The Idle Years and My Father's House
Author: Orhan Kemal
Translator: Cengiz Lugal
Original language: Turkish
Published by: Peter Owen Publishers, 2008
Orhan Kemal is one of Turkey's best-loved writers, with a standing equal to Charles Dickens in England. These are the first two semi-autobiographical novels in a series, set in the 1920s and 1930s when Turkey was undergoing major social change. The unnamed narrator grows up in an affluent household in an Adana village with his brother, two sisters, mother and formidable father, a known political agitator, but the family are forced to migrate to Beirut on account of his activities. The boy develops into a rebellious and feckless teenager, reluctantly attempting to support his now impoverished family through menial work while resenting his father's stern attempts to control him. Eventually lack of money provokes him and his best friend to set off for Istanbul to look for work. Before long he has developed into an alienated and self-conscious adolescent, preoccupied by his scrawny appearance, ragged clothes and lack of prospects — and he soon has to make a humiliating return. The fact that his father is well born but notorious does not help him make his way in the world and things begin to look up only when he falls for a pretty young factory girl...
The most famous of Kemal's writings in Turkey, this is the first time that it has been published in English and it features a foreword by 2006 Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk.
'Suffused though they are with the dark realities of poverty, Orhan Kemal's novels are celebrations of this other world. The optimism I find in them comes not from literature but from life itself.' - Orhan Pamuk