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The Black Book Paperback – July 11, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Istanbul, Turkish novelist Pamuk's latest is an elaborate and darkly comic meditation on identity.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Well-known Turkish novelist Pamuk's last effort, The White Castle, got raves from everyone but LJ (2/15/91). So why break with tradition? Often compared to Italo Calvino, Pamuk is not so stylized; this book is steeped in the scents and sights of Istanbul and is in fact very specific. But imagery and detail will not suffice to keep most readers reading, and the story of attorney Galip and his missing wife, Ruya, is allowed to drag despite an interesting intrigue that has Galip-suspicious that Ruya is hiding with her half-brother, a popular journalist-assume the identity of the half-brother with unfortunate consequences. Only the stalwart will make it to the end. Demand? The last circulation dates of the three copies of The White Castle in our system are 5/91, 7/91, and 4/93. Recommended for collections especially strong in international fiction.
Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Rep Tra edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078652
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078653
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Arch Llewellyn on July 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Why bother reading stories? In part to escape ourselves, maybe in hopes of discovering ourselves. "The Black Book" is an intricate meditation on the act of reading that explores both sides of our urge for stories in obsessive detail.
The surface plot involves Galip's search for his missing wife and her half-brother Jelal, a famous Turkish columnist. But the deeper meaning of the story concerns the fact that every story has deeper meanings. As Galip's hunt progresses, the chaos of modern Istanbul promises to organize itself into the key to unlocking a larger mystery whose solution would make every detail of life carry meaning, turning the world itself into literature. As far as I can make out, for Pamuk this literary apocalypse would be equivalent to the Messiah's return and to each of us being reborn at last as ourselves, instead of living as hopeless imitations of our heroes from novels and movies.
Just as Galip discovers that Jelal, his own hero, cribbed his columns from older tales, Pamuk's readers gradually realize that Galip's story is a serpentine riff on the Islamic classics, as his search for Jelal and Ruya comes to parallel the Sufi quest for union with God. The Seeker becomes the Sought, Galip becomes Jelal, the reader becomes the author. The burden of postmodernity, Pamuk seems to say, is to realize that we are author, Messiah and reader rolled up in one, with the world as our text to fashion meanings for.
My one criticism is that Pamuk's tale feels a little too familiar, built around themes like the flux of identity, the absence of fixed meanings, the illusion of originality and the self-referential nature of literature that have already been ridden pretty hard by writers from Borges to Eco.
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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on October 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Nobody could say THE BLACK BOOK is a thriller, but it is thrilling writing. An Istanbul lawyer's wife disappears. A related columnist also disappears. The lawyer looks for them. That's about it. But the search and the thinking is the thing. Pamuk's style blends Proust with Borges. If you find that intriguing, read the book. Pamuk manages to combine intimate details of life in the modern city of Istanbul with tales of Sufi masters, long ago executioners, Ottoman pashas, and underground fantasies with a great deal of soul-searching on the nature of human identity. "I want to be somebody else, therefore I am" is his theme again, following on from his previous work, "The White Castle". Dreams, intertwining identities, the connection between writing and life, even cryptograms. This is fascinating stuff. Though sometimes the book lags, it always picks up again with another strange twist. Pamuk is certainly one of the most interesting writers working today.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar on September 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
In "The Black Book" the reader embarks on a quest on the streets of contemporary Istanbul, together with the main protagonist, Galip.

One day, Galip discovers that his wife, Ruya, is missing. He immediately connects this with the disappearance of his older cousin, Jelal Bey, a nationally renowned columnist. Galip decides to look for Ruya and Jelal, keeping their disappearance from family and friends. He sleeplessly wanders around Istanbul, collecting clues and encountering people, getting deep into Jelal's life and discovering many of his secrets.

The above paragraph summarizes pretty much the whole plot - there is not much more happening. The ending and solution of the mystery of the disappearance is even quite disappointing... However, what is interesting in this clearly post-modernist book is not the plot, but the form. The chapters interchange between reporting Galip's search for Ruya and Jelal, and Jelal's newspaper columns. The "column" chapters are complete stories, covering subjects as diverse, as events in Turkish history, lives of ordinary (shopkeeper, mannequin maker) and famous (poet Rumi, who reappears in many places throughout the book) people, personal observations, secret organizations, plots and premonitions, and subjects as hot as Turkey's relations with Europe and national identity. The "story within a story" scheme is applied successfully (or even a bit overdone, since the side stories are in effect much more interesting than the main plot), making the association with Shecherezada and the Tales of Thousand and One Night obvious.

I liked the images of Istanbul a lot, I could really see the city before my eyes.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I tried reading this book when I first moved to Istanbul nearly two years ago but found it so overwhelming that I couldn't cope with its density and countless diversions. I put it down but sent a copy to my sister-in-law who told me she read it in five sittings and enjoyed it tremendously. Finally over the culture shock I had experienced coming here, I picked it up again. Several times I threw it aside, but finally I could not give up on Galip/Jelal and read through to the end. Pamuk weaves a masterful tale and the stories and obsevations are totally enthralling. Knowing Istanbul makes the book even more interesting. Pamuk's descriptions of the streets, the vendors, the buildings and people are lucid and evocative. The juxtaposition of the plot chapters and newspaper columns is a brilliant construction. However, I give it only three stars for the same reason I would give only three stars to his novel The White Castle: he is repetitive. He reiterates over and over again his theme and his dilemmas. His prose is wonderfully engrossing when he allows it to flow, but he does not give his readers enough credit. I wanted more of a chance to use my own perception, even if not so highly refined as the author's.
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