Kemal Varol

Novels

Festival of Lovers

After exactly twenty-five years had passed, my father showed up at my doorstep, carrying his three-stringed bağlamain one hand and a wooden suitcase in the other, waiting for me like an embarrassed last-minute overnight guest or an old lender who was there to collect a long-forgotten debt. 

Festival of Lovers is a novel about the reckoning between a father and a son first and foremost… A reckoning where anger and disappointment fights against guilt, and the desire to remove someone from one’s life battles being unable to let go. In the words of its lawyer protagonist, it is a settling of account where the feeling of “As much as I resisted, like every son, I was defeated by my father from the start” is constant.

 

There’s also the cloud of an unhappy love affair hanging over the man who’s trying to “settle his account” with his father… Or, are there two love stories?

 

The novel is also the story of a journey… Both in the literal sense — we travel from Diyarbakır to Kars through long winding roads, motels, searches, controls, desolate corners of the countryside…  — but also in the metaphorical, as we witness a journey through memory. It is a journey reaching into the innermost corners of the mind, and the dungeons of consciousness. A journey into the ambiguous relationships of the bağlamaplayer father, whose apprentices and fans wait eagerly at every stop, and the secrets of the women in his previous life… That’s the longer road…

 

Festival of Lovers is a heartfelt folk song…

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Wûf

Wûf is a love story of war and violence. It tells the story of Mikasa, a street dog who grows up amidst the conflict between “Northerners” and “Southerners” in the Turkey of the 1990s, falls in love with a dog who guards the Southerners’ party headquarters, is captured by the Northerners, trained to sniff out bombs, and after a disastrous incident is sent to recover in a vet shelter, where he becomes something of a legend among the impounded animalsTold through the voice of a canine narrator, this novel is a surrealist wartime love story set in Turkey in the 1990s. A book that took the Turkish literary world by storm, Kemal Varol’s Wûf tackles universal themes of love and loss with both humor and pathos. Translated by PEN/Heim Award winner Dayla Rogers, the novel renders in English a one-of-a-kind love story with a narrator its readers won’t soon forget.

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Jar

They had no choice but to accept Elektro’s offer; the true story of the elderly men might have been the first story Elektro ever told, or the last. All these stories might even be completely made up, or the sum of a singular truth. According to him, what we call truth had to contain at least a small tinge of a lie. Apparently, on its own a story can never be true. But as soon as the stories complete one another, the truth will reveal itself without asking.

In Kemal Varol’s first novel Jar, a pair of elderly men who arrive in a town following the 1980 military coup sit at opposite taverns owned by two brothers who don’t speak to each other. Accompanied by tangled stories that are unresolved, at times turning into secrets and flowing behind those secrets, the two men never stop casting each other angry glances. A scene that seems funny at first might make old wounds bleed, while a moment of sorrow might make you smile… In the background, nothing but this country!

 

Jar is a diverse narrative that will leave you chasing its true story with curiosity.

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This Will Conclude in Death

 

This Will Conclude in Death is a love story that lasts half a century. It is a heavy sigh that falters as it travels from city to city, looking for a salve; repeating, remembering, calling to dreams. It is the story of the Lamenting Woman, who travels all across the country, never keeping her desire far from her heart, and calling through the world for her beloved of half a century.

 

In this novel woven thread by thread with a knowledge of separation and death, Kemal Varol sets out on the road with the last representative of a tradition. Konya, Bursa, Istanbul, Erzurum, Arkanya and Arguvan… The Lamenting Woman visits all these cities, searching for a trace or a scent of Heves Ali, and collects clues from the stories of the dead whose faces she cannot see; is she glad that Heves Ali the folk musician isn’t dead, or upset because she can’t track him down? Each death is a separation… This love story will conclude in death.

 

Kemal Varol adeptly tells stories of this country in this novel within which the sun rises and sets. Fable-like, intense, and finally laying down to die. 

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