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The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) [Hardcover]

Orhan Pamuk , Nazim Dikbas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 4, 2010 0674050762 978-0674050761 First Edition

What happens within us when we read a novel? And how does a novel create its unique effects, so distinct from those of a painting, a film, or a poem? In this inspired, thoughtful, deeply personal book, Orhan Pamuk takes us into the worlds of the writer and the reader, revealing their intimate connections.

Pamuk draws on Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between “naive” poets—who write spontaneously, serenely, unselfconsciously—and “sentimental” poets: those who are reflective, emotional, questioning, and alive to the artifice of the written word. Harking back to the beloved novels of his youth and ranging through the work of such writers as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust, Mann, and Naipaul, he explores the oscillation between the naive and the reflective, and the search for an equilibrium, that lie at the center of the novelist’s craft. He ponders the novel’s visual and sensual power—its ability to conjure landscapes so vivid they can make the here-and-now fade away. In the course of this exploration, he considers the elements of character, plot, time, and setting that compose the “sweet illusion” of the fictional world.

Anyone who has known the pleasure of becoming immersed in a novel will enjoy, and learn from, this perceptive book by one of the modern masters of the art.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Taking his title and inspiration from Schiller's "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry," Nobel Prize–winning Turkish novelist Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence) dissects what happens when we read a novel. Making a distinction between naïve novelists, "unaware" of the novel's artificiality, and "sentimental" novelists (and readers) at the opposite end, who are "reflective," Pamuk is most interested in the "secret center" of literary novels, which is the wisdom they impart. Pamuk brings to the table firsthand knowledge regarding the centrality of character in the novel and how the novelist actually becomes the hero in the very act of writing. Readers, in their own symbiotic act of imagination, also inhabit the hero's character. And through that sense of identification with the hero's decisions and choices, Pamuk says, we learn that we can influence events. Reading novels in his youth, he writes, "I felt a breathtaking sense of freedom and self-confidence." Based on Pamuk's Norton Lectures, the book has some inevitable repetition, but is a passionate amalgam of wonder and analysis. (Nov.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

Taking his title and inspiration from Schiller's On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, Nobel Prize–winning Turkish novelist Pamuk dissects what happens when we read a novel. Making a distinction between naïve novelists, "unaware" of the novel's artificiality, and "sentimental" novelists (and readers) at the opposite end, who are "reflective," Pamuk is most interested in the "secret center" of literary novels, which is the wisdom they impart. Pamuk brings to the table firsthand knowledge regarding the centrality of character in the novel and how the novelist actually becomes the hero in the very act of writing. Readers, in their own symbiotic act of imagination, also inhabit the hero's character. And through that sense of identification with the hero's decisions and choices, Pamuk says, we learn that we can influence events...[The book] is a passionate amalgam of wonder and analysis. (Publishers Weekly 2010-10-04)

Pamuk offers a striking interpretation of what goes on in the novelist's mind...In Pamuk's theory, the writing and reading of novels is one of humanity's great acts of optimism. This is what is meant by novelists and readers identifying with characters. To an extent that few other novelists can match, Pamuk is both a naive and sentimental novelist--and he desires readers who are the same way. (Anis Shivani Austin American-Statesman 2010-10-30)

Anyone who has read Pamuk's exquisite fiction will be interested in these essays on reading and the art of the novel. (William Kist Cleveland Plain Dealer 2010-12-11)

The power of Pamuk's short book lies less in his theorizing about the novel than in his professions of faith in it...Pamuk still believes that creating worlds is the novelist's real task and exploring them the best reason for reading fiction...To read in this way--almost desperately, in search of the wisdom and aid we need to navigate our own lives--often seems like a dying discipline. Pamuk's book is a reminder that, without this almost metaphysical faith, great fiction can't be truly appreciated or written. (Adam Kirsch Bookforum 2010-12-01)

A slender, strikingly handsome volume...Pamuk's nonfiction voice matches the narrating voice of his novels--grave, thoughtful, wry...His painstaking love for literature prevails. (Joan Frank San Francisco Chronicle 2010-12-12)

Pamuk's lectures are perhaps best read as a string of brilliant aperçus rather than a systematic text on the art of writing (or reading) the novel. Though respectful of past masters, Pamuk takes exception with many of their conclusions, particularly Aspects of the Novel in which E.M. Forster posits the centrality of character. Instead, argues Pamuk, it is the world in which the protagonist moves that propels the novel: this interaction draws in the reader, who finds the novel emotively true even while knowing it is fiction. Pamuk draws on his own experience as a non-Western reader of Western novels and as a writer. Pamuk does not disappoint. (David Keymer Library Journal 2010-12-01)

Supple and brilliant...One of the more formidable attempts by a practitioner to articulate a theory of the novel since E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel...This is an eccentric, sometimes almost solipsistic book about the novel, but it has such a dynamic sense of the life of fiction, and the way the novel makes us see the world, that it will be treasured by readers and writers. (Peter Craven Australian Literary Review 2011-03-01)

