Finished Reading ‘A Strangeness in My Mind’ by Orhan Pamuk

This book is the best I had ever read, and highly recommend it.

I have finished reading the book ‘A Strangeness in My Mind’ by Orhan Pamuk.  It is a very long book, 734 pages! I was a bit intimidated and hesitated, since it is the first book  that I read of  Pamuk, that I may not enjoy or able to finish it.  The first 30 pages or so is a bit hard read, because it is hard to keep track of who is who, where is what, even with the help of the family tree in the first page.  But once passed that, the story follows naturally, well told and written ! It’s hard to keep the book down! I couldn’t resist the urge to keep reading till the next page to find out what happens next to Mevlut (the main protagonist)  or his left wing cousins or his right wing friend Ferhat.

The book is about the life an ordinary street food (Boza)  seller Mevlut in Istanbul from 1969 to 2012.  He comes to Istanbul in 1969 as a teenager, from a small conservative village called Cennetpinar (could it be the actual town Doğanhisar?) , in Beyşehir district, Konya. He learns selling the street food from his father, after school in evenings and on weekends.  He becomes really good at that and are also proud of himself to the degree that at the end of the book he declares : I sell Boza until the day the world ends!

The book details a mundane life, but in a very elegant and capturing way so that by the end of the book I feel like I know most of the characters of the book in person.  This book has captivating events as well as intriguing persons, and the writing is like story-telling, easy to read and follow, but at the same time has some very beautifully written & though provoking words.  Here are some of them, excerpted from the book.

  1. Mevlut worried constantly about where to sit in the classroom. The inner turmoil he endured while grappling with this question was as intense as the ancient philosophers’ worries over how to live a moral life.
  2. If you don’t make your intentions clear, you will never find your kismet here.
  3. In a city, you can be alone in a crowd, and in fact what makes the city a city is that it lets you hide the strangeness in your mind inside its teeming multitudes.
  4. The future of a society was not determined by the traits its members shared but rested entirely on their differences.
  5. But every time his desires announced themselves in fleshly form, they were both overcome with embarrassment.
  6. Love is a disease, and marriage is the only cure. But it is a cure you may regret, for it is like having to take awful quinine for the rest of your life even after your typhoid fever is cured.
  7. He would discover the world within his soul reflected in the shadows of the city.
  8. The streets taught him that past the age of thirty a man was always a lone wolf. If he was lucky, he might have a female wolf beside him. Of course, the only antidote to the loneliness of the streets is the streets themselves.
  9. Mevlut had never paid the state any taxes. In return, they had taken his white rice cart and destroyed it.
  10. The ability to forget depends on the purity of the believers heart, the sincerity of his intentions, and the strength of his will.
  11. I looked at him so I could cut across his path like a bandit and steal his heart away, so that he could be struck by the force of my gaze. I looked at him so that he could see his reflection in the mirror of my heart.
  12. They bade each other an awkward farewell from a respectable distance, but both their faces betrayed their satisfaction at having been able to arrange a meeting.

 

A few minor comments and thoughts:

in pages 265-266, there is a scene where Mevlut buys a water melon. A whole 6 lines of description of an ant on the water melon he tries to buy.  Why? It feels like over described a bit, and feels like odd to me.

In the book, there are lots of description of old buildings, restaurants,and other establishments that, most if not all, are depicted to belong to some Armenians or Greeks, who had to abandon them during political turmoils and unrest.  And even an old church are discovered during construction.  I do understand that, historically, there were considerably number of Armenians and Greeks in Istanbul, the depictions feels like the author is trying to put some stuff that appeals to western readers.

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