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Outcasts of the Homeland
by Kemal Ates
Translated by Dr. Mert Akcanbas
About this Book
Ayten and her family are poor migrants from a village in western Turkey, to the slum areas outside of Ankara. They struggled to secure a small parcel of land, build a home and become accepted within the social confines of an area, which is not really the city, but not the village either. So, are they themselves city dwellers or villagers?
The story of the Outcasts of the Homeland is set in the here and now: it is a timeless tale of people looking for a better life and the hardships of uprooting the family and having the children grow up with confused ideas of their own identity.
Ayten is a beautiful young girl, the belle of the neighborhood, which causes a lot of jealousy among the women and desire among the men. She is disappointed to learn that beauty is not enough when her young boyfriend goes away to college, meets different kinds of women, and decides he'd rather marry a real city girl.
Emin is a migrant who dreams of building his own shack, so he won't have to pay rent and will be able to educate his children. But having one's own home is not as easy as it is in the village.
Family honor is a concept of the utmost importance, because many of the people are so poor, it is the only ideal they will ever be able to aspire to.
As more and more people move to the area, public services increase, but so does the strife over land rights and petty squabbles between ignorant people as they struggle for a better life.
About the Author
Kemal Ates paved the way for a new genre in Turkish literature, describing life in the slums or gece kondu which means "built in the night," and has received wide recognition for his works. Outcasts of the Land received the "Mehmet Ali Yalcin Award for Literature" in 1991.
Ates, the author of seven books, resides in Ankara, Turkey.
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Turkish author Kemal Ates' Outcasts of the Land is set in the slum areas outside Ankara, Turkey. It begins with a love affair between two teenagers, Ayten and Ilhan. Because of the restrictions of their traditional village upbringing, and that of their neighbors, they are not allowed a normal courtship as young people in the city would have.
Emin is a settler in the area who dreams of owning his own home, an easy enough task in the village. But city law prohibits building in the slum area, where rights of ownership are obscure.
But these simple hopes and dreamsa marriage based on love or a new home for the familyall are destroyed by the wagging tongues of the ignorant neighborhood gossips. The women are jealous that someone else's daughter might make a better marriage than their own. The men are jealous of each other's wives. Everyone is jealous of their neighbors' money. And when all this jealousy and petty rivalry boil over into an act of ruthless violence, the neighbors ask each other, "How did this ever get so far out of hand?"
Kemal Ates uses short, simple lines of dialogue to express the thoughts and feelings of a group of people, who are mostly illiterate peasants, backward and ignorant, but always ready to defend the "family honor," which they consider the only thing money can't buy.
Outcasts of the Homeland will leave you with a feeling of "having been there" and you'll understand why slum dwellers the world over prefer the slums to their homelands and how they are sometimes forced to abandon the land, which has been exhausted with overplanting, before it abandons them.
Foremost Press gratefully acknowledges the generous contribution of The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey to the translation of this book.
Outcasts of the Land was published by Foremost Press. It can be ordered at ForemostPress.com and Amazon.
238 pp, $14.97