on October 21, 2012
Orhan Pamuk's The Silent House is a curious read. For those who've not previously read works of the 2006 Nobel prize winner, this is a good starting point because of the book's accessibility, which can't always be said about Orhan's novels, and because it introduces a wide range of concerns explored in later novels.
For those familiar with his works, Silent House (SH) speaks to other books in Pamuk's body of work, especially Museum of Innocence, My Name is Red, and to a lesser degree Snow.
Plot in SH is deceptively simple. A trio of grandchildren are visiting their curmudgeonly grandmother. That's it. Much of the action is repetitive: the granny (Fatma, the name of Muhammad's daughter) retires to her den to denounce the world and all who live in it, while she is waited on pretty much hand and foot by a dwarf who is the bastard son of her deceased husband. One of the grandchildren goes to the beach every morning and reads a lot. The eldest grandchild is an alcoholic historian, not unlike his father and his father's father (see the pattern?), and a teenage grandchild, who like his cohorts, must remain in perpetual motion, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Underlying the family circle is that of the half family consisting of two bastards (Recep the dwarf and Ismail) by Fatma's husband Selahattin, and the son Hasan of the bastard Ismail.
Here it might be worth noting that while SH was originally published in Turkish in 1983, I think a strong argument can be made for parallels between Pamuk's Hasan, who is marginalized by a lack of prospects in Turkish society as he comes under the influence of right-wing extremists and Mohamed Atta's marginalization in Egyption society, which opened the door for falling under the influence of al Qaeda and leading the 9.11 attacks. This alone makes SH compellingly relevant, but because the book explores such fundamental issues there are many other ways that it addresses our times.
Plot aside, Pamuk does a good job of pulling the reader through what might have become ponderous text in the hands of a less skilled story teller. The chapters are titled and short, with enough inner tensions and action to keep the pages turning. Within the short visit to grandmother's house, the characters explore the nature of history, what is the waking world and which is illusion, fascist vs socialist politics, the modern western world's conflict with more traditional culture rooted in religious beliefs and security found in doing things the way ancestors did them, how these polarities influence one another, and the individual quest to find or create meaning in this life.
Granny and her servant dwarf - they are modeled on the story of Robinson Crusoe and his servant shipwreck on an island (she leaves the house only to visit the graves of her husband and son), while the dwarf Recep rarely leaves the house and is badgered by granny whenever he does - I found to be the more compelling characters.
She brings to mind Miss Rosa from Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom! Both are shipwrecked in a house in which they spent their lives, both bitterly denouncing their worlds and the world around them, especially their respective societies. Both only get out during their respective stories to visit the deceased, or presumed dead. The contemplations that are revealed in Granny's chapters (each chapter is a perspective presented almost as a dialogue by a specific character) I found the most interesting.
Recep - the physically disfigured character and a bastard in society's eyes - is the wisest of the cast, and the most balanced. I'm not sure how dwarfs are viewed by Islamic myths, but in India the deity Shiva frequently is portrayed dancing on a vanquished dwarf, who represents ignorance. Maybe someone else can expand on this seeming reversal.
But more than anything - like Pamuk's other novels - this is a book of ideas. In addition to exploring the intersection of West and East, common to all Pamuk's novels, Pamuk plays with the relationship between objects and memory, which is the primary subject of Museum of Innocence; explores the worlds of the waking and subconscious later examined in more detail in My Name Is Red; and introduces the politics of the left and right in Turkey, later expanded in Snow.
A story from the Koran that is alluded to in HS and My Name Is Red deals with three young men who are sealed in a cave and after a long sleep emerge into a changed world. This story is a favorite of Pamuk's. Watch for barking dogs in all of Pamuk's works as it was the barking of dogs that woke the young men from their sleep.
At one point (p.330), Fatma is shaken from her isolation and cynicism by the silence in the house she has been marooned in for 70 years, fearful that her streaming thoughts will freeze. A reversal of the barking dog that awakens the sleepers in the Koran story.
I'm sure the names in the story are significant, but could not find online anything that yields their meaning. Help anyone?
Final note: Madame X, who read an electronic ARC, mentioned blocks of copy that go on at great length, and copy errors.
