Critical Context

As Yashar Kemal’s first novel, Memed, My Hawk created a literary sensation when it was first published, and the author was acclaimed as a major new talent. He won his country’s prestigious Varlik Prize for this work and, as translations appeared, he became one of the most widely recognized Turkish writers. Even after a number of subsequent efforts have appeared, his literary reputation is still derived to some significant extent from this novel. To be sure, the thematic concerns or locales of his later productions have shifted. Other works, such as the trilogy beginning with Ortadirek (1960; The Wind from the Plain, 1963) and concluding with Olmez otu (1968; The Undying Grass, 1977), present a much broader vision of social life in the Cukurova region. In this series there are some interesting mentions of nce Memed’s story. Yashar Kemal brought back his first major protagonist in another offering, as a sort of sequel, nce Memed II (1969; They Burn the Thistles, 1973), in which there are references to Memed’s original exploits in the context of another sharply drawn conflict between brigands and scheming local officials. In that work the successors to Abdi Aga are confronted in some dramatic and violent encounters before Memed finally rides off into the distance. Other settings and characters appear in novels drawn from folktales of the regions around Mount Ararat and Mount Binboga. Maritime locales are utilized in efforts such as Al gozum seyreyle Salih (1976; Seagull, 1981) and Deniz kustu (1979; The Sea-Crossed Fisherman, 1985), which take up themes of youth and criminal activity in the greater Istanbul area.

The common elements in most of Yashar Kemal’s works, notably the use of folk motifs in studies of crime and violence, reveal the various combinations that in this way are open to the writer. It would seem that in some respects Memed, My Hawk is more melodramatic than other offerings; this very quality, however, may account for the widespread acceptance of this novel. It could in this regard be considered as a gripping story well told. In this sense, it may be contended that, quite apart from the efforts at social realism found in some of Kemal’s other novels, the elements of adventure and high drama are attractive features in the kind of narrative he has produced.