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Turkish writer Kemal continues to mine gold from poverty-scarred isolated peasant communities which are at the mercy of outside forces--natural (which they understand) and man-made (which they don't). The Yalak villagers (who have appeared in two previous Kemal works) are suffering through a bitter winter; but hanging over their lives is the threat of destruction from another source. They cannot pay their debt to the creditor Adil Effendi because of a poor harvest. The corrupt, self-serving Muhtar (headman), alarmed about what an aroused peasantry might do if Adil takes all their belongings and their women, leads them in a ludicrous series of stratagems, ostensibly to outwit Adil when he comes ""as a mighty eagle."" The peasants' barefoot tracks in the snow circle round the huts as they await, day by day, the arrival of Adil--an event of such evil magnitude that the drama is irresistible. It is villager Tashbash who offers one cool rational voice against abject obedience to the Muhtar and stupidity in general. But the villagers have a more desperate hunger than for rationality--they hunger for mira. cles, for Allah's love, for beauty in winter's darkness. And so, before he knows it, Tashbash finds that he has been made a saint. Floating happily in the rich gauze of myth, the peasants spin tales of Tashbash's divine antecedents, his miraculous appearances. While the Muhtar plots with officialdom to remove Tashbash forever, Tashbash, at first resisting, finally understands what has happened: ""It is the poor of this earth who make a saint, looking to him for help in their distress. . . ."" The winter at last ends (without the coming of Adil); Tashbash, arrested for refusing to end his ""healing,"" escapes his nervous captors and disappears into village legend; and two children weave new myths from spring flowers. After some over-ambitious missteps, Kemal has come back to his bright, rich, small-canvas illuminations of humanity's stubborn renewals--a most welcome return.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1979
Publisher: Morrow