Review The Black Book By Orhan Pamuk

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Content Summary

In this review, after briefly touching on Orhan Pamuk‘s life story, we will give a summary of the Black Book, evaluate the novel and discuss the topic of the Black Book.

The Black Book Price Comparison

AmazonKnopf PublishingERROR
Amazon (Kindle)Knopf Publishing$34.78
Barnes and NobleKnopf Publishing$18.00 

Who is Orhan Pamuk?

While Orhan Pamuk was immersed in his novel works.

While Orhan Pamuk was immersed in his novel works.

Orhan Pamuk, who was born in Istanbul as a child of a wealthy family in 1952, had the chance to devote his life to literature with the effect of the prosperity he was born into. These moments, when history is matched with luck, draw my attention, dear reader. Such examples, where fortune meets with talent in life, albeit rarely, lead to successful works. To see similar examples, you can read Stefan Zweig’s Shooting Stars.

Let’s get to Orhan Pamuk. Orhan Pamuk, who published his first novel in 1979, won the first place in the Milliyet Novel competition with this novel. He then received the Orhan Kemal Novel Award for his novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons. You know, you can understand the arrival of the storyteller in Turkey from the Sait Faik Story Award, and the arrival of the novelist from the Orhan Kemal Novel Award.

Orhan Pamuk does not make these events unfair, and he becomes a person whose name will be heard a lot in the history of world literature with the novels that will leave their mark on the coming years. With the important awards he has received in America, France and Ireland, he becomes one of the most well-known and prestigious writers of contemporary Turkish writing.

However, especially in his novel Snow and in an interview he gave in 2005 to a Swiss magazine, “30 thousand Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in this Turkey.” Because of his sentence, he is in the middle of serious political debates and a lawsuit is filed under 301(Insulting Turkishness) of the Turckish Criminal Code. One year after this event, he became the first Turkish person to receive the Nobel Prize in 2006 and reads his award speech, which he called My Father’s Suitcase, in Turkish to the whole world. This award, which Orhan Pamuk received, brings with it a lot of controversy.

The writer, who started his life with the luck brought by prosperity and literary interest, is unfortunate: When he received the Nobel prize a year after his statements, which were met with criticism in Turkey, he was criticized by some Turkish and western intellectuals for claiming that the award was political.

If you ask me, there is both a political and a non-political situation here. The Nobel Prize is not only awarded politically, yes. But for example, if there is an Afghan activist woman novelist and a French intellectual in front of the committee on the same dates, the committee prefers to award the Afghan activist woman directly. It’s a choice. Its accuracy is debatable. The Afghan woman writer does not receive the award because she is unqualified, on the contrary, she is as talented as the French, but I think it creates an additional effect in giving this award. I think that Orhan Pamuk’s receiving this award was influenced by the fact that Turkey displayed an inadequate appearance in the field of freedom of thought compared to the western world.

The Novels of Orhan Pamuk

Before moving on to the review of the Black Book, it is necessary to touch on the discussions about his other books. Some critics state that Orhan Pamuk’s novels are technically very successful and he is very meticulous. They are right, but Tahsin Yücel, who has proved with evidence that he has an inadequate appearance in using Turkish, is also right. You can access Tahsin Yücel’s article on the Black Book by clicking the On Black Book link.

Murat Bardakçı’s claims that he was heavily inspired by old Turkish literature with his evidence are not groundless or foreign claims, and they all have a grain of truth. However, if we think independently of all these, Orhan Pamuk is an important writer of this country, as many of the critics admit.

It is one of the ironic situations of this country that a Turkish writer who won a Nobel Prize is not liked by the Nationalists. Why ironic? Many Nobel laureate writers of different nationalities are respected as a nation’s creation, even if they have opposing or even separatist ideas. However, in Turkey, Orhan Pamuk, whether he wanted it or not, could not avoid being subjected to constant negative criticism by both the government and the opposition due to his political position.

Orhan Pamuk is an attentive writer. He works for years before putting out his novels, so he publishes a novel every four or five years. However, besides this care, it is also productive. It is possible to see the books published in English below, in chronological order:

  • The White castle
  • The Black Book
  • The New Life
  • My Name is Red
  • Snow
  • The Museum of Innocence
  • Silent House
  • A Strangeness in My Mind
  • The Red-Haired Woman

Summary Of The Black Book

The summary of the Black Book, which, like his other works, has caused much controversy, is roughly as follows: Galip, a relative of the famous columnist Celal Salik, goes out in search of his wife in the streets of Istanbul after his wife leaves home. During this quest, Galip took his head full of Celal Salik’s writings to various places in Istanbul like in a dream. This enabled the author to paint a period portrait full of details that the reader does not know which clue to follow.

