were published in the reviews Yedigün, Ses, Yürüyüş and Yeni Mecmua (1939-40); and used the name Orhan Reşit in his poems in free meter and first stories (Yeni Edebiyat, 1941). He used the name Orhan Kemal in his poems and stories after 1942 (in the review Yürüyüş). His later works were primarily published in reviews such as Varlık, Yığın, Gün, Genç Nesil, Yeni Ses, Yurt ve Dünya, etc. With his plain and absorbing narration without any concern for form and elaboration, he gained fame through his first novel Baba Evi (My Father’s House, 1949) and attracted a huge number of readers with his reflections on the environment in which he knew and lived. He collected the Sait Faik Short Story Award in 1958 with Kardeş Payı (A Fair Share) and in 1969 with Önce Ekmek (Bread First). Again, he collected the Turkish Language Society Short Story Award in 1969 with Önce Ekmek (Bread First). He was chosen as the best playwright of the year by the Ankara Art Lovers Association with his play 72. Koğuş (Ward 72) that was staged at the Ankara Art Theatre by Asaf Çiğiltepe in 1976. There has been an award given in his name since his death. Some of his works such as Hanımın Çiftliği (The Mistress’ Farm), El Kızı (The Foreigner’s Daughter), Bir Filiz Vardı (There was a Filiz) were filmed.


SHORT STORY: Ekmek Kavgası (Fight for Bread, 1949), Sarhoşlar (Drunkards, 1951), Çamaşırcının Kızı (The Laundress’ Daughter, 1952), 72. Koğuş (Ward 72, 1954), Grev (Strike, 1954), Arka Sokak (Back Street, 1956), Kardeş Payı (A Fair Share, 1957), Babil Kulesi (The Tower of Babel, 1957), Dünyada Harb Vardı (There Was War on Earth, 1963), İşsiz (Redundant, 1966), Önce Ekmek (Bread First, 1968), Küçükler ve Büyükler (The Little and the Great, 1971).

NOVEL: Baba Evi (My Father’s House, 1949), Avare Yıllar (Idle Years, 1959), Murtaza (Murtaza, 1952), Cemile (Cemile, 1952), Bereketli Topraklar Üzerinde (On Fertile Lands, 1954), Suçlu (Guilty, 1957), Devlet Kuşu (Windfall, 1958), Vukuat Var (There’s a Crime, 1959), Gâvurun Kızı (The Infidel’s Daughter, 1959), Küçücük (Very Little, 1969), Dünya Evi (Marriage, 1960), El Kızı (The Foreigner’s Daughter, 1960; filmed and broadcast in a television series, 1989), Hanımın Çiftliği (The Mistress’ Farm, 1961), Eskici ve Oğulları (The Junk Dealer and His Sons, 1962; later published with the title Eskici Dükkânı – The Junk Shop), Gurbet Kuşları (Birds of Foreign Lands, 1962), Sokakların Çocuğu (Kid of the Streets, 1963), Bir Filiz Vardı (There Was a Filiz, 1965), Müfettişler Müfettişi (Inspector of the Inspectors, 1966), Yalancı Dünya (False World, 1966), Evlerden Biri (One of the Houses, 1966), Arkadaş Islıkları (Friend’s Whistles, 1968), Sokaklarda Bir Kız (A Girl on the Streets, 1968), Üç Kağıtçı (Cheater, 1969), Kötü Yol (Evil Way, 1969), Kaçak (Fugitive, 1970), Tersine Dünya (Reversing World, 1986).

PLAY: İspinozlar (Snowbirds, staged 1964; published 1965, also staged with the title Yalova Kaymakamı – The Head Official of Yalova), 72. Koğuş (Ward 72) Bekçi Murtaza (Murtaza the Watchman) Eskici Dükkânı (The Junk Shop) and Kardeş Payı (A Fair Share) were adapted for the stage and performed at theatres in Ankara between the years 1967-71.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY- MEMOIR: Nazım Hikmet'le Üç Buçuk Yıl (Three and a Half Years With Nazım Hikmet, 1965), Senaryo Tekniği ve Senaryoculuğumuzla İlgili Notlar (Technique of Script Writing and Notes on Our Script Writing, 1963), İstanbul'dan Çizgiler (Lines from İstanbul, 1971).

JOURNAL-POETRY: Yazmak Doludizgin (Writing at Full Speed, journals, poems, 2002).

REFERENCE: Tahir Alangu / Cumhuriyetten Sonra Hikâye ve Roman (1965) - Orhan Kemal’in Romancılığı (Cumhuriyet Sanat-Edebiyat, sayı: 3, Temmuz 1970), Orhan Kemal Özel Sayısı (Yeni Edebiyat, Temmuz 1970), Muzaffer Uyguner / Orhan Kemal’in Öykücülüğü Üzerine (Türk Dili, Temmuz 1975), TDE Ansiklopedisi (c. 8, 1976), İhsan Işık / Yazarlar Sözlüğü (1990, 1998) - Türkiye Yazarlar Ansiklopedisi (2001, 2004) – Encyclopedia of Turkish Authors (2005) - Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (2006, gen. 2. bas. 2007) - Ünlü Edebiyatçılar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 4, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013), Behçet Necatigil / Edebiyatımızda İsimler Sözlüğü (18. bas. 1999), TBE Ansiklopedisi (c. 2, 2001), Adnan Özyalçıner / Yoksullar Parasızlar İşsizler İşçiler Otuz İki Yıldır Onsuz: Orhan Kemal (Cumhuriyet Kitap, 6.6.2002), Orhan Kemal Özel Bölüm (Berfin Bahar, Haziran 2005).








