Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Book Review: A Strangeness In My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

"There's a strangeness in my mind, no matter what I do, I feel completely alone in this world."
"What matters more in love: What we wish for or what our fate has in store? Do our choices dictate whether we will be happy or not or are these things determined by forces beyond our control?"
This decades-spanning novel focuses on a street vendor in Istanbul and members of his extended family. It is truly one of the most spellbinding reads I ever had. A heart-rending story of human love, pain, and loss. Poignant and extremely detailed in it's despcriptions. Pamuk was my introduction to Turkey and he surely knows how to rouse certain emotions in his readers through the characters and his varying points of view. I find it easy to be so immersed in his world that sometimes I'm surprised to find myself at home not in Istanbul. The city witnesses the political battles of Islamists, Nationalists and Communists, the concerns of sucularists and the struggle between those who advocate the primacy of religion and between those loyal to Ataturk and his modernist vision of Turkey. 
  "In a city, you can be alone in a crowd, and in fact what makes a city a city is that it lets you hide the strangeness in your mind inside it's teeming multitudes."
The melancholy derived from living in the shadow of a great empire, now fallen and it's effect on the people of Turkey was greatly described in this book. The descriptions were vivid, real and inviting, the family saga was fascinating and the book offered me a precious insight into a Turkish family. 
The story was mainly told via a third-person narrator, but very much from the main character's perspective. He migrated to Istanbul at the age of 12 and struggled with schooling, political activism, life in the army, and business ventures. Through his life, I could see the growth and the modernisation of Istanbul, the spiritual side of Turkey, the rise of Islamic politics, the religious and political conflicts, and the political corruption. 
Overall an enjoyable and deeply evocative novel with one of my favourite cities as a key character. The plot and the writing style are sure to keep you reading. Highly recommended.