Peasant Autonomy
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Story 122

Taurus Mountains, Turkey – around 1960 (2)

The saint

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Clint)

Anatolia, Turkey.

“No, no, I am not a saint!” Tașbașoğlu screams in desperation. “I am an ordinary person, just like you, just like everyone.” When he ceases raging and the villagers walk away, they whisper to each other, “Saints are just like that. They ignore it for the sake of humility. We have a humble saint.”
Tașbaș can understand it. There is poverty in the village, grinding poverty. The soil becomes more and more exhausted. The harvests are a bit smaller every year, the wheat stock is finished earlier, and the period from hunger to the next harvest is longer.

On top of that, the farmers are terrified of Adil Effendi, the shop owner from the town nearby. Like every year, they bought everything on credit, which was wildly expensive. Like every year, the villagers would have paid off their debts when they had earned money from the cotton picking on the plain. But this year, this didn't bring in much because they had a very poor field. The cotton shrubs were so meager that there was little to harvest. Accordingly, there was little income.
The farmers are scared to death that Adil Effendi will come to their village with five or ten gendarmes. That he will take away everything from them: the bulgur (groats of wheat), the livestock, the decoration of the women, the carpet upon which they are sitting, and perhaps also their mattresses and clothes. This winter, they will perish from hunger and cold when the snowstorms are blowing. If not all, at least the children, the elderly and the sick will die.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Mariusz Kluzniak)

Taurus Mountains, Turkey

Tașbaș feels pity for the farmers. He understands their fear and despair only too well. He knows they need a 'saint' as a last straw, to grasp at, to keep a last bit of courage, to find the strength to defend themselves against Adil. That is the way of things.
Tașbaș is afraid. He knows how it comes to an end with saints. At some point the gendarmes arrest you. In a police cell in the city, they beat you up for days and then they lock you up in a prison or send you to a lunatic asylum. This is when you do not end up at the gallows. What can he do?


The Turkish author Yașar Kemal describes in Iron Earth, Copper Sky (1963, part 2 of his Anatolian Trilogy) the poverty, fear and superstition of the peasants but also the beautiful nature and the splendid, imaginative stories of the village singer. He tells about oppression by the moneylender, the village head and the state but also about the creativity and determination of the peasants to find a way out. He paints the anger and bitterness, the slander and hostility but also the carefulness and mutual commitment.

Go to:
= part 1:
The sly muhtar - Taurus Mountains, Turkey – around 1960 (1), story 121.
= part 3, the next page:
Nobody talks to the muhtar any more - Taurus Mountains, Turkey – around 1960 (3), story 123.
= the Table of contents, story 122.