My review of “The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk

After watching an interview on Charlie Rose, I downloaded “The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk. The story seemed most interesting to me (an Italian that is captured and assigned to slavery in Turkey) compared to Pamuk’s more recent work that deploys love and politics as the driver.

My thoughts:

  • Meh.  I expected more from a Nobel Laureate.  I began reading more than a month ago.  After chewing through the first 5-6 chapters, my personal disdain for incomplete tasks forced me back to finish.  Perhaps though, that says enough about the story’s development that it pulled me back even if for choring.
  • The focus on the psychological struggle between the protagonists and Hoja is interesting at first, but grows wearisome as the book continues.
  • As the chapters proceeded, I awaited a major shift in the book’s direction, an “Aha!” moment. Instead Pamuk deliver twists and turns that resemble a meandering path instead of a fundamental shift in the book’s direction.  That’s my fault for expecting this instead of working with the author as he unfolds the story.  
  • I wonder if the shallow nature of the story and its characters is intentional to emphasize even complex relationships like a master-slave, can only run as deep as the individuals themselves.  I found the Protagonist prolonged attempts to enjoy knowledge and natural wisdom beyond his reach becoming tiresome, while Hoja’s behavior akin to watching a spoiled child in a restaurant refuse to each their applesauce.
  • After recounting the book’s development, my sense is that a few middle chapters could be skipped altogether without the reader missing much from the book’s denouement. 

I’m still deciding whether to give the author another shot, though not likely anytime soon.

The Charlie Rose interview proved an interesting window into Turkey and it’s balance between religion and secular society.

2 responses to “My review of “The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk

  1. I just finished reading the book and felt cheated. This isn’t my first encounter with Pamuk, having read Snow. But I preferred this book despite the ending. It left me with some questions but the main question that I wanted to answered is why Hoja wanted to escape Turkey. We never really learn much about him and even the protagonist realizes this in the middle of the book. Hoja shows disbain and longing for the ‘other’.

  2. Hi tat – You raise an interesting point about not really knowing Hoja. Makes me wonder if Pamuk was halfway finished the book himself before realizing it – figuring "I’ll get it" and never really getting to it. He’s a much better writer than that – just the way it seems. Thanks for the note!

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