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Press Review of CEMMO (CEMO)

The following British press reviewed Gemmo at the time of its publishing in the UK in 1977 by Peter Owen London translated  by  Esin Bilbasar Rey with Mariana Fitzpatrick. This book is still available through Internet.

Martin Goff (Daily Telegraph, 20 January 1977):

"In the middle of Marrakesh there is a square where storytellers spin their yarn. For an hour or two at a time they tell marvellously drawn-out tales, half way between myth and fairy story.

Kemal Bilbasar’s Turkish novel, « Gemmo », set in the early years of Kemal Ataturk’s rule, reads exactly like one of them. The warriors are all brawny meb, the heroines unbelievably beautiful. Authority, whether in the form of one of the shehs or the distant government, smiles sweetly to secure its ends, then knives people in the back if obedience is not absolute.
Gemmo, who appears in the book as Cemo, is the centre of the story.... If you want to know something about the people and life of that part of the world and how a major Turkish author writes, this book will tell you."


Nick Tonnon (Spectator 22 January 1977):

"Gemmo is an award-winning Turkish novel about Anatolian peasants in the twenties, slowly emerging from feudal dependence on the aghas and shehs. Kemal Bilbasar has deliberately chosen to write it as a kind of fair-tale, within the culture and perceptions of his characters, in order to reach the largest possible audience with his anti- feudal message. The obvious drawback here is that the situation is then seen through the predominantly feudal ideology of the peasants : for a non-Turkish reader, the impression is of an authority-worshipping and casualty murderous society. In a book like this it is hard to get one ´s bearings, to distinguish between the social norm and the social criticism. But as a modern folk -tale, Gemmo is lively and entertaining, with the color and immediacy of naive painting."


Derek Stanford (The Scotsman 22 January 1977):

"Kemal Bilbasar ´s « Gemmo » attempts a dual presentation that of the high spirited girl Cemo (or Gemmo) related first by her father and then by her husband. It is set in Eastern Anatolia during the turbulent years of the twenties at a time when Kemal pasha was struggling to destroy the feudal system and lead the country into contemporary world.
The writing is amazingly rich, boosted with the language of folk- song and folk-lore and the self-dramatizing speech of the characters, sometimes reads like prose poetry packed with a boxer’s punch. Bravery, marksmanship and horsemanship pulse through prose of this vigorous novel.
Kemal Bilbasar was born in 1910 and published Cemo in 1966. He is one of Turkey’s most distinguished authors and in every way deserves his fame."



Peter Owen, London 1977

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