An émigré from the Greek town of Alasonia, Mourtaza believes in the nobility of his blood of his heroic uncle, whom he has taken as an idol for himself and expects every citizen to do the same. Trying his best to do his job, he always messes up and gets ridiculed. In time, the public begins to get annoyed by the behaviours of this idealist watchman, who forces the residents to go to bed at a certain hour with the belief that lack of sleep would cause them to fail in performing their civil duties.

Is Mourtaza, one of the most significant figures in Turkish Literature, a comedy character or on the contrary, a tragic hero in our social life? Mourtaza is an icon of the loss of human dignity, a testimony to how man can be prone to exploitation and abuse.

Mourtaza is one of the best tragicomic novels depicting the degeneration of men and this dog-eat-dog world. The novel has been adapted for screen twice and put on stage many times. The play adapted from the novel is still performed by the Semaver Kumpanya theatre.




Topal is a crippled, ageing cobbler, a cantankerous, foul-mouthed man, who lives with his wife, two sons, daughter and three grandchildren. He struggles to make ends meet as it is, but when another shoemaker sets up shop across the street from Topal, business takes a turn for the worse. As if that were not enough on its own, Topal has to take on his elder son Mehmet, who finds himself out of work. Trade at the modest store is not on a scale to feed nine mouths. After a succession of rows and fights, it is decided that the whole family will go cotton picking. Their dream is to rent a better workshop on return and move into shoe making rather than just repairs.

The novel, set in the 1940s, the early years of the Turkish Republic, a period of great flux both culturally and economically, describes a situation of acute social disintegration and in the process exposes the other face of modernisation.

As one of the most accomplished examples of the social realism movement, the novel has been adapted for both the screen and, on many occasions, for the stage.





Hasan, Ali and Yousuf, three youngsters from a small village in Central Anatolia, set out for Cukurova in search of work. Here, they find jobs in a cotton factory, but the work is extremely tough and the course of events lead them to different edges of life, all of which are as tough.

There is a current in Turkish fiction known as the “Orhan Kemal perspective”, which reflects Kemal’s belief that at the end of the day it would be possible to find a bright, pure and compassionate side to every human being. In this novel, nevertheless, the characters he regards with affection and despair are portrayed indulgently, but exactly as they are. He conveys their distrust of each other, their lies and deceit, their backbiting, their appetite for ostentation and crude egotism in stark detail. However, these people could not have behaved any differently in the current circumstances.

The novel was adapted for the screen by Erden Kıral and won critical acclaim around the world in its film version.




Mazhar Bey, a wealthy lawyer, marries the mild and accommodating Nazan, a girl of modest background whom he met as a student. A life of bliss with their one son is marred only by the presence at home of an arrogant and conceited mother-in-law, who could have walked off the pages of a fairy tale cast in the role of wicked witch. Doting on her son Mazhar, she has no time for Nazan, her new daughter-in-law, considering her to be of “servant stock”. It becomes her mission to separate the two, and she tries every possible means of doing so.

The novel recounts a melodrama constructed along cinematographic lines. This, in turn, is set against a backdrop of confusion and disarray occasioned by the enforcement of Atatürk’s reforms and the process of urbanisation. On this occasion, Orhan Kemal runs his observant eye over people who have left the village and moved to the outskirts of the city, people aspiring to modernity and a prosperous life. The collision of good and evil – in other words, the melodramatic cliché – is favoured because it corresponds as a structure to the characteristics of the age.  




Come the 1950s, Istanbul is swept by a new wave of construction and development, which also draws hordes of villagers to the cities to work on building sites. Memed is one such bird of exile, arriving in Istanbul on the advice of his fellow countryman Gafur. In his first worksite, she meets and falls in love with Ayse, a maid working at a nearby mansion. However, the two now have to overcome many difficulties to survive.

An accomplished figure of the realism movement in fiction, Orhan Kemal recreates in this novel a palpable, historic landscape of Turkish society set against the backdrop of 1950s Istanbul. The period is one that saw the advent of cheap labour and profiteers to exploit it, the proliferation of sharks and the emergence of the newly rich. And the atmosphere of the novel is coloured by the dismal, narrow world of construction workers, illegal shanties, partisan politics, political intrigue and the trials of moving from village to city. Taking a socio-political perspective, Kemal presents a sequence of events and action, both tragic and comic, that are the result of economic change, migration, industrialisation, urbanisation and clashes of culture.



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