Kemal Kayankaya
Created by Jakob Arjourni (1964-2013)

''They are 'international' down to their Parisian underwear
- but they're not able to recognize a Turk unless he's carrying a garbage can...''

- Kemel, on his bigoted countrymen in
One Death To Die

And now, for your literary and cinematic pleasure, a whole new thang! All the way from Germany, courtesy of Jakob Arjourni.

It's modern day Frankfurt ("the ugliest town in Europe"), and the private eye on today's menu is KEMAL KAYANKAYA, a young, orphaned Turk raised in Germany by German foster parents. Kemal's German is flawless, and he speaks not a word of Turk -- but he's still viewed as one of those "damn immigrants."

So he's the ultimate loner, the ultimate outsider among hard-boiled private eyes, forever caught between two solitudes, too Turkish to be accepted by German society, and not Turkish enough to be accepted by that community. As he moves through all strata of society in Frankfurt ("the ugliest town in Germany"), through sex shops, gambling dens, government offices and other unsavory centers of vice and greed, only stopping for an occassional drink or two, he's beat up, harassed, threatened with arrest and torture, even as he peels away layer after layer of corruption and racism. Impressive by almost any measure, and even more so when you consider Arjourni wrote the first book, Happy Birthday, Turke! when he was just nineteen.

In 1992, a big-screen version of Happy Birthday, Turke! was produced, written and directed by Doris Doerrie, one of Germany's busiest directors (although primarily of rather conventional TV-style flicks, according to Gunnar Geller). The film offered a gritty, hard look at contemporary German society that pulled no punches as Kemal searches for a missing Turkish husband. Arjourni himself felt the film was too soft, too much of a "leftist, liberal view of the world" but it was a huge hit in Germany. Too bad the Americans can't seem to make this stuff anymore. Instead, they seem to rig most of their detective films to feature as much pointless sex and violence as possible, substituting tit shots and cars, buildings and boats blowing up for plot development. Supposedly, it's available on video, in German; with sub-titles, if you're lucky. My friend Dieter swears this is the best P.I. film ever made.

Arjourni was born in 1964, and died in Berlin Thursday, after a long battle against pancreatic cancer. He was only 48.

NOVELS
All originally published in German

FILM

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TURKE!
    (1992)
    109 minutes
    Written and directed by Doris Doerrie
    Based on the novel by Jakob Arjourni
    Starring Hansa Czypioka as KEMAL KAYANKAYA
    Also starring
    Meret Becker, Özay Fecht, Doris Kunstmann, Lambert Hamel, Omer Simsek, Nina Petri, Christian Schneller, Ömer Simsek, Ulrich Wesselmann

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Special thanks to our Hamburg correspondent, Gunnar Geller, for his help here, and a tip of the fedora to David, who finally set me straight....


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