Memed, My Hawk

by Yaşar Kemal Gökçeli

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Yaşar Kemal Gökçeli’s novel Memed, My Hawk tells the story of a young rebel’s struggle with corrupt forces in his local region. Having lost his father early in his life, Memed has spent his early years in the company of his mother, Deuneh, in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, in a village whose citizens are routinely subjected to manipulation and abuse by their landlord, Abdi Agha. From a young age, Memed showed himself unwilling to endure this treatment. Once, as a boy, he escapes across the mountains to a nearby ranch, where he enjoys a brief period of freedom as a sheep herder. However, Abdi Agha discovers he is alive and forces him to return, exacting a heavy material toll on his family as punishment.

As a young man, Memed’s bitterness and anger at his situation are mitigated only by his affection for Hatche, a girl in his village who is engaged to Abdi Agha’s nephew. Hatche and Memed decide to run away and break this betrothal, at which point Abdi hires Lame Ali, a skilled hunter, to pursue the couple. Memed makes a stand against Abdi’s men, and in the ensuing fight, he shoots down Abdi’s nephew while seriously wounding his uncle.

Memed manages to escape, but Hatche is captured and falsely accused by Abdi of having fired the shot that disposed of his nephew. Now on the run, Memed falls in with the outlaws of the region, encountering some with whom he forms friendships, such as the former police officer Rejep, but also individuals he comes to revile as evil, such as the leader of the band he initially joins, a man known as Mad Durdu. After refusing to comply with Durdu’s orders to rob a passing nomadic leader, Memed breaks with him and sets up his own gang, dedicated not to the robbing of travelers, but instead to the punishment of Abdi and his ilk.

Memed and his men return to the village of Memed’s birth, only to find that Abdi, having first killed Memed’s mother and imprisoned his partner, has gone into hiding. Though he cannot stop Rejep murdering one of Abdi’s wives, Memed’s intercession in order to save Abdi’s children from his friend’s rage earns him the respect of the village. Lame Ali, who feels deeply guilty about his part in pursuing Memed earlier, provides the former with information as to Abdi’s location, and Memed sets out with his two friends Rejep and Jabbar to punish the landlord. They are so eager to do this, however, that in attempting to burn down the building where Abdi hides, they burn down the whole village, causing all the villagers to chase them up into the mountains. Here Recep dies, suffering from a wound to the neck he endured during the fighting.

Abdi now seeks assistance from another Agha, Ali Safa Bey, who sends his man Kalayji, another former member of Mad Durdu’s band who is known to Memed, to lure him into a trap—but Memed isn’t fooled. He and his friend Jabbar murder Kalayji, a deed for which Memed is given the title of “Hawk,” one who swoops down on corrupt authority figures to punish them when they least expect it. Memed now proceeds to free Hatche from the custody of the government, ambushing a party that is escorting her from one prison to the next. He retreats with her to a cave high in the mountains, though the authorities are not far behind him.

At Abdi’s urging, the government sends a former bandit, the notorious Black Ibrahim, and a police officer, sergeant Asim, to arrest Memed....

(This entire section contains 728 words.)

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During the gun battle that ensues, Memed decides to surrender in light of the fact that Hatche, to whom he has now become engaged, has given birth to a son. Asim takes pity on Memed and allows him to escape with his child and partner. The government then sends Captain Faruk in pursuit of Memed, and in another gun battle, the captain shoots down Hatche. Leaving his son in the care of Hatche’s friend, a grief-stricken Memed finds out from Lame Ali where Abdi is hiding and goes down to the village to shoot him. Having accomplished this, he disappears into the mountains and into legend.