The blocks of copy in the published edition are internal musings, primarily, especially Fatma's. As for the missing and duplicated words, the publisher Knopf is to be taken to task. Pamuk is a Nobel Laureate and you'd think his publisher could hire a more competent proof reader. That said, the glitches are not frequent enough to intrude on my reading of this wonderful book.
on October 9, 2012
In 1980 acrimonious nonagenarian widow Fatma Darvinoglu waits for the annual summer visit of her adult grandchildren when they invade her dilapidated home in Cennethisar near Istanbul. She has lived in exile there since she married her foolish late husband Selahattin when she was a teen as Fatma has observed the fishing village turning into a posh resort town. His obsession with writing the definitive encyclopedia proving God is a supernatural myth while science only matters alienated the country's leadership seven decades ago.
Adding to her rage towards the idiot she married, he had affairs proven by her servants Recep the dwarf and his crippled brother Ismail; while the latter's son Hasan belongs to a nationalist gang of bullies. The only thing Selahattin did right was to drink himself to death; as did their son Dogan. Of the grandchildren, Faruk has failed as a historian but appears to be a chip off the male blocks as he heads towards drinking to death; Nilgun the only female considers joining the Communist Party; and the youngest adolescent Metin angrily envies his wealthy peers who can afford endless alcohol and drugs.
This is a mesmerizing look at the conflict between modernization (west) and tradition (east) in identifying what Turkey was, is and will be. The eight family members are different personalities but share in common for the most part a depressed outlook overwhelmed by the burden of life yet do so diversely so that the reader obtains a sort of 360 degree glimpse of a country pulled in opposite directions. Fans will appreciate this engaging but dark look at Turkey during a critical period.
on October 26, 2012
SILENT HOUSE vividly portrays the turmoil in Turkey during the time immediately prior to the government coup d'état of 1980. The author, then a brilliant young writer who will go on to win a Nobel Prize in literature in another 20 years, creates a troubled snapshot-in-time of an emerging nation grappling with the effects of westernization on an ancient culture.
His cast of characters features a 90-year old matriarch, Fatma, whose blurred and romantic memories date back to the caliphs and courts at the turn of the 20th century. She is attended by Recep, a middle-aged dwarf who is the bastard son of her late husband, a doctor, who was an historical scholar long since dead. Her husband and their late son spent their lives attempting to create an encyclopedia of knowledge of civilization in the new westernized Turkish language created when Ataturk overthrew the caliphs after World War I. Their grandchildren, both legitimate and illegitimate, will become reacquainted as the young people come to stay during the summer of 1979 at the crumbling house by a seaside resort city outside Istanbul.
The eldest grandson, Faruk, appears to be headed along the same self-destructive path of trying to make sense of Turkey's complicated history. The younger grandchildren, in their teens and early 20s, seem bored yet entertained by the sybaritic lifestyles that separate them from their more traditional elders. Some have dreams of traveling to America for an education, while others are biding their time in school and living only in the present. The news of growing urban riots trickles down via newspapers but seems to have little effect on the bored young Turks partying in the resort town.
There are some --- like Hasan, Recep's nephew --- who have grown up in squalor, relegated by a caste system that determines at an early age whether a young person will go on to college or end up in a trade. Hasan struggles with his studies, prodded by his uncle to study for his upcoming tests so he can break out of a pre-determined dead-end future. He watches his more affluent cousins with growing resentment and envy, and begins to stalk the privileged and beautiful visiting cousin with whom he played as a child in the servant's quarters. The seeds of rebellion swelling in the nation begin to take root as Hasan lurks on the outside looking in and is gradually drawn toward a nationalist gang bent on overthrowing the government.
Orhan Pamuk breaks the standard rules of novel construction, not an unusual approach in Turkish film and literature. Each of his characters (and there are many) narrates their point of view in the first person, so that the confusion and struggle each experiences serves to portray the turbulence of a culture in revolution against itself. The stream-of-consciousness narration of the grandmother living in two centuries in her slowly deteriorating mind contrasts sharply with the focused dutiful thoughts of her servant, Recep, who has accepted his lot in life. Faruk, who inherited the searching scientific mind of his father and grandfather, is so confused in his compulsion to try to meld ancient history and current events that he is driven to lassitude through alcohol and desperation.
