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on 17 March 2002
"Memed, My Hawk" was written in 1955 by Yashar Kemal,who is described in the Foreword as Turkey's most influential living writer. He was born in Chukurova,Turkey where this book is set. He became a journalist after a period as a public letter-writer and was an active member of the banned Workers' Party. These aspects of his life are reflected in the novel.
The hero is Memed, who we meet as a small boy on the run from his village, which is owned by the cruel Abdi Agha. Memed helps to support his mother by ploughing and planting their field, the crops from which are taken by the Agha, who leaves them with barely enough to live on. The story then jumps to Memed's late adolescence and his love affair with Hatche. Events and the Agha conspire against them and, ultimately, Memed becomes a bandit. He seeks revenge on the Agha and to rescue Hatche in that order.
It is difficult to review this story without giving too much away. Memed is a Turkish Robin Hood and has many exciting adventures. The story is unsophisticated, dealing with complex issues such as loyalty, courage, honour, birth and death in a particularly straightforward way. Major life decisions are made without any agonising over consequences. The villagers support anyone who serves their best interests-their loyalty is ever-wavering. Memed understands this and never condemns them.
Memed makes many mistakes. He is often naive, never a super-hero, and this makes him a charming character. He is a great warrior who takes part in activities that are unworthy of him. For example he joins forces with a bandit who is well known, not only for robbing people of their valuables, but also of their underwear! Memed stands by while this goes on. He doesn't like what he sees but accepts that there is little that he can do to change things.
The female characters are less impressive. Hatche is generally peevish and weak. The strongest female character is Iraz, who behaves like a man, a warrior. The development of these women demonstrates a strength in the writing-the women are as they are without being irritating. I accepted that this was their true state-within this society at this time they were powerless-and there was no pretence at making them any more than chattels of the men. However the male villagers too are owned by their local Agha, who in turn is managed by a more powerful bandit. There is a strong sense of hierarchy in the story. I felt the criticism of the system by the author without being preached at.
The story moves along very quickly. The language is poetic and colourful. The characters are easy to visualise and the descriptions come alive-I could almost smell the smoke of the campfires. The chapters are quite short, making for great bedtime reading. I can highly recommend the book-this is a very seductive tale.
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on 22 July 2013
I am amazed there aren't any reviews of this book, which is a classic and is on the Guardian's list of top 10 Turkish novels.

Initially I really didn't want to read this book, which I was given by some friends in Istanbul. It looked old fashioned and boring but my friends are modern and interesting and they said it was great, so I felt obliged to give it a go. It was slow to start and initially seemed a bit depressing. It is the story of Memed, a young man who is brutally exploited by his Agha, or landlord.

Memed and the Agha fall out, fight and repeateady try and kill each other. There is a girl involved, of course, but it's beautifully written and not at all sentimental. I can't read sentimental books. This book reads like it's been written by one of the ancients, but with the modern sense of drama and narrative drive. It's incredible.

What starts out as a rather languid tale of exploitation in ancient Turkey becomes an exciting thriller. Memed becomes a brigand, living in the mountains, and the Agha gets other brigands, and the police, to hunt him down. But catching him is not easy, he's as evasive as a hawk. Their conflict keeps escalating and the author gives glimpses into the political scene of the day.

If you only ever read one book by a Turkish author, make sure it's this one.
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on 13 September 2007
This novel is now almost 50 years old yet it remains one of the best and most famous in modern Turkish literature. A very readable and exciting tale of adventure on one level. On another - well, you may want to make the comparisons yourself. Not necessarily Kemal's best book, but easily his most influential. Orhan Pamuk is indebted to him, as well as a panoply of other writers, English and American included - though they would not acknowledge this.
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on 13 March 2015
An extraordinary masterpiece.

If ever an author should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was Yashar Kemal.

But, after all, the Nobel committee ignored Thomas Hardy, Chekhov, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Henrik Ibsen, Tolstoy - to name only a few.

A roll of honour - Yashar Kemal deserves his place on it.
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on 16 August 2008
I felt compelled to write something as I was astonished at all the great reviews for this book. It is an enjoyable tale in the Robin Hood style and I suspect that it reads better in Turkish than it does in English but it is also simple and to me, not particularly unusual or interesting in style and content. I admit that it is several years since I read this book and relatively little has remained in my memory which merely tells me that it was not one of the great books I have read and no-where near the 5* ratings it has had. However, as I say, I did make it to the end of the book and as I was shortly to visit Turkey found it interesting.

British readers may want to know why on earth Turkish outlaws wore red Fez's in the woods - seems to make them instantaneous target practice - I certainly did. I found out when I was in Turkey - Attaturk outlawed the wearing of Fez's around this time thus they became the outlaws' headgear of choice.
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on 22 April 2007
Bountifully pictures a young adventurous, high spirited and kind-hearted person with a principle in a cruel difficult environment. The writer successfully convey the massage he describe it in its new introduction even much more Valuable objectives.
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