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on October 2, 2011
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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VINE VOICEon February 5, 2012
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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on May 2, 2016
Short & sweet description/analysis of the novel, novelist & novel reader gorgeously presented by a master student & master craftsman from his own prodigious experience.
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on December 2, 2015
This has a wonderful, articulate insight into the creative process of this writer and what influences were important. Every word was enjoyable and to the point.
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on April 4, 2015
As a semi beginner in the world of novels & fiction, I have to admit that I could not fully absorb this book compared to an experienced reader in this field. But this book is definatly a great eye opener for beginners in the field.
The book is based on the essay written by Schiller on the difference between the Naive and sentimentalist poet but applying it to novelists.
The author gives great insight on the world of novels from both the aspects of the writer and reader. This insight will actually aid the reader in better benefiting from his reading in the world of fiction.
He gives valuable opinions on works of great world novelists.
We have an interesting chapter talking about the relationship between novels and paintings followed by another chapter on the relationship between novels and museums.
The final chapter talks about the core of the author's theory; The novel's "center".
ı was introduced to the world of novels and fiction by the author Orhan Pamuk reading his great book "other colors" having this book my second read of the author where I would like to thank Orhan Bey Pamuk for his great insights and inspiration.
I believe I will be coming back to this book in the future for more concentrated benefit and increase of inspiration.
Finally, I recommend this book for readers interested in developing their fiction reading and looking for insights and inspiration in the field.
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on January 21, 2017
No Wonder it was written by a Nobel prize winner.
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on October 31, 2015
This book meet my expectation
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on September 16, 2013
A good if somewhat personal insight into the novel. I particularly like his view that writing is a spiritual act.
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“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. some writers can’t get started until they’ve done extensive research and outlining, but others begin with—at most—a vague outline in their heads and let the words stream from deep within.

The second chapter discusses the reader’s inability to accept that the novel is complete fiction—and, conversely, what truths a novelist reveals in the process of writing a purely fictitious work. (It should be noted that while Pamuk refers throughout to the “novel,” he’s really referring to the “literary novel.” Much of what he has to say isn’t relevant for either commercial or genre fiction.) Pamuk points out that it’s not just gullible yokels who believe that what he’s writing is autobiographical. Sophisticated readers who work in the publishing industry have been known to think he is living the life of one of his characters. On the other hand, when an avid reader suggested that they knew Pamuk so well because they had read all his books, he found himself being embarrassed. This embarrassment wasn’t because he felt they had learned any details of his life, but that they had developed a psychological insight.

The next chapter is on character, plot, and time. As one would expect, character is the most important and substantially addressed topic. I say that not because it’s listed first, but because we are talking about literary fiction—a medium in which character is of the utmost importance and ploting is loose to optional. However, the portion of the chapter that I found most interesting was the question of time in novel. Time stretches, compresses, and can bounce non-linearly in a novel. The protagonist’s time is on display in the novel, and that can be done artfully or not.

The fourth chapter is the one that most deeply delves into the topic of novel as a visual media, one which is more closely related to painting that to the media to which the novel is more frequently compared. Here he divides novelists not into the naïve and the sentimental, but into visual versus verbal writers. Pamuk suggests that the novel is a series of frozen moments as opposed to a continuous running of time—and thus its connection to paintings. Of course, Pamuk was a painter before being a novelist, and thus may be more prone to see that connection than most

The penultimate chapter is a comparison of novels to museums. No two things might seem farther apart at first blush, but a museum is a themed collection of artifacts that hopefully serve to tell a story—story here being used not as fiction but as a narrative that could contain fact, fiction, or mythology. This discussion really continues on the theme of the visual aspect of the novel. It suggests that those artifacts that are seen or manipulated in a novel convey a great deal of what the author wants to get across and help to create a more real fictional world. Pamuk elaborates on the connection by using three points to connect museums and novels that are all related by pride.

The final chapter elucidates the “center” of the novel. This is a concept that Pamuk has written around since the beginning of the book without providing a clear conceptualization. The first line of the last chapter defines the center as: “…a profound opinion or insight about life, a deeply embedded point of mystery, whether real or imagined.” The idea of a center, we are told, separates literary fiction from genre / commercial fiction. Readers and authors of genre fiction may find themselves becoming miffed with Pamuk for saying that such works either don’t have a center or have one that’s painfully easily found. He does make explicit exceptions for works by Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem, and one would expect that works of speculative fiction by the likes of Vonnegut, Murakami, and LeGuin would meet his approval as well. However, the presence of a tight story arc—one of the factors that makes work salable—is part of the reason genre fiction tends to have a readily discovered center. For Pamuk, the name of the game is writing a work that has a center that isn’t easily discovered, but neither is so deeply hidden as to remain forever beyond the grasp of most readers. He suggests the novel should be a puzzle, which is solved to reveal the center.

The epilogue includes some autobiographical insight and elaboration on what Pamuk was attempting to convey in this work.

I’d recommend this book for writers as well as serious readers of novels. Obviously, it’s well-written, but beyond that it offers insights that make the reader do some of the work—just what Pamuk proposes a novelist should do.
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on 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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