SILENT HOUSE stands as a harbinger of current events as more Middle Eastern countries engage in uprisings to change their ancient cultures. The story coincides with the Iranian uprising in 1979. It shines a dazzling light on a turbulent time on the cusp of civil war during the complicated history of the Middle East early in the throes of blending East and West. It also reflects the brilliance of an emerging important writer. SILENT HOUSE was first published in 1983, but has been translated into English for the first time. Pamuk has since published several novels that have been translated into more than 60 languages and has earned many prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006.
Reviewed by Roz Shea
on April 28, 2013
This is an interesting novel by a Nobel prize-winning author, translated from the original Turkish. It is a very literary work, informative about a country and culture that is not so familiar to me, and may not be so familiar to other American readers. It moves a little slowly, has a powerful ending. When I finished it, I immediately read it again.
That final sentence could be misleading. I did read this book twice, not because I loved it. Silent House was a difficult book to read. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. It is a common approach in modern novels to have the point of view change from chapter to chapter, most often among two or three characters. But in Silent House everyone has his say. Well, not everyone. There is a dwarf, a wannabe thug who is the son of a the dwarf's crippled brother, a 92 year old matriarch, a history writer, a teenage boy. Other characters appear but do not get to tell their own stories. My problem the first time round was too many names, I wasn't sure who was male and who was female, I wasn't sure about the relationships, and their stories seemed disconnected and not always interesting. An old lady's stream of consciousness, a young man's social awkwardness, alcoholic depression, all jumbled together with no direction.
Of course, Pamuk is a Nobel prize-winning writer, and the above was no accident. By the time I was two-thirds through the novel, I understood who was who, and about that point, the history writer was talking about his writing. He wanted to write a history that had no beginning and no end, juxtaposing various events with no apparent connection. But he didn't know how to do this without putting his own thoughts into it. He also knew no one would want to read such a work, so he decided he could call it "a story." When I read this chapter, I though, "Ah, this is what Pamuk is doing, let me see where it goes. All this is going to fit together somehow." And that was exactly what happened.
At the very end of the book, the very old matriarch in her stream of consciousness, also expresses thoughts about stories (as compared to real life). Unlike life, the wonderful thing about a story is that when you get to the end, you can go back and start again at the beginning. Another "Ah," for me, so that's what I did.
Second time round the book moved faster, and it cohered better for me. But I don't know if it was worth all the struggle to get through the first time. My book club read this book for April, and that's probably why I bothered to struggle through it the first time; no one else in the club admitted to liking the book. Whether you will like it or not will depend on who you are. It does give a picture of a point in time in Turkey, it shows how a culture looks at women, (only the matriarch gets to have her own voice in the novel) it's about politics, it's about people who communicate internally but talk to each other very little. And it is also about story-telling. It's not a piece of fluff, it's definitely literary fiction. Try it, maybe you'll like it.
on May 31, 2015
Turkey’s on-going modernization, real estate boom, and politics are the focus of this story, set in a small Turkish seaside city, we guess, around the 1970’s. The book was originally published in Turkey in 1983. The plot is that three adult grandchildren make their obligatory annual summer visit to their 90 year-old grandmother. The grandmother is crotchety and demanding especially to her live-in servant whom she alternately calls “the dwarf” or “the bastard,” the latter because he is a child of her dead husband’s mistress. Her grandchildren “…still haven’t figured out their grandmother isn’t capable of any reaction except disgust.” ‘The Dwarf’ is the perfect servant, catering to the old lady’s and everyone else’s every need and whim despite the disdain and abuse.
The youngest grandchild is in high school, ready to go to college, hopefully abroad, but he has no money to do so and is hoping grandma will sell the house to finance his education. He hangs out with a fast set of upper-class Turkish kids who drink, smoke pot and carouse in sports cars. The oldest grandson is a college professor, divorced, a dreamer, and an alcoholic. In the last two traits he carries on a strong set of genes, because he is a third generation dreamer and alcoholic. The grandfather, now deceased, was a medical doctor who got crosswise with Istanbul politicians and spent his life in exile in this backwater town drinking and toiling over a 50-volume encyclopedia “to bring Western knowledge to the East.” He was an avowed atheist, which terrified his devout wife, the grandmother. Their only son, now dead, the father of the three children, was a local low-level civil servant, also a dreamer and an alcoholic. The granddaughter is a radical socialist, which gets her in serious trouble with the nationalist skin-heads in town.
