Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Phu, Thy


The division of Kurds among the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria after World War I resulted in a fragmented identity and affected the development of the Kurdish language and literature. Consequently, in their novels Kurdish writers focus on questions of identity, such as “who you are” and “where you come from.” My research discusses the novels of two Kurdish authors—Kae Bahar’s Letters from a Kurdand Yaser Kemal’s Memed, my Hawk—who lived in different countries, namely, Turkey and Iraq. This study explores, from a post-colonial point of view, how the novelists represented the fight against oppression in distinct ways due to their different geographical-cultural circumstances. I use Pascale Casanova’s and Rebecca L. Walkowitz’stheories of language to examine the specific language choices made by these two novelists. Finally, my research investigates how Kurds in different countries resist oppression and try to build their national identity.

Summary for Lay Audience

The Kurdish region is divided among the four countries of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. In most of these countries, Kurds are forbidden to learn the Kurdish language and its literature. In my work, I selected two novels, Letters from a Kurdby Kae Bahar and Memed, my Hawkby Yaser Kemal, written by Kurdish novelists: Kae Bahar is Kurdish Iraqi and Yaser Kemal is Kurdish Turkish. Both novelists wrote their novels in languages other than Kurdish: Bahar in English and Kemal in Turkish. Considering this, I use Pascale Casanova’s and Rebecca L. Walkowitz’s theories of language to examine the specific language choices made by these two novelists.

In addition, the division of Kurds among different countries, as well as their existence between two cultures, the Kurdish one and the culture of the host country, makes identity a major concern for the Kurds. Indeed, the identity issue is the main theme in most Kurdish novels. In the two countries of Bahar and Kemal, the central governments tried to eradicate and suppress the Kurds through the “Arabization” and the “Turkification” policies respectively. However, for a long time the Kurds have struggled for their rights. Drawing on identity concerns and the Kurds’ fight against invisibility, my research will discuss the identity problem in the aforementioned novels from the viewpoint of two post-colonial theorists, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon.