From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Joyce, Nabokov, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West. In the 17th century, a young man sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner by ...
From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Joyce, Nabokov, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West. In the 17th century, a young man sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner by pirates and delivered to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. There he is forced into slavery and left in the custody of a brilliant Turkish inventor known as Hoja - "master" - a man who is his exact double. In the years that follow, the slave instructs his master in Western science and technology, from medicine to pyrotechnics. But Hoja wants to know more: why he and his captive are the persons they are and whether, given knowledge of each other's most intimate secrets, they could actually exchange identities. Set in the Ottoman Empire, a world of pirates, slavery, magnificent scholarship and terrifying savagery, The White Castle is a colourful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination.
Dear Orhan: After countless wasted hours at bookstores flirting with other authors, I discovered you, a "new" author I could enthuse about grandly, knowing that with time you would receive the Nobel Prize for literature while I boasted about having read everything of you had written.
You reminded me of Milan Kundera and Umberto Eco. There was also the uniquely rich, varied texture of Instanbul, inferred in this particular novel but none the less quite present for me. (Perhaps i should say that "My Name is Red" is a joyous frolic, a magnum opus, a great success and a good place for your newer readers to start, if they need background in 16th century Istanbul.)
Still I hope no one who reads "Red" misses "White Castle." I found it a serious yet gently amusing exercise in pondering the many meanings of "identity. " It seesm to be somethign that you have contemplated more deeply than most. There are some telling moments where the book's two look-a-likes, slave (captive Italian) and Hoja (Turkish for Master) try to tease out their individual nuances and idiosyncracities.
The result is subtle and astonishing. For me, the breathtaking moment was the contrast of the Slaves's anxiety in the face of mounting plaque and Hoja's fearlessness, when faced with the same. Your work is modern literature for romantic thinkers. White Castle is a brilliant play on identity. Anyone who has spent a few introspective moments post 9/11 et al, should in my huble opinion at least read this contrast and synthesis in western-eastern idea.
So please dear Orhan, although it may have been a long road to the Nobel, it is I who have gained everything, rich hours spent over dark coffee, your book(s) clasped firmly in hand because I could not deny myself the pleasure of reading them, sometimes to the detriment of all other obligations.
Publishers Weekly, 1991-02-22 One of Turkey's foremost novelists explores the ambivalent relationship between master and slave in this elegant, postmodernist twist on the theme of the doppelganger. During the 17th century, a young Italian is captured by the Turkish fleet and brought to Istanbul, where he becomes the slave of an erudite man who could pass for his twin. The Hoja , or master, is convinced that the Italian youth's European education is superior to his own and he becomes the young man's pupil. Once the Hoja perceives the superficiality of the young man's knowledge, however, he insists that the slave tell him more, demanding details of his double's upbringing. When this, too, becomes tiresome, the slave confesses to real and imagined sins for which he is beaten. As their relationship changes over the years, with each alternating domination, the author deftly plays the mirror-image characters against each other. To aid the Ottoman sultan in his war against the Poles, the two develop a fantastical war machine. Its disastrous failure in battle proves their undoing. The reader is left guessing at the ultimate fate of the Hoya and the slave, while at the same time admiring Pamuk's skillfully constructed paradoxes. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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