The book is a good read, even though it is an early work by Pamuk, translated only after he became famous for his other works. It has a lot of local color of Turkey and it’s a primer on why much of the developing world is in such chaos.
on April 4, 2014
I gave this book a three star rating as much of it was very repetitive and tedious. Each chapter was a character sketch of each person involved related in the first person. The younger generation, who are the grandchildren of 90 year old Fatma, seemed to have confusing motivations because of the turbulence in Turkey in the late 1970s. They are caught up between a conservative society and the modernity of Ataturkism that led Turkey into the modern era. It was not an easy book to read although the book was well written. Many parts were tedious and difficult to understand what the writer was trying to portray. These young adults were confused and the rifts between them seemed unbridgeable while at the same time they were part of a sort of self-created hedonist culture that was destructive. I had read the "Museum of Innocense" which was a far better novel and more readable. I searched a message in Silent House and found a void of confusion.
on December 27, 2012
Orhan Pamuk's second novel is now available in an English translation, almost 30 years after it appeared in bookstores in Turkey. Published in 1983, Silent House, is a taut narrative about one week in the summer of 1980 at a seaside resort town just an hour away from Istanbul. The fictional Cennethisar (translation - Paradise Citadel), a summer vacation destination for prosperous Istanbul residents very similar to the actual resort town of Bayramoglu where Pamuk spent summers as a teen, is the novel's setting. Three Istanbul siblings arrive for their annual summer visit at their curmudgeonly grandmother's decaying villa built by her long deceased physician husband who had been exiled by the despotic Pashas running the Ottoman Empire prior to the First World War. Fatma, the grandmother, never went back to Istanbul after she arrived but she yearns for the quality of life she had as a child in the waning days of the Empire. Now ninety years old and full of disgust at the transitioning society just outside her garden walls she can barely tolerate the visit of her grandchildren fearing all along that her servant Recep will expose a still-concealed family secret. The three grandchildren come to Cennethisar with some very clear agendas. Faruk, the eldest, will spend time in the neighboring larger town of Gebze going through late 16th century archives in search of data about a plague that had occurred in the area. The middle sibling, Nilgun, is resolved to go to the beach every morning and then come home to read Fathers and Sons in the garden. The youngest is Metin, a high school senior, longing to go to the United States for college and determined to finally convince his grandmother to sell the house to developers and provide the family some desperately needed money - the kind that all his Cennethisar summer friends have in abundance. The story is told through the differing points of view of these four family members, in addition to Recep and his nephew Hasan, who realizes he's desperately in love with Nilgun but convinced that she has no attention for him because he is the son of a lottery ticket seller.
Silent House marks the almost complete translation of Pamuk's novels into English - I believe that only his first novel, Cevdet Bey And His Sons is left untranslated. Silent House is the bridge between Cevdet Bey and The White Castle, Pamuk's third novel and the first to be translated into English. Readers familiar with Pamuk's work will know that his text can be dense and his treatment of obssession can be downright obsessive - both great things in my mind. What sets Silent House apart is that it is about as fast-flowing as any novel could be and therefore I would recommend this book to people who want to begin to explore Pamuk's work.
Despite the very specific time (two months before the September 1980 military coup) and the very specific setting (an upscale resort town with distinctly Turkish transactions between locals and vacationers) Silent House can be easily comprehended by readers not familiar with recent Turkish history, culture and politics. But it does help to know a little something about this time and place and allow me to elaborate on that a bit. I happened to have spent an idyllic week in Bayramoglu in the summer of 1976 and then visited Turkey again in the summers of 1978 and 1979. Party politics dominated every facet of life in those days - you were either a lefty or you were a rightist and what that meant was that you were either beholden to the USSR or you were rabidly anti-communist and espoused a mythical ideal of Turkish nationalism, which combined elements of Kemalism and its incongruous partner, the revival of Turkish imperialism - the very structure that Kemal Ataturk literally demolished. You have to trust Pamuk when he describes how the very newspaper you bought in the morning defined who you were, and how readers went right to the page with the death tally to see how many of their side got murdered the day before and how many on the other side met their end. Shootings, bombings and beatings were everyday occurrences in every part of Turkey and who knows where it all would have led had it not been for a group of generals and admirals who decided that they knew how to run the country better than the freely-elected leaders.
