A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk


Well for the 600th book to be reviewed on the blog it is fitting that it is a translated novel by a Nobel winner. I have reviewed Orhan Pamuk twice before on the blog silent house and the museum of innocence , I have also read snow , my name is read and The white castle before I started blogging, its fair to say Orhan Pamuk is one of those Nobel winners that fit into the writes good not great books I have loved every book by him I have read. This is maybe his grandest book as it tackles Four decades of Istanbul life. Writers and their cities Joyce with Dublin , Doblin in Berlin and Pamuk with Istanbul. This time he has seen the city through one man and the extended network he has.

This is the story of the life and daydreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of Boza and yoghurt. Born in 1957 on the western edge of Asia, in a poor village overlooking a hazy lake in central Anatolia, he came to Istanbul at the age of twelve, living there, in the capital of the world, for the rest of his life. When he was twenty-five, he returned to the province of his birth, where he eloped with a village girl.

The intro Mevlut (the del boy of Turkey) goes to town only to return for his girl.

THe main character in A strangeness in mind is Mevlut, he like many of his generation was drawn to the ever-expanding Istanbul. Like many a young man well he was twelve at the time in search of money and a new life. Of course like many broken dreams Mevlut never quite get where he wants, he is rather like a Turkish Del boy in that way he tries different jobs Selling yoghurt, guarding a car park and always drawn back to selling the Boza in the evenings as he tries to escape the world he is in.

Following months of endless debate, they decide that these letters should be based not on Mevlut’s notions about women but rather on what he knew about Rayiha in particular. Since the only aspect of Rayiha known to Mevlut was her eyes, logic dictated that they should be the focus of the letters .

Mevlut meets her and then in a chater we find out how he started writing love letters to her .

Add to this the love affair between Mevlut and Rayiha, part of the novel is formed of the love letters he sends her back to the village they come from, eventually after a few years she comes and joins him and they are married have kids but their life is tough hence the roles of second jobs Mevlut has to have to make ends meet during the book. As he struggles to fill the role of man of the house that is expected of him.As he says maybe he has a strangeness in my mind , he is a daydreamer!

Through all this feverish activity, the authorities could still send the gendarmes to a hastily built home and knock it down whenever they felt like it or found it politically expedient to do so. The keywas to finish building the house and start living in it as soon as possible. If a house had occupants, it could not be demolished without a warrant, and this could take time to obtain. As soon as they had chance anyone who claimed a plot of land on a hill would , provided they had any sense, recruit their friends and family to help them put up four walls over night then move in immediately so that the demolition crews couldn’t touch them next day.

The slums grow and are knocked down if you aren’t clever enough to claim your spot .

THen the third main character in the book is the background that is the city ever shifting from the early days when he arrives we see how the city grows but like an unruly plant has to be tend and cut back and the parts that are cut back are the parts of the city that Mevlut and his friends live in the slums. Filled with the little people who keep this huge city running and the people who live their in the background , the sellers , the guards , the cleaners the once that never get really notice. The ones that are drawn their by dreams and eventually like where they live crumbled in their dreams.

A huge novel in scope this is maybe  his most ambitious novel. As he takes an almost Dickensian look at the city he so loves and those that are on its underbelly. The inner working those we know but don’t always see the Mevlut yes he is like Del Boy dreams of that one big break but we know in our heart it will never come.I said the other day maybe writers don’t write their best books after winning the big prize. But possibly Pamuk is bucking that trend.

A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish fiction

Translator – Ekin Oklap


30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 11:15:00

    Congratulations, Stu! 600 reviews is a mighty contribution to translated fiction and your archive is a great achievement:)
    I love Pamuk. I haven’t bought this one yet, but I will as soon as I make my next trip to a bookshop.


  2. Tony
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 11:33:20

    Definitely a writer I need to try again – this one really seems to have slipped under my radar…


  3. N@ncy
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 11:35:17

    Still to read my first Pamuk, I haven’t decided which book to start with.
    Enjoyed your review!


  4. whisperinggums
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 12:22:36

    600 reviews. Good for you Stu. I saw this in the shop the other day and was very tempted. I must say that I really couldn’t get into My name is red, but I liked Snow a lot, and I adored Istanbul. Both those books have left a lasting impression on me.


  5. MarinaSofia
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 12:53:38

    I’ve read and liked My Name Is Red, The Museum of Innocence and Istanbul, although I find I cannot read too much of him in one go. It’s almost like overdosing on cake – too rich for my stomach. I really want to read Snow – sounds like my kind of novel, but this sounds rather tempting too.


  6. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 15:21:35

    Well done Stu – amazing achievement!


  7. Melissa Beck
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 16:30:05

    Congrats on 600 Reviews, Stu!!


  8. Tom Cunliffe
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 17:30:12

    This is a very good review Stu which gives me a great idea of the book. Congratulations on your 600th post – what an achievement


  9. SpaceCadet
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 19:25:06

    Here’s an interview with Mister Pamuk about his latest: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06d29br


  10. Jenny Ackland
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 23:50:51

    I loved Strangeness, wonderful novel. For people who struggled with Red and Black Book, Snow is much more accessible, also Museum of Innocence, and a lesser-known Silent House. Wonderful family story.


  11. roughghosts
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 00:09:51

    Congratulations on #600 Stu! I am so impressed with the changes in your reviewing style lately, you really give a good solid sense of the books you write about (not that I do not enjoy looking back to see what you have read over the years – such a valuable resource). Pamuk was one of the first translated writers I read obsessively. This does sound good, though I think I will wait for paperback!


  12. biblioglobal
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 04:45:24

    I heard Orhan Pamuk being interviewed about this book on the radio and it sounded like maybe he thought it was best too. He also said that the love story in it was much more about a relationship developing rather than about an initial passion like in his earlier books. I thought that sounded appealing.


  13. 1streading
    Dec 11, 2015 @ 20:30:43

    Congratulations of 600 reviews! Glad to see you praising this. I loved Snow and My Name is Red and even the early novel Silent House, but I found The Museum of Innocence to be one of the most disappointing and tedious reads I’ve encountered. The size of this made me fear more of the same, but I may now check it out.


    • Bellezza
      Mar 29, 2016 @ 19:28:19

      Yes, I found the same thing about The Museum of Innocence. I finally abandoned it when I was 3/4 of the way through. Even A Strangeness in My Mind seemed longer than what may have been necessary…


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  17. Bellezza
    Mar 29, 2016 @ 19:26:53

    I like how you say it is Dickens-like in its scope, and that the reader senses Mevlut will not get what he yearns for in terms of a successful business. But, above all to me it is a love story, and in that respect I feel that he did get even more than he had bargained for.


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December 2015


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