SEAGULL by Yashar Kemal


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This celebrated Turkish author, who always blends the electric beauty of landscape and folk myth with the rough realities of an impoverished peasantry, here invades the canny, sensitive consciousness of Salih--a ten-year-old boy who darts and broods like a seabird in his small fishing village. Salih's mind is a turbulence of wonders and monsters, of his own bright affections and righteous rages. He knows he's different--an ""idler, a loafer""--and that his parents hate him; but then there are times when ""he knew people loved him, when all the neighborhood beamed upon him."" Yet who will help him cure the broken wing of the seagull he has rescued from death? His old granny, who sits at her loom bristling with hate, refuses to give him her special ointment--especially after he dashes her fantasy of a runaway husband whom she still believes will return. And while Salih makes the rounds of the wise, the mean, and the senile in the village, other excitements crowd in. There are the grand blue trucks of Metin, the kind and generous smuggler next door. There's a toy truck to be coveted, then snatched from a rich boy. There are family crises. And there are marvelous daydreams featuring a mixture of real-life and fantasy heroes. (The daydream heavies discuss poor noble Salih, who's getting no help with his seagull, has been beaten by thugs--who didn't like his leftist T-shirt--and who's all alone.) Eventually, however, fine Skipper Temel cures the bird, and it flies--but the open-ended promise of the dream, when realized, has vanished: the seagull is killed by granny; Metin too is killed by a boss smuggler; and Temel's ship to Istanbul fades away on the horizon--like granny's withered youth and Salih's rich childhood. Both exotic and touchingly familiar--with more immediate appeal than some of Kemal's heavily political others.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1981
Publisher: Pantheon