The cover of the Black Book from Yapı Kredi Publications

The cover of the Black Book from Yapı Kredi Publications

At the end of the novel, Galip, at the end of his search, found what he was looking for according to some interpretations, but could not find it according to others, but eventually completed his personal story by changing.

The Topic Of The Black Book

The Black Book has similar features to a period novel in terms of its subject matter. However, it differs from other period novels with its multi-layered structure and flawless technique in storytelling. The author approached the idea of not being himself, the east-west conflict from a different point of view than his contemporaries, through a character who actually found himself while searching for his wife and Celal, and managed to transform this conflict into a literary and aesthetic quality by saving his thought from being a thesis novel.

The Black Book progresses in the form of sections in which a story is told and there are also columns in the newspaper. These columns, which are included in the work that frequently refer to the Hurufism element, directly affect the flow of the story and carry invisible clues about what will happen in the future.

The intervening columns revive the reader’s curiosity about how the story will continue, and the section in which John Steinbeck tells a period in The Grapes of Wrath bears a similarity to the fictional part of the story.

The Black Book’s Quotes

We will see in The Black Book quotes section that Orhan Pamuk is a great reader. He also made frequent references to the texts he read in his novel.

After us, Sherlock Holmes would have followed the best trail, then Bekos Bill’s friend White Feather, then İnce Memed’s enemy Topal Ali. Reader, are you watching my letters too?”- Page 303

Some give more space to the content of what they read:

Why does a man in tears alarm us? We can see a crying woman as an extraordinary but emotional and pathetic part of our daily life, and we embrace her with sincerity and love. A crying man fills us with a sense of helplessness. Just like the end of the world, this man has either come to the end of what can be done – as in the death of a loved one – or there is something in his world that does not match ours; an unsettling, even terrifying side. We all know the surprise and horror of coming across a country we don’t know on the map we call the face and think we know. In this regard, VI of Naima’s History. I came across a story told on the skin and in Mehmet Khalifa’s Historical Gılmani, in the History of Executioners of Kadri of Edirne. – Page 258.

There are passages in the Black Book that exemplify the East-West conflict from his own country:

“Listen then. I decided that the truth that you’ve been chasing us for years for cannabis is this; As you know without knowing, as you wrote without understanding: No one can be himself in this country! To exist in the land of losers and losers is to be someone else. I’m someone else, then I’m in! What about that other person I’m dying to be in his place, why not someone else?” – Page 351

Kitapyorumlardaki kafamda bir tuhaflık metnine ve reviews ofbooktaki stranegeness in my minddaki yazıya kara kitap ve black book linklerini eklemeyi unutma!

Let’s end the quotations section with the following quote, in order not to be one of the old people who live in Turkey and have not acted out of anxiety:

“We were going to fight because we were seventy-three, knowing that we’ve wasted our whole lives by turning seventy-three, as it happens to all people like us. – Page 413.

General Evaluation of The Black Book

For one thing, don’t let the number of pages of the Black Book mislead you, it fits on so many pages thanks to its low font and page layout. The novel is more voluminous than it looks.

Apart from that, there are so many details in some places in the novel, and each of these details is likely to be so meaningful that it makes you very tired while reading. For example, while I was reading, sometimes it was as if there weren’t so many details? I couldn’t help but ask. Yes, we readers, like Galip, sometimes lose our way, but I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Orhan Pamuk is in a political place for the Turkish people, whether he likes it or not.

Orhan Pamuk is in a political place for the Turkish people, whether he likes it or not.

The novel promises a very meaningful reading at the end, but I could not discover an interpretation easily found by critics, although I thought I was a good reader. I didn’t think about it because I was too tired to read it. I was both angry with myself and I could not help but wonder if the book was too closed on this subject.

I do not know. The Nobel committee was most impressed by this book, maybe I’m not a good enough reader and I’m used to reading traditional texts, but I think this much detail is a bit too much and it tires the reader, dear reader. However, it should be noted that in general, it is a unique work just because it makes these questions ask and with the opportunity to read layer by layer, it is a must-read novel for anyone who says I am interested in Turkish literature.


Review The Black Book
  • Story
  • Fiction
  • Wording
  • Atmosphere

Briefly My Opinion

Although it is fictionalized with details that will tire the reader, it is a must-read Orhan Pamuk novel as it uniquely handles the conflict between east and west and conveys the identity crisis of a society aesthetically.

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