Previously unpublished in English, the Turkish Nobel Laureate’s second novel spins characteristic themes of history and national identity outward from a three-generational domestic scenario.
This early work by Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence, 2009, etc.) is weighted toward the younger generation as it considers the complex tensions between tradition and modernism, East and West, using a collage of viewpoints, all related through blood, yet each expressive of a very different perspective. Ninety-year-old widow Fatma still lives in Cennethisar, a village that has developed into a bustling seaside resort, in the old marital home she shared with exiled doctor Selâhattin, an atheist and modernist whose passion for science inspired him to do the impossible—to write a 48-volume encyclopedia. Selâhattin drank himself to death, as did their son, Dogan, and as probably will Dogan’s historian son, Faruk, who, with his two siblings, is visiting Fatma for the summer. The family is served by Recep, a dwarf with a crippled brother, Ismail. Both are Selâhattin’s bastards, born of a servant. Ismail’s son, Hasan, is the spark in this diverse group, the aggrieved, impoverished nationalist whose fantasies of success arise from the furious hopelessness of his situation. Violence, both historic and immediate, class and politics further fracture the emblematic group.
Using a repetitive, circular, incremental technique, Pamuk builds a multifaceted panorama distinguished by his customary intellectual richness and breadth.