Yilmaz Güney’s The Fields of Yuréghir and Arkadaş: From Despair to Hope

Stephen Carruthers

Abstract


This article discusses two relatively unknown works of Yilmaz Güney in the English-speaking world: Boynu Bükük Öldüler (They Bowed their Heads in Shame),1 a semi-autobiographical novel, which in 1972 won the Orhan Kémel prize, and Arkadaş (The Friend), a film released in Turkey by Güney Film in 1974. More than ten years separate these two works. The Fields of Yuréghir was written during Güney’s imprisonment from 1960 to 1963, a period marked by the military coup of 27 May 1960, which lasted until 1961 and a series of coalition governments from 1961 to 1965 under the premiership of İsmet İnönü (1884-1973) of the Republican Party. Arkadaş was filmed in 1974 against the backdrop of the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus in August 1974, a time of great patriotic fervour under the charismatic and left-leaning premiership of Bülent Ecevit (1925-2006).  Güney had by then experienced considerable success as a filmmaker and actor. Arkadaş is a product of this favourable constellation of circumstances, both political and personal, that marked this brief period that was abruptly ended by his imprisonment in September 1974.  The article is divided into the following sections: a short biography of Yilmaz Güney; a summary of The Fields of Yuréghir and Arkadaş; a thematic analysis of the two works under the headings of political engagement, sexual mores, religion, and national identity; and a conclusion.  

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/cinej.2021.407

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