In his native Turkey, author Orhan Pamuk's novel The New Life
is a huge hit. Now English-language readers have an opportunity to sample this unusual book for themselves. The New Life
begins with the sentence "I read a book one day and my whole life was changed." That book leads the narrator, a young man named Osman, on a wild journey in the company of Janan, a mysterious young woman in search of her lover, Mehmet. He had actually managed to enter--and escape--the world of the book. In the course of their travels, Osman and Janan are involved in a bloody bus wreck from which they emerge with new identities; they meet several "false" Mehmets; Janan mysteriously vanishes; and Osman eventually encounters a family friend who may or may not be the author of the life-changing book and possibly of The New Life
In case you hadn't already guessed, The New Life is strictly postmodernist fare, where plot and character are minimal and time and space tend to bend and warp in unexpected ways. The author's vision is certainly original, his descriptions of violence and Turkish culture particularly strong.
Osman is an ordinary engineering student in Istanbul until he comes across a book that changes his life. A sort of quasimystical tract, it provides a guide to a new life that is so irresistible Osman becomes obsessed by it. Soon he meets up with two more devotees of the book, the beautiful Janan and Mahmet, her boyfriend. When Mahmet suddenly disappears, Janan and Osman, who is now totally in love with Janan, set out to find him. As they head for the provinces, the novel switches gears from the merely mysterious to a sort of Turkish magical realism: the book's author turns out to be the best friend of Osman's father; the couple unearth a CIA-like organization that keeps track of the book and its readers; then they meet up with a Doctor Delicate, who sees the book as a pernicious Western influence. Finally, Osman alone finds Mahmet, bringing the story to a sort of conclusion. Recommended for the reader who wants something truly different. Brian Kenney