A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

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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

 

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Winston’s cover Eça de Queiroz

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Today’s cover is part of what I want do next year and that is add more Portuguese literature it is my one weak spot in Europe I haven’t read enough from here. So when I found this from what is considered the great Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz an old edition  his books are all been published by Dedalus in English he is first in a few writers I want to try from Portugal any more suggestions welcome

Winston’s covers If Orson Welles was a fan I’m sold

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I subscribe to Mubi, A movie streaming service with a new film every day to watch so when Last Monday a film from Orson welles The immortal story , a french production for tv he made in the late 1960’s. I had to watch it firstly I hadn’t seen it before but also in looking up about the production for the film Welles was a fan of the writer of the story Karen Blixen (AKA Isak Dinesen). He had planned to do a number of short stories by her but end up making just this one. So when this weekend my great luck at seee or finding a book I have just discovered  struck again when I found the collection containing the Immortal story .I had to laugh another lucky find.

Have you read Blixen/Dinesen ?

Winston’s covers – Eye catching Bird !!

Jaap robben

I love this cover, when earlier this year I got the world edition catalogue this picture was on the cover. I wasn’t even that bother by what the book was just that cover. Well I have been sent it and the book well that may be a gem it won the Dutch bookseller prize getting a quarter of the vote of the 117 books up for the prize. The book follows a mother and son relationship, they live on a small island between Scotland and Norway , Mikeal whose  father has disappeared whilst out on the sea. This follows His  and his mother’s life just after that has happened. I just think if Gerbrand  Bakker said “Beautiful Just beautiful ” about this book it has to be worth reading!!!

Death by water by kenzaburo Oe

 

death by water by kenzaburo OeDeath by water , is meant to be the last novel  by the nobel winning writer . I have reviewed him once before on the blog his book personnel matter , a story of a father and his disabled child. Here we see a son trying to work out who his father was, whilst dealing with his own writers block.The book is driven by kogito Choko the main character in the book , he is a nobel winning writer, but is suffering from writers block at the moment. He is trying to write about his relationship with his father.Then he is given the chance to get a glimpse into his father as his sister offers him, their fathers red trunk which inside may contain the answers Kogito Choko is looking for .An insight into the drowned father he never really knew.This along side a theme of the writer himself and his disabled son . Then an avant-garde Theater group doing his works.What we have is a novel about legacy. There is a red trunk of his fathers things he has to open to find out about him and the drowning in 1945, also this may help his writers block on The drowning novel.

Nevertheless, I did make a stab at writing the drowning novel once, when I was in my midthrities. I had already published The silent cry, which seemed to prove that I had attained a certain degree of proficiency, and that accomplishment gave me the confidence to dive in at last.

I dashed off a rough prologue and sent it along with a number of related notes to my sixtysomething mother, who was living in the forest of Shikoku where I grew up. I enclosed a letter saying that in order to continue working on this book, which would focus on my father.

Choko had tried this his legacy book once before .

Oe has tackled a number of  great storylines here in this novel,  writers block especially after winning a big prize it is noted by this reader that kogito is a Nobel winner, for me I often feel writers have  struggled, after winning the big one whether it is the Nobel prize or even the booker, ask yourself which booker winner has written a book better than the one that won the prize(barring Mantel which is an actually a parts one and two of a trilogy ) same for Nobel winners , so kogito struggle with writer’s block is so much the story of writer wrestling to find a the story in this case a father son relationship , but also feel as thou he is breaking new ground. But as I say Legacy overhangs this will this book the drowned novel as it is called be his defining work as he wants it to be the key to his life?

Anyway in the rough draft of the prologue to the drowning novel, I wrote about something that had happened in 1945 – an incident that, at the time I had been dreaming about on a regular basis

Choko had dreamed since writing the piece in his midthrities of writing the drowned novel about his father but had got stuck.

Then there is the second story thread in the book at the most important one in this reviewers opinion the father son relationship , the motif of the missing father has long been a story in books and films. From Freud with his father complex  through Lacan talking of absent fathers.The going of rails absent father kids like Sebastian in Brideshead , to the kids that try to prove the absent father wrong. Then there is also the juxtaposed relationship of him and his son disabled like Oe’s own son. Is the trunk a metaphor for his father but also his son the case containing a legacy his fathers but also maybe he has his own trunk that he has to leave for his son.

“There work they’re doing is very post modern” Asa explained “Needless to say, their choice of a retro-sounding name was completely intentional. They borrowed their stage names. Suke and kaku from a couple of raffish sidekicks in the period drams Mito Komon, which had been running on television since these two first opened their eyes as infants.”

“sometimes fans of Suke &Kaku’s postmodern skits will come to a public performance by the caveman group and they’ll laugh uproariously at all the wrong places ” masso said wryly “It can be quite unnerving for everyone concerned – not just the actors but the rest of the audience as well ”

THe caveman group tackle Choko works in a fresh postmodern way .

Then there is the Legacy of a writers work. We see through Choko working with the avant-garde stage group the Caveman group, they have been staging his works. This is a way of him making a legacy but also the strange way they do his works may link him to his son thus forming a Legacy with him. I really connected with this novel a touching end of career novel from a great writer, thinking of his life but also his past present and future!! Beautifully translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm whether this is Oe last novel it is a great insight into the writers struggle when writing but also dealing with their own lives.

Japanese fiction

Translation – Deborah Boliver Boehm

Source – review copy

 

Winston’s covers Greenland to Iceland Via The congo

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

Some books in the post before my next review , first up is a huge epic from Atlantic The prophets of eternal Fjord  by Kim Leine , A Danish novel following a priest sent to Greenland to convert the locals but he finds they have their own settlement at the Eternal Fjord on his arrival. An interesting book I know little about Danish history and very little about their time on Greenland so be a chance to learn some more.

tram 83

Now this is one that has been on my radar for a while Tram 83 came out earlier in the year in America , set in a war-torn city it follows the locals , students and ex-pats as they spend their evenings in the only night club in the town Tram 83. One that I had want to read for a while so great it is being published here by Jacaranda books, the publisher that  does mainly African fiction.

snow and night blind

The there is the second in the dark Iceland series, a series following Ari Thor Aarson a young detective sent to a small northern town , in the first he has to deal with the death of an elderly writer and this Night blind his second book follows him investigating the death of a well liked policeman. Ragnar Jonasson has translated Agatha Christie into Icelandic, sure some of her writing skills have rub off on him whilst he translated her books.

What have you had arrived recently ?

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