Engaging, brilliant...Pamuk's The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist is charming, self-regarding, [and] dreamy. (Janet Todd The Guardian 2011-03-12)

Pamuk goes to the heart of what a novel is, how he and others write them, and how readers read them. Anyone interested in the humanities should read this book. (W. L. Hanaway Choice 2011-05-01)

[This] recent collection of essays are the work of a writer at the height of his career. (Thomas Patrick Wisniewski World Literature Today 2011-05-01)

Product Details

  • Series: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Book 1970)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (October 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050761
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,055,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Orhan Pamuk, described as 'one of the freshest, most original voices in contemporary fiction' (Independent on Sunday), is the author of many books, including The White Castle, The Black Book and The New Life. In 2003 he won the International IMPAC Award for My Name is Red, and in 2004 Faber published the translation of his novel Snow, which The Times described as 'a novel of profound relevance to the present moment'. His most recent book was Istanbul, described by Jan Morris as 'irresistibly seductive'. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. He lives in Istanbul.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. October 2, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've written seven novels and I teach creative writing, so I am always interested in what writers have to say about the art of fiction. I am also a pretty demanding reader of such thoughts. Pamuk's book is consistently fascinating, even when I disagree with his assertions that all novelists work in a certain way. He is particularly strong on what happens in the reader's mind while reading a novel, and on what he calls "the secret center" of a novel -- an attribute that I believe any writer or devoted reader will recognize. Pamuk argues that it is the hope of finding this secret center that drives both writing and reading, and I think he's absolutely right.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves novels, and especially to anyone who writes fiction, or hopes to write fiction. If more academic discourse about literature were grounded in this kind of thinking about how the art work works, the discipline called "English" would get back in touch with what made us love this stuff in the first place.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nobelist's meditations on the art of the novel October 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 and he was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 2009. This book consists of those lectures - six chapters (or lectures), with an epilogue.

The title is unfortunate and a little misleading. It is drawn from a famous essay by Friedrich Schiller, "Uber naive and sentimentalische Dichtung", conventionally translated as "On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry" - even though the principal connotation of "sentimentalisch" in German is different than "sentimental" in English. Schiller posited two types of poets and, following his example, Pamuk refers to two models of novelist and reader - which I will reformulate as the "uncritical" and the "critical". I found most of Pamuk's discussion of the "naïve" and the "sentimental" (or "reflective") not very useful, and I believe he should have abandoned that vehicle and that title. (But then these were lectures at HARVARD.)

What the book really consists of are Pamuk's meditations on the art of the novel, comprising "all the most important things I know and have learned about the novel." Pamuk sets as his main goal "to explore the effects that novels have on their readers, how novelists work, and how novels are written." Pamuk certainly is well qualified to speak on that subject (in addition to having won the Nobel, he teaches comparative literature and writing at Columbia). Further, his perspective is rather unusual, being a self-taught novelist from a Turkish culture with a fairly weak tradition of writing and reading books.

Although the presentation is relatively informal and conversational, the book retains a whiff of the dry and academic Harvard lecture hall.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Naive and Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk February 5, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This brief, thoroughly interesting collection of Harvard lectures is a rare insight into one of the world's great writer's feelings about his craft. Anyone who has read Pamuk's novels understands his command of language, the pictures he puts in your mind, how deeply he writes his characters, and the episodic way he advances the plot. Here, Pamuk describes how everything is intentioned that way, for the novel is an intense creation intended to be told in a certain way, revealing it's secret center to the reader that is both artistic and analogous to the complexities of life. This theme is discussed throughout the lectures, all autonomous but tied together through a shared fascination of the writing process. The continual mention of a scene in Anna Karenina is a clever framing device, and in it's example of a profound train ride Pamuk branches off to describe how he goes about working such a transitory profession. The book is always stimulating and conversational, worth many rereadings to get all the hidden gems Pamuk puts throughout. Amust for Pamuk or literary theory fans.
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4.0 out of 5 stars writing as a spiritual act September 16, 2013
By JFL
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good if somewhat personal insight into the novel. I particularly like his view that writing is a spiritual act.
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4 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some people live, others talk about life... December 7, 2010
Format:Hardcover
"In contrast, throughout the poorer, non-Western parts of the world (including my homeland, Turkey), the issue of whom and what to represent can be a nightmare for literature and for novelists."

I find this quote quite disrespectful to the myriad Turkish novelists from different backgrounds and of different political views, that have been writing about anything and everything for such a long time. Many great novelists reflected and influenced public opinion before his time. Quotes such as this make me question Mr.Pamuk's competency in evaluating literature, let alone anything else.

He seems too inclined to win Western favour by subscribing to Orientalism and exhibiting his own country as less than what it is. There seems to emerge a pattern among some Nobel winners related to this.

I have read his work in his native language and I have found it inferior to, say, Yasar Kemal's work. Orhan Pamuk's narrative is too contrived, too dry, too distant from real life and real people. I think I can live without his views on literature.
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