A young boy’s entrance into full-fledged manhood is accompanied by social realizations that lead him onto what, by official standards, are wayward paths; still, most people in his native village regard him as a local hero. Eventually his name takes on semilegendary connotations. Along the way a number of odd encounters take place which dramatize the distinctions between formally constituted authority and the basic notions of justice that common people in Turkey actually hold. The story begins with nce (Slim) Memed, who has grown up without a father and has spent much of his time with his mother, Deuneh, or with other relatives in nearby villages. Rather early, his relationship with Hatce, a neighbor girl, blossoms into a full-scale love affair; she finds a way around every obstacle her family puts in the way of their courtship. Soon her songs to him have become known throughout the area. It is not long before they become engaged, and in a breathless fit of passion they make love under the open sky. In other ways, however, their lives are complicated by the grasping intrigues of Abdi Aga, a dubious character whom the others disparage as a sallow, goat-bearded old man. This local grandee insists upon returning a smaller share of the wheat crop to Memed’s mother than he allows the other villagers to retain; he routinely beats those he considers to be beneath him, and he mishandles Memed severely. One of his ambitions is to have Hatce married to his nephew Veli. By a ruse Memed thwarts this plan before the arrangements can be completed and spirits away Hatce. Abdi sets his men to tracking them as they would wild animals. When they catch up with Memed, he opens fire with his rifle on Abdi and leaves him badly wounded. During the same exchange of shots, Veli is left dead; the others capture Hatce while Memed is making his escape. After Hatce is thrown into prison, Abdi, in an effort that amounts to the subornation of perjury, has his men testify that it was she who fired the fatal shots.
Memed joins that peculiar informal brotherhood of outlaws which seems to flourish perennially in the region. In the course of a rough-and-ready existence he comes across some rather picturesque individuals. For a time he joins the band of Mad Durdu, a highwayman who specializes in forcing travelers to divest themselves of all of their clothing, including their underwear. Memed also becomes acquainted with Sergeant Recep, a renegade policeman who has often been on the wrong side of the law, and who seems to want to assist the younger man. In time Memed turns away from the wholesale and senseless aggression Durdu practices: When the...
(The entire section is 1073 words.)