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(12/14/2007) Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal. New York. 1961. Pantheon Books. Translated From The Turkish By Eduoard Roditi. keywords: Literature Translated Turkey. 371 pages. Jacket design by Richard Powers.

A tale of injustice and revenge from the Turkish master. If you like this book, be sure to read the sequel, THEY BURN THE THISTLES.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This stirring epic of modern Turkey-a tempestuous, romantic tale of rebellion against a still-existing feudal world-is told with the simplicity and awesome sweep of the great folk legends. The hero of the tale is Ince Memed, rebel, brigand, and adventurer. Born in a small village in the Taurus Mountains, where the peasants struggle in servitude to a rich Agha or lord, Memed as a boy tries to escape the hard life in the thistle-choked fields but is brought back to an existence even crueller in hardship than before. Years later he tries to escape again, this time with his lovely childhood sweetheart, Hatche, whom he wants to marry but who has been promised to the nephew of the Agha. The lovers are pursued, Memed kills the nephew and escapes, but Hatche is caught and thrown into prison. Memed now takes to the mountains and soon becomes the most famous bandit throughout the Taurus, helper of the poor and scourge of their oppressors. His chief goals, however, remain: to free Hatche from prison and to settle accounts with the Agha. The story of these exploits in the wild mountains and the wretched villages of the Taurus, peopled by poor farmers, strange and courageous outlaws, intriguing nomads-all under the shadow of the cruel and grasping Agha-rises to true epic proportions as Memed, the protector, the hawk, becomes the renowned avenger of his people.

YASHAR KEMAL himself has become something of a legendary figure in Turkey, where his great novel won for him Turkey’s first literary prize in 1956 and has been read by an unprecedented number of people among a population that is still largely illiterate. He was born in 1922 in a village in Southern Anatolia. At the age of five he witnessed the brutal murder of his father, who was kneeling beside him in prayer in a mosque. The shock of this experience left him with a severe stutter for years. He discovered he could overcome the speech defect by singing the songs of traveling folk singers. In time he became a master of the literature of this rich tradition, and its influence can found in the haunting balladlike quality of his novel. Kemal worked in a factory to earn money for his secondary education, and later held a variety of jobs, from cotton and rice picking to writing petitions for the illiterate poor on a hard-earned typewriter. In 1951 Kemal became a reporter for the leading newspaper in Istanbul. Shortly thereafter he won the prize for the best journalism of the year, and subsequently published a volume of short stories. The publication of MEMED, MY HAWK, plus his profound interest in the pressing problems of land reform and peasant life, has made him one of the most popular and influential writers in Turkey today. His work was a notable inspiration to the group that overthrew the Menderes regime.

 

 

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