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They Burn the Thistles (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 21, 2006

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They Burn the Thistles (New York Review Books Classics) + Memed, My Hawk
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (November 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171853
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171851
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,800,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“The sequence of events in the novel could not be more exciting…It is like a myth, but the mythic quality is given concreteness in the distinct personalities of the villagers…This novel is a worthy successor to Memed, My Hawk and ought to send readers swiftly to The Legend of the Thousand Bulls, Anatolian Tales, or The Wind From the Plain…I doubt that anyone who reads They Burn the Thistles will hesitate in seeking these out and concluding that Kemal is an important literary figure.”–Paul Theroux, The New York Times

“Yashar Kemal…specializes in proletarian fiction–novels and short stories that bristle with passion and political commitment…Kemal has become Turkey’s first world-class novelist…They Burn the Thistles is thus a valuable addition to the body of literature for society’s sake”–The Washington Post

“There are a lot of facts and folklore in the story along with delightful fantasy, all told with an intimacy of detail that makes for fine reading. Kemal’s descriptions of the Turkish landscape, animals and plant life are sharp and vivid. The action is told in the grand manner of the Homeric tradition, but Kemal doesn’t miss a butterfly, a hard-backed iridescent beetle or the yellow narcissi of Anatolia. There is the smell of dried sweat and blood, but there is also the sweet scent of stirrup-high mint at the edge of a bubbling brook.”–The Los Angeles Times

"…one of the modern world’s great storytellers. To read him is to be reminded that life itself is a story. He writes fearlessly, like a hero."–John Berger

They Burn the Thistles is an epic story of a bitter war during the 1920’s between the poor Turkish peasants of the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia and the greedy Aghas who covet their land. When the novel appeared in England a few years ago, British critics said that Yashar Kemal had a feeling for the soil in literature that recalled Thomas Hardy and Ignazio Silone”–The New York Times

“The setting is lyrically described…Kemal is at pains to emphasize the traditional family and village loyalties which, more than vengeance, ultimately provide the only hope for an equitable society.”–Times Literary Supplement

Language Notes

Text: English, Turkish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Laurie Aron on July 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A profound and remarkable book about human emotions, hopes and limitations in a lush landscape, lushly described, but an unforgiving social world.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By coolio on April 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Kemal self-consciously aims to create a modern myth, but They Burn the Thistles falls short. The plot is relatively simple and ought to have been more interesting - the protagonist, Memed, arrives amidst a terrible land war in which the peasants are getting the very short end of the stick from the newly empowered ruling class. Memed's previous heroics, known to the characters in the book but not to the reader (unless one has read prior volumes written by Kemal), apparently inspire an uprising of sorts by the peasants. Events escalate until they are finally terrible enough for Memed to save the day, sort of. All of this is drawn out interminably. The book's virtues are in the strangeness of place and culture, but they are greatly outweighed by the oddly uneven prose, which mixes occasional power and insightful descriptions of characters' conscious thoughts with overly long descriptions of landscape and highly purple dialogue. Much as I wanted to appreciate the book more, I hesitate to recommend it.
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