I don't give anything away by saying that the characters in the book do not escape this senseless violence even in the carefree confines of affluent Cennethisar. Pamuk also does a fine job describing the numbing torpor of people with limited opportunities. Recep's nephew is a poster child for high school dropouts and here especially the theme of working hard at school to go on to prosper in life is surely a universal subject. Unregulated industrialization is also dealt with very specifically in the descriptions of the housing developments, railroads, highways and factories that have displaced sweet-smelling orchards and the very meadow where Mehmet the Conqueror died.
More than any of his other books in English translation Silent House exposes the strengths and flaws of everybody's ideas. I find sometimes that Pamuk tends to hold on for dear life to a very particular vision of Turkey where the enlightened class lived in breezy villas surrounded by gardens in an Istanbul that was populated by just a million people, and not the 12 million inhabitants of today's city, many of who moved there in the last thirty years straight from rural villages, bringing with them customs and traditions deeply at odds with cosmopolitanism. It's Pamuk's privilege, of course, to constantly look down on the effects of "westernization." I don't go for this view at all but it's to Pamuk's credit that his view is never presented without strong counter arguments from characters who look positively at the "new" Turkey, or look down on the "old" Turkey. For instance, in Silent House, the archives that Faruk is clearly delighting in reading contain all sorts of records of litigation and greed - maybe it really wasn't such a "magnificent century".
Fatma's deceased husband is the ultimate self-loathing Turk and he believes that this is actually the key to Turkey's salvation - much, much more self-loathing is required in order for Turkey to "catch up" to the West. But surely the economic events of the last five years have shed a brutal light on the "sophisticated" economies of the industrialized workd. At this point, it isn't at all clear who should be catching up to whom. Turkey finds itself in the enviable position of relative economic strength in a region where one neighbor is on the verge of bankruptcy, another is coming apart, and yet others are in similarly precarious circumstances, Pamuk is, of course, saying "at what cost" and he is an indispensable voice in Turkish culture for this very reason. Oddly enough, the consumer culture that Pamuk so derides brings along with it certain conditions that the institutions and politicians were never, ever able to bring about. When the pocketbook is king a much higher degree of accountability is necessary, and the ramifications of this extend into all facets of life. Yes, one could say that everybody in today's Turkey is overly interested in making money and spending it on every product imaginable but that has to be an improvement over the days of obsession with party politics, when an entire generation of "students" hardly went to class and instead participated in demonstrations, occupations, extortion, intimidation and sometimes, murder. I don't see Turks getting into an altercation about whether an HP printer is better than a Brother, but I did witness with my own eyes policemen fighting with other policemen at a demonstration in 1979 - one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen. It's all here in Silent House. It's a brilliant book and it amazes me that Pamuk published this in 1983, so soon after the fact.
A note on the translation - I look forward with delight to every new book of Pamuk's that comes out in English and I have been very satisfied lately. But, just a couple of things before the paperback version comes out - in the beginning of the book there are references to casinos in Cennethisar and this is a complete misrepresentation. It's a lazy translation of the Turkish word, "gazino," which is much more akin to a night club or cabaret than it is to a gambling venue. I noted that later in the book the translator starting referring to these as nightclubs, or clubs. And I have one pet peeve, which comes up over and over again in his other books as well and that is the translation of the Turkish word, "lycee," which, of course is actually French for high school. In Turkey it's a kind of high school for high achievers but it's still a high school. So please Mr. Translator, refrain from not translating the word in hopes that we here in America are going to understand what lycee means and implies. Say high school or if that is not to Mr. Pamuk's liking, say "prep school." One other thing: at one point a character fantasizes about owning Fenerbahce, which is a super prestigious soccer team (kind of like the New York Yankees of Turkish soccer). It would help American readers if the words "soccer team" or "soccer club" came after Fenerbahce. Fox Soccer is not yet broadcasting the "Super Lig" and Fenerbahce is not yet a household name - though, it ought to be! This is nitpicking, but with a few tweaks here and there, the book could be even more comprehensible than it is already is.
