Salman the Solitary

Yashar Kemal

translated from the Turkish by Thilda Kemal
Harvill Press 1998 [1980]
A book review by Danny Yee © 1999
Ismail, a Kurd from Lake Van, flees the invading Russians with his family and settles in a remote village in Anatolia. On the way he adopts Salman, a child found half-dead by the road, but later he has a son of his own, Mustafa, and conflict between the children not unsurprisingly ensues. And a mountain-dweller named Halil comes down to the plains to work, only to have his dreams shattered by deceit and theft.

Salman the Solitary is a chronicle of obsession and revenge and communal conflict, fueled by divisions and differences: between Kurds and Turks and Armenians, between mountain- and plains-dwellers, between rich and poor, and even between adults and children (it describes exploits by children that make Lord of the Flies seem like a picnic). In the narrow, confined world of a small village, poisonous rumours and gossip are inescapable and the threat of violence looms ever-present. But Kemal combines all of this with lyrical descriptions of nature and haunting evocation of dreams and the fantasies, fears, and ecstasies of childhood. The result is dark but bright, the harsh sun of the plains reaching into the recesses of the mountains.

November 1999

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%T Salman the Solitary
%A Kemal, Yashar
%M Turkish
%F Kemal, Thilda
%I Harvill Press
%D 1998 [1980]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1860465137
%P 311pp