steppa anatolica
Photo by Norte_it [Dario J Laganà] used under a Creative Commons license.

Yashar Kemal, Memed, My Hawk (NYRB, 2005).
Writing in Salon‘s Literary Guide to the World, Michelle Goldberg recommends this 1955 novel by Kemal, a Kurdish writer:

Conservative Islam is barely a factor at all in the rural world of one of Turkey’s most famous novels, . . . [a] Robin Hood story that reads like an epic folk tale [and] . . . seems to take place far from the modern world. It’s the tale of Memed, a poor, fatherless boy, who, tormented by a sadistic feudal landlord, grows up to be a legendary brigand striving for justice and revenge. Kemal’s language immerses readers in Anatolian village life; it can be alternately sublime and cheerfully ribald. I love this offhand exchange between an innkeeper and a friendly old man:

“Loudly enough for the innkeeper to hear from where he was scurrying to and fro, the old man shouted: ‘There’s that pimp who calls himself an innkeeper. Go and tell him your troubles.’

“The innkeeper heard and laughed. ‘Listen, if you’re looking for a pimp, the real chief of all pimps is that white-beard by your side. His beard has grown white from his misdeeds!’

” ‘Look,’ said the old man, ‘you pimp-in-chief, these young men want a bed.'”

I haven’t read it, but NYRB’s imprimatur is usually a good enough reason to read a book. It is the first of four novels with Memet as a protagonist.

Here is a bio of Kemal. Here is his Wikipedia page. Perhaps this is the author’s site, or a fan’s site. Google BookSearch offers a preview. Buce says it’s the best book he’s ever read about banditry. Amitabha Mukerjee read it in one night, from midnight to seven in the morning. Jeremy Orhan Simer sees in Kemal’s prose a love for the landscape and people of the Taurus Mountains. Kemal has a fan at orbis quintus. In 1961, Time‘s reviewer says readers may forget that the action happens in the twentieth century.

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