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The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) First Edition Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1400286005
ISBN-10: 0674050762
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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)
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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)
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Product Details

  • Series: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Book 1970)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050761
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lowry C. Pei on 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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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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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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Format: Paperback
“The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist” is Orhan Pamuk’s theory of the novel, and is based on a series of lectures given by the Turkish Nobel Laureate in 2009. It’s a brief work, consisting of less than 200 pages written across six chapters plus an epilogue. Pamuk explores just a handful of concepts, but he elaborates on each with examples from literature. Having said that, Pamuk has the novelist’s gift for strategic ambiguity, and there are some ideas--such as the “secret center of the novel”--for which the author leaves much for the reader to interpret.

In the first chapter, Pamuk explores what occurs in the mind of a reader as they consume a novel. He proposes nine mental activities that one engages in over the course of reading a novel. These activities range from the essence of reading, such as observing scene and narrative arc, to less essential acts such as self-congratulatory narcissism. A central theme is the novel as a visual medium in that the mind converts words into images and those images are what are experienced in reading. The final action is search for the novel’s “secret center,” an important element of Pamuk’s theory and the topic of the book’s final chapter.

The title subjects are also introduced in the first chapter, i.e. naïve and sentimental novelists. Pamuk borrows this concept from Schiller, who used it to describe poets. The naïve novelist writes spontaneously and with confidence that he or she is capturing reality in the work. The sentimental novelist is much more uneasy about the degree that his work will convey something true. While an oversimplification, this idea corresponds somewhat to the much more commonly known division of writers into outliners and non-outliners, i.e.
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