Narrating an Island’s Story: History, Memory and Nature in Yaşar Kemal’s Quartet
Keywords: Identity,nation-state,ecocriticism,narrative techniques,Yaşar Kemal,Bir Ada Hikâyesi
Yaşar Kemal (1923-2015) in his Bir Ada Hikâyesi quartet narrates the stories of individuals who witnessed several wars in the time period from the Great War to the foundation of the Turkish Republic and beyond, as well as of Anatolian geography. He interprets the persistent effects of war with regards to his characters' relationship with history, the nation-state, non-human beings and nature. Scrutinizing the quartet which consists of novels written between 1997 and 2012 is significant for comprehending the development and integrity of the novelist's authorship. This paper analyzes the connections characters establish with the past, with each other and with non-human beings by concentrating on their position vis-à-vis the nation-state. Theories of nationalism, ecocriticism and approaches that interpret the relationship between history and identity through the perspective of memory construct the methodological frame of the analysis. Besides proposing a new perspective on the writer's criticism of history, the paper aims to demonstrate how Yaşar Kemal portrays the human-nature interaction. Correspondingly, it questions the ways in which the author problematizes the novel genre by employing original narrative techniques as well as the possible reasons behind this intervention. It is concluded that the author creates an alternative narrative of history in a dialogic relationship with the dominant discourse of the nation-state. Instead of the official narrative of the state who writes history, the alternative comprises the stories of the individuals who make history. In order to construct it, it is observed that the author borrows oral culture techniques and transforms them in the novel genre. In this way, while criticizing the Western Europe-oriented nation-state which is a product of rationalism, he also problematizes the novel genre as the literary product of the same understanding. In accordance with it, he overrides the anthropocentric conception which positions human above non-human beings, by depicting human as a part of a holistic eco-system in mutual interaction with more-than-human nature.