Great Lives That Go On In Simplicity

Great Lives That Go On In Simplicity

Baltar (Şule Publications, 2018) is the first novel of Şule Köklü. Debuts are usually introverted, individual and autobiographical. It is hard to say the same for Baltar. Baltar is an entirely extrovert, action and event-oriented novel. Şule Köklü brings liveliness to the third person narration through dialogue, inner speech, and depictions.

Baltar consists of many events described around an Anatolian sheepdog. The orphanhood of Çoban, the wisdom of Hanım Ana, the love story of Çoban and Nilüfer, the life and experience of Şahin, the other sheepdogs named Devir, Suna, Karabaş, and Yağız… The sheepdog Baltar is in the center. Although, the protagonist of the novel is Çoban (shepherd), a shepherd cannot be considered apart from his dog, which can almost be called his life companion. This is how Baltar comes into the scene. In a way, the dog becomes the interpreter of people’s feelings and thoughts. But a sheepdog can certainly be the hero of a story all on his own not only through people’s feelings and thoughts. Because he is a loyal, respectful, strong and emotional breed. Therefore, the novel has two main protagonists, one can be called Çoban and the other is Baltar. 

Şule Köklü manages to treat her highland life and peasants without exaggerating and being artificial. While reading the novel, we do not think, “These types live in the dreams of the novelist, but it is not possible to come across them in real life.” Köklü has a credible and realistic narration. In this respect, Baltar is a kind of an answer to the question of how to tell Anatolian highlands and villages. Highland life is more colorful, rich and intriguing when it is not told by attributing the features that it does not actually have. This aspect of Anatolian life has been captured very well by Köklü. And she managed to convey it in plain language. There may be some technical weaknesses in the novel, perhaps because it was her debut. Baltar’s being a good novel, despite these technical weaknesses, is a separate success.

For example, “Ölü Suratlı (Dead Face)”, among those trying to find Çoban at the top of the mountain and pressure him, is very well described. So much so that the reader immediately understands how bad and malicious he is from this description. Köklü does not apply the depiction that she applies to this character to other characters. Although Çoban, Şahin, Nilüfer and Hanım Ana come to life in the eyes of the reader at the end of the novel, they remain like a faint picture. We can talk about a similar deficiency, or rather the state of remaining flu, in terms of the places where the events took place.

Another weakness of Baltar is the fact that the tragic and dramatic events, of which the novel was created around, were not adequately treated. Treating evil in the novel without getting anyone’s hands dirty, or rather, not addressing it enough, is one of the aspects that make the novel weak.

I don’t mean to say Baltar is a failure. Despite these weaknesses, it is a solid novel. It is a debut that readers experience very different emotions when they are reading it and think that there should be a sequel with awakened curiosity.

The Library of the Author

– İlhan Berk, Şiirin Çizdiği, Yapı Kredi Publications
– Meliha Öz, Nekro Porta, Şule Publications
– Ahmet Yesevi, Dîvân-ı Hikmet, Ketebe Publishing House
– Joseph Roth, Eyup, Can Publications