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
Translator – Ekin Oklap