Memed, My Hawk, a translation of the first part of nce Memed (which means “Slim” or “Thin” Memed), is important as one of the few Turkish novels to attract attention in Europe and the United States. In this folktale, Yashar Kemal depicts a lowborn man with compassion and respect. His protagonist, Memed, a larger-than-life folk hero, has been likened to Robin Hood because he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Like a majestic hawk, Memed swoops down on the cruel aghas (lords), frustrating their greed. He is able to evade capture because he has the support of the village people. Unlike the other brigands, who rob and humiliate indiscriminately, Memed punishes selectively, never forgetting his roots in the village.
Kemal’s novel often reads like a courtesy book for brigands. Through example and contrast, and sometimes even dialogue, the reader is shown the proper way to resist institutionalized corruption and oppression. One should not follow the example of the brigand Durdu, who terrorizes not only government officials and powerful landowners but also farmers, women, and children. He robs his victims of their honor as well as their purses, sending men home naked to their families and kidnapping and raping village women. Kalayji, another brigand, sells himself as a hired gun to a wealthy agha, in effect becoming an instrument of oppression. Memed, in contrast, engages in moral terrorism, never robbing for fun or mere profit, always championing the rights of the poor.
The close association between the people and the land is an important theme in Memed, My Hawk. Most of the characters are tenant farmers whose survival depends on the fickle weather, the quality of the land, and the caprices of the landowners. The farmers are slaves to the aghas...
(The entire section is 749 words.)