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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
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...
Published on October 2, 2011 by Lowry C. Pei

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5 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some people live, others talk about life...
"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...
Published on December 7, 2010 by Totally Blunt


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant., October 2, 2011
By 
Lowry C. Pei (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) (Hardcover)
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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31 of 38 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
This review is from: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) (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. Still, for those interested in the novel as a form of art and communication, the book contains much of note. I did not agree with everything nor did I understand everything. It might be more rewarding to those who are familiar with Pamuk's own novels, which he discusses from time to time. Among the classic Western novels that Pamuk discusses briefly are - omitting the quotation marks around the titles -- Anna Karenina ("the greatest novel of all time"), War and Peace, The Red and the Black, Robinson Crusoe, In Search of Lost Time, The Devils, Moby-Dick, Ulysses, and The Wild Palms.

If you approach THE NAIVE AND SENTIMENTAL NOVELIST looking for a coherent theory of the novel, you are apt to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you read it for Pamuk's miscellaneous observations, you likely will find enough that is noteworthy. I will close with several related comments that were noteworthy to me.

"Literary novels persuade us to take life seriously by showing that we in fact have the power to influence events and that our personal decisions shape our lives. In closed or semi-closed societies, where individual choice is restricted, the art of the novel remains undeveloped. * * *
"Compared to writers in other countries, novelists in the United States write nearly effortlessly when it comes to social and political constraints. They take for granted the wealth and education of an established literary audience, feel little conflict over whom and what to portray, and--often a damning side-effect of this state of affairs--experience no anxiety about whom they write for, to what end, and why. * * *
"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."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Naive and Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk, February 5, 2012
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars For the naive, and the sentimental, August 9, 2014
This book, the end result of Orhan Pamuk's Norton Lectures, is a
serene dialogue on the dynamics which make the novel the predominant
literary form, and how Pamuk interprets these in his own work to
achieve his personal literary objectives. Not surprisingly, Pamuk is
an avid novel reader, and he makes extensive use of this expreience,
commenting on the novel from the reader's perspective as much as from
the writer's. In fact, the main distinction he picks to discover the
novel's tensions, the sentimental vs. the naive, is projected upon the
reader as much as on the writer. The naive reader/writer is the one
who goes with the natural flow of the narrative, whereas the
sentimental one is more "brainy", and thinks about the tricks
available/already used. Pamuk argues that a novelist, despite falling
somewhere along the axis, has to practice both propensities while
writing a novel, because a purely naive novel is simply telling what
one experiences, and the purely sentimental one is an endless game of
hide and seek.

Despite bringing different expectations to the novel, both the naive
and the sentimental reader, if they want to understand and enjoy a
novel, have to engage with it by mentally reconstructing the world
that the novel builds through language. This, according to Pamuk, is
the central dynamic of the novel, and leads to a number of
distinctions that make it so successful, and at the same time,
variable. Novels that would be considered 'literary' have what Pamuk
calls "a hidden center"; this is an idea, a central image, or a
certain understanding of the world that the novel keeps in flux, but
also tries to impart to the reader. In criminal novels and simple love
stories, this center is the final solution or closure; literary novels
don't have this closure, and the fact that the reader, as she mentally
constructs the novel's world, also works on fixating this hidden
center, instead of solely following the arc of the story, makes the
novel a three dimensional art form. While reading a novel, the reader
has to pay attention to every detail, because it might signal a fact
about the "general scene", as Pamuk calls it; thus, there is a
constant balancing of the general narrative and the small details,
another factor in the three-dimensionality of the novel.

Another tension Pamuk talks about, and which I found very interesting,
is the fact that the novel is a linear text that tries to evoke a
visual scenery. The temporal has to lead to the spatial, and this can
be done only by the reader, by imagining the second from the first. To
make this possible, the novelist has to populate his work with objects
and physical surroundings that carry a certain emotional load, that
will cause the reader to actually place not only the object where it
belongs, but do this in relation to the characters, so that their
mental state is in accord with this placement. The tension here is in
the fact that the novel achieved its current popularity in the 19th
century, when Western societies achieved a standard of living that
filled their homes with objects, but left them looking for a hidden,
further meaning in their lives. The novel, which is to carry such a
meaning with its "hidden center", can achieve this only thorugh a
certain relationship with those objects.

If you like Pamuk's novels, this little book will read like having a
chat with him on how he writes, and why he writes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars writing as a spiritual act, September 16, 2013
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A good if somewhat personal insight into the novel. I particularly like his view that writing is a spiritual act.
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5 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some people live, others talk about life..., December 7, 2010
This review is from: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) (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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