Perhaps my favorite Pamukism is how he makes a cameo appearance in his books, which gets the mind racing about objectivity and if there is such a thing, etc. Recall that when White Castle came out it was around the time of Eco's The Name Of The Rose and the conceit of having "found" a text that these authors were merely presenting to the world was all the rage. You always know you're reading a book with Pamuk - that sounds like the biggest no-brainer but it is a crucial aspect of his writing. For example, there's an "Orhan" at the engagement party at the Istanbul Hilton in The Museum Of Innocence and the Cennethisar crowd in Silent House mentions in passing that "Orhan" is supposedly writing a book - it's like when Carly Simon sings, "I bet you think this song is about you, don't you, don't you?" The best kind of art takes this form. Consider the final words in Silent House - "You can't start out again in life, that's a carriage ride you only take once, but with a book in your hand, no matter how confusing and perplexing it might be, once you've finished it, you can always go back to the beginning; if you like, you can read it through again, in order to figure out what you couldn't understand before, in order to understand life, isn't that so, Fatma?" There's the answer to Ulrich's question in Musil's Man Without Qualities: 'why does anyone write?'
SILENT HOUSE is the sort of book that provides plenty of fodder for conversation, but before I get around to that I need to say something about this translation, because it appears to be awful. The overall tone is "clumsy," and reading is like having a conversation with someone who might be very eloquent in their native tongue but is reduced to fourth-grade-level flailing in English. It's not up to the standards that I expect from Knopf, one of the few publishing imprints that still inspires any kind of romantic awe in me, let alone a Nobel Prize winning author whose previous books have completely transported me with their intelligence, subtlety, and emotional power.
Alright. On to SILENT HOUSE. Three siblings visit their grandmother, Fatma, on a summer vacation. She lives in a crumbling old mansion not far from Istanbul, built before the area developed into a suburb for the very wealthy. The family belongs to the old elite, but badly diminished by time - the most recent patriarchs suffered from what could generously be called melancholy; less generously, a toxic combination of alcoholism and insanity. The grandchildren will be the last generation born into privilege unless one of them can turn things around...and none of the three are up to the task.
So we've got a story about an unhappy family, the generation gap, the class divide, Turkey's transition to a modern, more Westernized society. The dead but very present in spirit grandfather, Selahattin, fathered two children with a servant and his illegitimate family features in the book as well: his son Recep, a dwarf who lives and works in the house as a servant, and his grandson Hasan, a political extremist.
Every character in SILENT HOUSE is loathsome. And once I figured out that SILENT HOUSE is one of those books about awful people who do awful things, it was easy to predict how it would end: the one nice, sweet character dies tragically and senselessly.
I kept thinking that if this book weren't written by a Turk, no publisher would touch it with a ten-foot pole. The narrators include Hasan, who fantasizes about killing all the Communists and Atheists in Turkey, Metin, who fantasizes about emigrating to America so he can learn to build bombs, Fatma, who thinks science is evil, and then Salahattin and Faruk, both of whom consider scholarship to be little more than "copying down stuff that other people have already said." The book is filled with, I think, a deep contempt for all aspects of Turkish society - from the frivolous beach-goers to the hothead activists, the impotent scholars to the heartless conservatives.
And this is, again, where the problem of translation came in. Because Metin and Hasan, in particular, had very similar voices. Both teenage boys, both childish and irresponsible, both obsessed with girls they didn't know in the slightest. Both behaved very, very similarly toward these highly objectified women: falling "in love" after a second's glance, taking no interest in the girl's personality at all, becoming outright offended if the personality turned out not to conform to whatever ideal the boy preferred, becoming outraged if the girl rejected his advances. Both boys lacked any empathy, any self-awareness, but for quick flashes, like here, in Hasan's voice as he's watching a crowd of people on the beach and disapproving of the scantily dressed women:
"It's strange, sometimes I feel like doing something bad, then I feel ashamed, it's as if I want to hurt them a little so they'll notice me: that way, I would have punished them and nobody would give in to the devil and maybe they would only be afraid of me then. It's a feeling like this: we're in power and they're behaving properly because of it."
