I saw Orhan Pamuk at a book reading for his most recent novel, “A Strangeness in My Mind”. He read very little. He did discuss that he has ideas he wants to convey to the reader and builds a fictional account to do it. Often it starts as a short story and develops. In this case it expanded to almost 600 pages. His goal was to write about the change in Turkey from the perspective of the working class. He believes that this has not been done without involving the middle class in the story and conveying the latter’s point of view instead of the workers’. I don’t share his viewpoint, and this novel does not accomplish it. The principal character Mevlut is dependent upon the protection and economic support of his relatives Korkut and Suleyman and their family.
It took me a long time to become involved in the story. The novel conveys the economic and cultural changes of Istanbul and its surrounding regions from 1982 to 2012. Melvut, who is tricked by Suleyman into eloping with the elder sister of the girl he is enamored of, develops a life-long love for his wife. It is the discussion and comparison of relationships, and arranged marriages with marriages for “love”, that was most appealing to me. Melvut is an innocent, who works hard but is generally unsuccessful in business-principally a street vendor of boza (a drink with low alcohol content). The book reveals a loss of community as Istanbul becomes a city of real estate development. In this the novel is a universal tale.
It is not great literature, but if you can wade through the pages, in the end it is a story that is endearing, particularly to readers who have have or had a long and successful marriage.