Kemal Bilbaşar was born in 1910 in Çanakkale. His father, head of the police department in Salonika, was assassinated when he was two years old. His young mother fled with her children to Anatolia, where she later married a civil servant, widow with two children. The poverty of the war years forced Kemal to earn his living at a very early age by selling newspapers, matches, sweets and baked goods before and after school.
" During winter evenings our favorite family pastime was reading stories aloud and telling fairy tales," he recalled. "If I searched for our house today I probably couldn't find it, but I will always remember it as in a dream, swathed in the colorful stories of The Arabian Nights."
After finishing his secondary education, Bilbaşar graduated from Edirne Teachers' College in 1929. He then taught two years in an elementary school; however, his desire for further education led him to Gazi Terbiye Enstitüsü created by Kemal Atatürk where he studied history. Earning his degree in 1935, he married Bedia Bilge, an art graduate of the same university, and settled with her in Izmir. They formed a very loving couple, never separated a single day all their lives, had two children. Bilbaşar taught history and geography at Karatas High Scool in Izmir until his retirement in 1961.
His first recognized literary work was a short story, "Çımacı Hasan" which was published in 1937. A year later he founded Aramak (The Search), a literary monthly, with two poet friends. "Our house became a literary club," he later recalled. "Every night we met there until the early hours of the morning. We would read each other the poems and the short stories we had written, choose among the works that had been submitted for publication, discuss the latest happenings in the literary world and prepare the magazine for press."
Bilbaşar's first literary award and his first collection of short stories, Anadolu'dan Hikayeler, came in 1939. Ever since, except for the silence of the years between 1945-1952 when he was pursued for his leftist opinions, he constantly wrote short stories, plays for radio and theater, and novels. Between 1953 and 1971, he essentially wrote in the opposition daily Demokrat Izmir but his editorials, articles, short stories and novels appeared in many other newspapers and magazines.
In 1961, his desire to devote all his time to his art induced him to seek retirement from teaching. After several years of political activity, Bilbaşar moved to Istanbul in 1966. During the ensuing years, the author freed himself from outside obligations. Some of his finest and most popular works date from this period, with Cemo winning Turkey's highest literary award for a novel, the Türk Dil Kurumu Roman Ödülü (Academy of the Turkish Language) in 1967, and Yeşil Gölge receiving the May Roman Ödülü award for the best novel of the year in 1970.
He died on January 21, 1983 in Istanbul.