I feel like that could sound sort of astute and self aware or, as was more the case in my opinion, terrifyingly psychotic, depending on how it was translated. Were all the characters supposed to read like psychopaths, completely and utterly devoid of empathy? I can't tell! And keep in mind that these moments of insight from the characters are rarer than a reader of literary fiction might hope. The characters are unrelentingly shallow, and their musings are more along the lines of Metin's, here, as he fantasizes about how awesome life will be once he's rich:
"I'll be a heartless rich international playboy, pictured in the papers with the Countess de Roche-Whatever, and the next year, I'll live the life of a renowned Turkish physicist in America, Time magazine will catch us walking hand in hand in the Alps, me and Lady So-and-So, and when I come to Turkey on my private yacht to make a Blue Voyage, and you [the girl he's obsessed with; most of Metin's thoughts are addressed to her in the 2nd person] see me splashed across the front page of Hurriyet with my third wife -- the beautiful only daughter of a Mexican oil tycoon -- then, Ceylan, let's see if you don't say, I'm in love with Metin"
SILENT HOUSE deserves credit for showing how people with different worldviews work at cross-purposes, like ships passing in the night, never understanding one another, unable to communicate - unable to step back and take stock of what's gone wrong. It reduces all the great tectonic shifts in Turkish society to a collection of grudges, always secondary to the lowest drives of human nature: greed, lust, fear.
And it's curious for rendering the scholar, the writer, the most impotent of all. The most useless, the most pathetic - which is something extraordinary, in a cast of characters as pathetic as the one portrayed here. In SILENT HOUSE, writing is tantamount to giving up, to failure.
But getting to the interesting stuff in SILENT HOUSE takes a lot of digging and patience and tolerance. The translation is just so awkward, and - probably because I read a free ARC from Edelweiss - the formatting was terrible, with words left out, strange punctuation, pages of dialogue mashed together without paragraph breaks, and one chapter still titled "TK". I can only recommend this to devoted fans, because anyone else will walk away from SILENT HOUSE with a poor opinion of Orhan Pamuk that he does not deserve.
on February 5, 2013
Pamuk talks about the Turkish family, with all the similarities of the life ways of other his books.
I read Pamuk from many times, and I know his style, very hard and perfect, but I see how the society represented here is developed trough a particular evolution.
The "kitch" what he describes usually is devoloped in a different way. His style his changed next several years in a particular form, able to value important aspects of the life.
Therefore the style evolution is an index of the social evolution.
"Silent House" by Orhan Pamuk is one of his earlier novels, originally published in 1983 and has recently been translated into English, in gradual translation of all the author's works, given the author's getting the Nobel Prize for Literature .
The story of the novel takes place in the background of the military coup that took place in Turkey, three years before the release of this book, precisely one month before the September 12th 1980 when Gen. Kenan Evren and Turkish armed forces have introduced order in the country after the conflicts of nationalists and communists, and remained in power until 1983 when democratic order was reestablished.
The background of these historical events is very present in this novel which connects tradition, transition of Turkish society and intergenerational tensions.
Family gathering is going to happen in a fishing village near Istanbul, where Fatma who is 90-year old widow of local doctor will be visited in a regular summer visit from her three grandchildren.
The story is told by Fatma, her three grandchildren and Fatma servants.
First grandchild, Faruk, who is a historian, continues to work on the manuscript of his father and grandfather, who is a sort of encyclopedia telling a little about everything in Turkey.
Another grandchild is Niljun, beautiful student and leftist activist who regularly buys communist newspapers and dreams to live in a world created on the Soviet model.
A third grandson Metin, is a high school student who dreams of the promised life in America, cultivating peanut somewhere in Georgia. He wants to leave his country and don't see why his grandmother shouldn't sell her property and give him the money to realize his dreams.
Other main characters are Recep, a person small in growth that works as Fatma servant and his son Hasan who is a Muslim fundamentalist, and who will become the center of the tragic event around which this story will be unfolded...
"Silent House" is, as its name suggests, a sad novel, which essentially reflects the sad time in which Turkish society found itself these years.
For the author Turkey , and especially Istanbul which is a mixture of traditional heritage and modernity, is a kind of border area, a place where the history of Western and Eastern influences are intertwined to such an extent that they become an ideal stage for the culmination of the political turmoil in the Turkish society.
That is where the political elites and their followers, although opponents are passing one another in the streets, sit together in coffee shops, but as this novel shows, even live in the same house...
In its essence, this is a novel that speaks against violence , in her Orhan Pamuk called for tolerance, understanding and conversation at a time when it is difficult to imagine that any communication between opposing sides is possible, as in the case Turkey had unfortunately proved.
Sadly, today we are witnessing that our societies and the world itself, didn't much changed in the last 30 years, making this novel just as modern today as it was when it was written...